Unlike other roleplayers, Juan Toscano-Anderson doesn’t flinch when given the chance to color outside the lines. In fact, he enjoys it.
On the pitch, he’s made his career thus far by taking responsibility for filling in the gaps, greasing the wheels, and letting the unicorns be the unicorns. It’s a role he found most successful last season, playing 70 games and serving as a utility spark plug for the NBA championship-winning Golden State Warriors.
In addition to doing the dirty work and “doing the good game”, Toscano-Anderson was also given his own canvas to make art. A level of creativity little attributed or sought after by the actors, but an aspect that the Warriors system cultivated and encouraged.
It was here, with the ball – and the brush — in his hands, that the 29-year-old added his own strokes to the legendary offensive, thanks in particular to his impressive sense of the game; it’s a ability that he can hopefully replicate and expand with the Lakers this coming season.
Similar to multi-faceted markers that can get buckets in different ways, there are multiple layers to the Toscano-Anderson overrun aptitude.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Toscano-Anderson not only just posted a career-best assist percentage of 17.4%, but he also ranks in the 96th percentile among all forwards in assist ratio. usage (measures how often a player gets an assist given how much they have on the ball).
To further illustrate how much Toscano-Anderson actually spends on a per-possession basis, among players who had less than 15% usage last season and also played in at least 60 games, Toscano-Anderson had the eighth highest assist percentage overall. league. That is, when he touched the ball, he rarely stuck.
Playing in a fluid, fast but disciplined offense last season, the Oakland native’s play shone as both a compliment to the Warriors’ stars, but also as an offensive boon that stood in its own right.
As for the former, one of the most frequent uses of Toscano-Anderson’s skill has seen him work straight from the club’s screen game. Thanks to this, the striker was put in a position to serve as both a benefactor and a trigger man to the gravity of his teammates, in particular that of Stephen Curry.
In conjunction with the amount of attention the team’s shooters and stars regularly attracted, Toscano-Anderson found his greatest success in not setting the screen at all, but rather “ghosting” or sliding completely the choices before coming into contact with the ball handler. defender.
This allowed the attacker to choose their own number of adventure results to explore and capitalize on.
Whether strategic or improvised, Toscano-Anderson’s act of teleporting across his screen serves several functions.
On the one hand, he takes advantage of the space created when two defenders meet Curry on the ball, which is typical of how teams try to defend the greatest shooter of all time as a pick and roll ball handler. . The other benefit is that it puts Toscano-Anderson in his comfort zone: on the move, with room and in a position to show his vision and game versatility against a compromised defence.
Whether it’s hitting a teammate in the dunker point, swinging him around the perimeter, or pulverizing him into the corner of a drive, Toscano-Anderson often excels at getting the right read at the right time.
While his new basketball environment at Crypto.com Arena won’t work like the movement-dominated scheme the Warriors run, JTA’s ability to succeed in a variety of reads could also go a long way in helping him grow. integrate with the Lakers.
If the clips above sound somewhat familiar to Lakers fans, they should. In what has become a staple of the LeBron James era in Los Angeles, the reverse pick-and-roll (small setting of a screen for a big one) has been a reliable weapon in the team’s offense throughout. along its many different list iterations.
Like Curry, James has historically drawn incredible attention to traditional ball-screening opportunities, and because of that, found success linking up with teammates who are able to take advantage of ghost slides and fades.
The most recent examples being: Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk.
While Toscano-Anderson isn’t the shooter Monk is, his passing shots and experience in a similar role could help him become James’ next choice if he wants to do something similar this season.
In addition to working directly with the stars of the team, Toscano-Anderson’s passing stood on its own merits.
Often stepping into the shoes of Draymond Green’s onfield coordinator, Toscano-Anderson proved capable of both carving up defenses from the short roll and orchestrating the attack from the post.
Acting as the hub of the team’s half-pitch, his teammates’ constant movement and screen setting tested the attacker’s reaction speed. Like a mole kicking game, Toscano-Anderson was tasked with dishing out passes to open shooters and cutters at all times.
According to league tracking data, Toscano-Anderson recorded a 28.6% assist percentage on post-up opportunities last season – the highest rating in his league. crew.
While it remains to be seen how the Lakers plan to use Toscano-Anderson on offense, having an extra player who can create offense for others will be welcome on a team that felt directionless in non-playing actions. James.
Perhaps chasing the occasional post-up opportunity for Toscano-Anderson in second units in particular could be the kind of off-speed ground the team needs to help generate offense consistently.
What ultimately makes Toscano-Anderson such an intriguing and adaptable passer is his ability to exploit mistakes.
Whether it’s a defender too far from his man, a header turned in the wrong direction, or just being willing to let a good shot pass for a great one, there’s a calculated deception in his game. which deserves to be appreciated.
That’s something the visual test and vast amount of passing data (as seen in his BBall-Index game metrics below) can agree on. One mistake and it’s basically blood in the water.
Toscano-Anderson’s arrival will also hopefully mark a shift in embracing more fluidity, creativity and selflessness throughout a Lakers offense that has become increasingly stale.
Relying heavily on creating individual shots, the team posted the third-highest isolation frequency in the league last season, while ranking 17th in assists per game and 21st in assists in hockey (secondary ).
While he alone won’t directly create a schematic shift, the joy he has of making the extra pass will hopefully be contagious enough to foster a trickle-down effect.
There remains the question of how far the passing talent of Toscano-Anderson can result in a very different list, especially in terms of spacing and movement around it.
At this point, Toscano-Anderson has only recorded 199 possessions without at least one from Curry and Jordan Poole with him on the floor last season. In contrast, he shared 985 possessions with Curry alone according to Cleaning the Glass.
As a player with his own perimeter limitations (28% behind the arc), strapping Toscano-Anderson to the hips of elite spacers was likely a concerted effort by Steve Kerr to hide his weaknesses, while putting him in the best possible position. possible position to succeed.
The Lakers, as currently constructed, are well on their way to testing whether Toscano-Anderson can survive without sniper engines around him. When you also add the lack of built-in continuity and cohesion that Toscano-Anderson enjoyed last season, the burn potential is potentially high.
The Los Angeles front office could still strike a deal to infuse the roster with more shots ahead of training camp to give everyone a little more room to operate, making everyone’s life easier.
Additionally, the coaching staff would be wise to promote a more movement-friendly offense from day one than the team ran last year. If the team can make progress in improving their off-ball movement, aspects such as cutting, setting up the screen and proper ground alignment may become second nature rather than new concepts.
Regardless of what ultimately happens around him, in a limited capacity, Toscano-Anderson’s ultimate impact will come from finding his niche around a new set of big names.
Once again, he will be tasked with exploring the space he can excel in without transcending his role-playing lot. And in the process, maybe he can help those around him do the same. He knows his role and his place in the pecking order is anything but cemented.
Maybe it’s because it’s been his entire career.
Yet make no mistake, with the ball in hand and a teammate exposing an opening, the art is still just an opportunity. His brushstrokes, his color, his canvas – they’re in that window of passage that most players of his ilk wouldn’t dare try to operate in.
But for Toscano-Anderson, this liminal space is the place of his muse.
This is where he can become so much more.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.