Weekly Hodgepodge: Deep Fakes Are Here
I'm talking about basketball passes... why do you look so concerned?
But like any sport, dive below the surface, and there’s so much more wonder to be had in the subtleties. Today, I’m extolling the virtues of the deep-windup one-handed pass. The exaggerated movement fakes defenders out, confusing them by obfuscating the ball’s ultimate destination until it’s too late to react. It’s devastating when combined with head fakes, look-offs, and/or teammates relocating during the elongated gathering.
I keep notes on my laptop and phone of cool plays I see, never knowing when something might come up for a later article. And after watching this beauty of a game-sealing pass by Trae Young, I knew I had to go back into the archives for more.
Enough foreplay. Here’s the pass in question:
Trae is the king of the one-handed pass, but this one, in particular, is notable both for its importance and its nuances. Notice how he holds it a beat longer than you’d expect. He’s also using his eyes to look at De’Andre Hunter, right next to him, which fakes out the help man Naji Marshall (#8 in white). Marshall takes a step away from the corner towards Hunter, and Trae smiles (I assume), because Marshall’s cooked. Young changes his trajectory mid-windup and hits John Collins perfectly for a wide-open three. And he does it all with his left hand!
The pass works like an old-school Dontrelle Willis pitch. For those of you who weren’t watching the Marlins in the mid-2000s (which is all of you), this is what it looked like:
The torso twist and huge leg kick confused batters, who couldn’t quickly ascertain the pitch type until the ball was on its way — too late to react.
The basketball version is the deep windup combined with a hesitation. Littler guys need clever ways to deliver long passes over taller defenders. When you have Trae’s tiny stature, it’s almost necessary to bring the ball down that low to generate enough velocity to hit the weakside corner.
The pass doesn’t have to be a cross-court zinger. Sometimes, a deep windup fake sells the idea of a long pass to open up a short dump-off, like when Tyrese Haliburton jumps under the basket, fakes like he’s kicking out to the perimeter, and then gently plops it, like a fragile Amazon package, in front of his teammate Jalen Smith for a dunk:
Or here with VanVleet. Bulls defender DeMar DeRozan almost reads the pass perfectly, but the windup takes so long that DeRozan second-guesses himself and slows just a hair. That follicle is all VanVleet needed to thread the needle for an easy dunk.
Sometimes, the deep one-handed windup allows time for a player to wait until an opening appears. Notice below that Chris Paul starts his passing motion barely a step inside the arc but doesn’t deliver the ball until he’s past the free-throw line. That lengthy wait allows his teammate Cam Johnson to catch the ball and lay it up without having to take a dribble, and the unusual way Paul holds the ball seems almost like he’s going to throw the alley-oop to Mikal Bridges. The defenders can’t commit because they don’t know where the ball is going until it’s too late.
There is no way to prove this, but it feels like these sorts of exaggerated dishes are becoming more common. For a passing aesthete like myself, it makes for excellent viewing!