Film Study: Romar Dennis’ gravity
Everyone on the Atlas offense is eating. Their 1-4-1 set has a perfect balance of playmaking and finishing. Of righty shooters (Bryan Costabile and Jake Carraway) and lefty shooters (Jeff Teat and Mark Cockerton). Their south and north poles -- Eric Law and Romar Dennis, respectively -- keep the ball swinging from the strong side to the weak side.
Romar is playing a larger role at the top center spot in this offense than ever before. The Bulls have initiated more shots from up top -- and fewer shots from X -- than any team. Atlas is keeping the alley dodge alive.
Here’s why I’m allergic to alley dodges: They rarely lead to assisted shots. Assist rate (i.e. the percent of passes that are or would be assisted on) when initiating from the top of the arc is 36.3% -- significantly lower than X (42.1%) or the wings (46.5%). That’s because the dodges don’t put much pressure on the defense. Unassisted shooting off initiations from up top is 18.8% across the league -- again, down from X (23.8%) and the wings (27.1%).
Romar renders all those irrelevant. He’s shooting 25.8% off the dodge in 2021 (up from 15.1% in his career prior). His range extends beyond the two-point line -- even on the run...
...and even with his off-hand.
Romar's range demands early doubles, and he moves the ball quickly after drawing those double teams. He and Mikie Schlosser are the only two midfielders with more second assist opportunities than assist opportunities. In other words, they don’t jam difficult passes in attempts to pad their stats -- they trust their teammates to make plays instead.
His confidence to pull up from 14 yards and beyond puts the defense in a tough spot. They need to slide to him earlier than they would to another alley dodger. Research in the NBA has shown that volume plays a larger role than accuracy in a defense’s decision to help. As Seth Partnow says, players don’t have gravity -- they are given gravity by the way opponents react to them.
Right now, defenses are reacting to every right-to-right or right-to-left split in a hurry. This sequence is beautiful. Romar moves it quickly to Mark Cockerton -- popping off the crease behind the slide -- who is in a much better position to scan the field. Cockerton surveys as Chaos recovers, finding Jeff Teat, who hides in his defender’s blindspot.
Off-ball, Romar is picking up Law-esque tendencies. He’s becoming a hinge from the strong side to the weak side, except instead of at X like Law, he’s at the top of the arc. Atlas is playing advantage lacrosse -- drawing slides and keeping the ball one step ahead of the defensive carousel until someone has a high percentage shot.
Box scores don’t tell the whole story. Romar only has one assist on the year, yet ranks second in the league with five second assists. That’s consistent with his career stats -- he has more second assists (13) than assists (11) as a pro.
Those two-pass sequences will be key to the family style offense’s success against Blaze Riorden. The back-to-back Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year saves 57.9% of unassisted shots, 60.5% of 1-pass shots, and 52.2% of 2+ pass shots. The Chaos defense wants to win one-on-one. Romar’s shake down either alley may be Atlas’ best option to win a matchup and put Chaos on the carousel.