Desmond Bane isn’t quite like the Hidden Gems who I’ve profiled before. Unlike Jacob Poeltl or Jarred Vanderbilt, you’ve probably at least heard of Bane and know that he can shoot the hell out of the ball. What you might not know or appreciate about Bane, though, is how he manufactures the space needed to fire those shots off.
Stand-still 3s are the easiest shots to hit. But shooting off the move, and getting a lot of shots off in that manner, is a science. Bane is only in his second year in the league and already has a PhD in it. That makes him one of the most valuable shooters in the league.
We’re going to do something a little different in this edition and audit Bane's night school course on how to generate space. A lot of his value is hidden, and we’re exposing it today.
Lesson 1: Have a great shot fake
One of Bane’s biggest weapons is his terrific pump fake. He’s earned the nickname FBK, or fly-by king, because of how often he gets defenders to zoom helplessly past him. Watch him go from having two Mavericks contesting his shot to wide open in the blink of an eye.
Lesson 2: Learn how to use screens
Like most other great movement shooters, Bane gets open by running off a lot of screens. What separates him from the rest of the pack is that you don’t know where he’s going next.
Tune in to any game this year and you’ll see at least one example of Miami action. Your favorite team probably runs it. It involves two screens: First, a dribble handoff. Second, a ball screen. Here it is for Bane.
Bane scores more off handoffs than almost anyone in the league, and he’s very efficient on them. He can shoot right off the screen for a 3, stop on a dime for a mid-range jumper, or get to the rim. He has one of the most balanced shot profiles in the league, and he hits shots better than league-average from all three levels of the court.
Lesson 3: Trick over-aggressive defenders with good acting and counters
Those double screen actions are so commonplace that defenders will often recognize them before they happen. But if they try to cheat the screens, then Bane will go to his counters like he did here against the Bulls.
Bane is a great actor. One hard step toward a similar double screen (this one called Chicago action) is enough to get an over-aggressive defender off-balance, opening up a cut for a layup.
That skillful acting shows up all the time when you watch Bane closely. Some players are just going through the motions on sets. Bane runs them with the vigor of a multi-level marketing salesman. Those fake actions create hesitation, which opens up the space that he needs to get his shot off.
Here’s another very common league-wide play that the Grizzlies run for Bane, called Horns Chest or Horns Flare. What makes this work for Bane is his footwork. He shuffles his feet and pauses for a second as if setting a ball screen midway through his route. That freezes a very good defender in Terrance Mann, who isn’t sure whether he needs to help on the ball. That’s all Bane needs to get his shot off.
How about using a strategy of guarding Bane so tightly that he can’t get the ball? He has the smarts to audible for teammates to set up blind pig action, the same play that the Bulls used to run for Michael Jordan. He will cut and use that overplay to his advantage, creating space for a catch going downhill.
Lesson 4: Use footwork to create space
Bane’s footwork is also superb. He’s mastered the James Harden step-back, and he used it to put Steph Curry on skates earlier this season.
Bane proves that tricking defenders with jabs and hesitation dribbles can be just as effective as breakneck speed if used correctly.
When Bane doesn’t have the ball, it may look like he’s running around like a chicken with its head cut off. In reality, he’s playing chess with his defender. Every move has a counter, and that’s how he’s able to get off 14 shots and score 18 points per game without tremendous speed or burst.
Bane is way more than just a shooter. He’s an extremely smart all-around scorer, a solid defender and a good passer that creates shots for himself by knowing the geometry of the floor. He fell to No. 30 in the draft last year because he was an older player with a bad wingspan, but he’s showing that great feel can be more valuable than what shows up in a draft combine spreadsheet.
To truly know Bane’s game, you have to note what he does away from the ball. He’s a master of his craft. Much of his skill is invisible to those watching, but it’s beautiful to see once you know what to look for.