The floater by design is an incredibly difficult shot to block.
The point of the floater is to quickly get the ball above the point where a longer, more athletic defender can knock it away. It’s a sneak attack, a way to compensate for a lack of size or (in my case, playing at the local YMCA) a lack of athleticism.
For Phil Pressey, athleticism is far from the problem. He’s listed a little generously at 5’11, but he can dunk with relative ease, and he’s blindingly quick — a trait which allows him to get just about wherever he wants to go on the floor (asked about the competition at Summer League, Pressey said “I’m getting to my spots a lot easier and quicker. I was like ‘Wow.’”). It also gives him a competitive advantage defensively. It’s difficult to dribble when a shorter player is pressuring you, beating you to every spot you want to reach.
Offensively, Pressey is a talented ball-handler (as evidenced by his nasty, nasty crossover against Shabazz Napier on Saturday that had the ex-UConn star spinning entirely around) and an equally talented passer (as evidenced by his impressive assist-to-turnover ratio).
As a scorer, however, Pressey struggled badly last season. He shot 30 percent from the floor and 26 percent from 3-point range. At his size, he needs to be all-around excellent on the offensive end to have a long career in the NBA.
This is where the floater — a shot he didn’t have last year — comes in.
“I’ve been working on that every single day,” Pressey said on Monday. “I can get it 80 to 90 percent of the time. If I can master that, it’s going to open up my passing.”
His work is showing. In the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Indiana, Pressey weaved through a screen, ducked passed a defender and tossed a high-arcing floater over Willie Reed — Indiana’s big man who had been wrecking havoc on the Celtics since the second quarter. Green was helpless trying to block the shot, and it kissed off the glass and in.
It was a jarringly confident play in a game that saw the Celtics looking tentative to attack Reed, who finished with four blocked shots and many, many more uncounted altered shots. At one point, Chris Johnson — not unused to NBA length — found himself under the basket with a clean look. But the threat of Willie Reed forced him to pump fake, then pump fake again, then miss a layup off the front rim.
Pressey’s offense, along with the rest of the Celtics’ offense, stalled in the second and third quarters, but he looked notably better in the fourth.
“You have to be confident (as a shooter),” Pressey said. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself, who is going to have confidence in you? Stay confident in yourself, continue to believe in yourself, and you’ll be alright.”
Pressey needs the most confidence as a jumpshooter. He hasn’t been particularly efficient overall, 5-for-12 against the Pacers yesterday, but he has been stepping into jumpers with rhythm. A mid-range jumper would be a big addition to his floater, given the pick-and-roll opportunities his quickness affords him.
“You want five threats on the floor at all times,” Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga said. “I have a lot of confidence Phil will continue to grow as an offensive player looking for his own shot, but he’s a very unselfish player. It’s hard for guys who have been passers their whole life to get in the lane and think ‘shot.’”
Pressey doesn’t have a guaranteed roster spot, and this summer looks especially uncertain for the Celtics. Rondo’s future remains cloudy. Smart has shown flashes off the ball, but he remains most effective as a point guard in the pick-and-roll. Boston has been linked to Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson (another ball handler). Having another point guard might be redundant.
But the Celtics’ organization loves Pressey, and it’s easy to see why. The point guard works extremely hard (by all accounts, he’s in the gym every single day working on his jumper and his floater), he doesn’t make a stink about playing time or the team’s success, and he’s already trying to work with Boston’s rookies to improve them.
“I tell (Marcus Smart) to keep shooting,” Pressey said after yesterday’s game in which Smart went 3-for-15, 1-for-5 from 3-point range. “Guys miss shots all the time in Summer League and go into the regular season and catch fire. That’s what Summer League is for. It’s for you to work on your game and try some things out. I’d rather he goes 2-for-20 than 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 right now.”
As for himself, Pressey doesn’t seem concerned about his roster spot. That might be justified: The Celtics owe him a minuscule amount of cap space next season, and bringing a third point guard off the bench who makes plays happen for his teammates and doesn’t turn the ball over is an attractive option, especially when that point guard is great in the locker room.
Even better: If the jumper and the floater come around, the Celtics will look like geniuses.
“When I was young, I was the best player on the court,” Pressey said. “I never really took a backseat to anybody. Now, I’m just trying to go out there and prove myself. You just have to keep working. If you feel confident, you’ll bring it to the game.”
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.