He went and talked to a guru in India or something, I don't know what he did, but he catches and shoots now. I've got nothing to do with it. I've been begging him to do it since he got here, his previous coaches have begged him, and all of a sudden he's a catch and shoot guy. - Gregg Poppovich
The tale of Boris and the Indian guru - like that of Jonah and the whale (but with the sizes reversed) - is the kind of colorful story that's fun to recount, whether you actually believe it or not. But the more you see this year's version of Diaw continue to elevate his game, the easier it is to believe that some sort of transcendent experience might've occurred over the offseason.
For much of his career, Diaw seemed to limit himself offensively as a pass-first, pass-second kind of player. At his most unselfish, his assist percentage - a stat which measures the number of baskets he assisted while on the floor - was a hair under 25% in the 2005-06 season.
No one's ever questioned Diaw's ability to contribute on the offensive end, but the French forward has taken his game to a new level this year by looking for his shot more than ever before. One way he's doing this is by not passing up - and actually seeking out - open looks from long range. In fact, he's quintupled the number of off-screen plays run for him per game compared to last season, which has resulted in an increase of 5 FGA per game.
This is happening without any impact on his ORtg (parity vs. 2012-13 season), which has allowed him to achieve his highest-ever PPG/36mins in his entire career at 17.0PPG/36mins, four points higher than his best offensive season in Phoenix, per Basketball-Reference.
Diaw is getting open in two distinct ways: by going off down screens and creating ‘impromptu' screens. Let's look at the former first.
In the following two plays, he uses down screens from Manu and Kawhi to free himself up at the top of the arc.
The down screen is an effective way for Diaw to spring free of his man, often a low-post player who's not prepared to step out all the way to near the three-point line.
With 'impromptu' screens, Diaw uses his teammates and veteran savvy to get open looks at the hoop. In this sequence, Boris detects the cut from Mills and uses it to free himself from Faried for an open jumper.
See the full sequence here:
Here, Boris simply cuts at the right angle to use Duncan to block Z-Bo for an open jumper.
See full sequence here:
It's important to note that, while he has been effective at creating space for himself, Diaw has only made 16.7% of his catch-and-shoot attempts this season, per Synergy Sports. However, I feel that he's only warming up to his new catch-and-shoot role. If he continues to be aggressive in finding these catch-and-shoot situations without sacrificing the great spacing that he's getting from it, he will be a mid-range threat for the Spurs along with Tony Parker.
Data Sources: Basketball-Reference.com & MySynergySports.com