32 Split Low

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

32 Split Low is the next call that we will explore.

“32” specifies a 3 out 2 in alignment.

“Split” specifies that the post players must be opposite of one another at all times.

“Low” specifies that the ball side post player should be in the low post.

***Side note: Remember the post spots are the Short Corner, Mid Post and Elbow. While the short corner is “lower” than the mid post, I’m referring to the mid post.

Remember these diagrams are not actions that are set in stone.  These are just possibilities. Your players will come up with more if you let them. I had fun with this one. I would like to see what other people come up with.

 

Page 636

 

The point passes to the wing. Boring right? You’re right it is, but I had to start somewhere. The screen for 2 from 4 is optional because 2 can just fill, but while 4 is there, they can make themselves useful. This could turn into a back screen or fade screen as well. For now we will keep it simple and have 2 fill the top spot while 1 fills out to the opposite side. Later, you’ll see what happens when this player fills to the ball side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 637Of course, 5 is posting up and looking for the ball. If 1’s defender stops in help, like they are probably taught, 5 may not be open. That’s ok, because 1’s defender just set themselves up to get screened. If 1’s defender follows them out of the lane then 5 should be open for a post entry.  Of course if 4’s defender is helping off on the post then they should be open in the high post.

In this situation, let’s just say 1’s defender is in help side on 5. 4 can pin in 1’s defender. 1 lines up with 4 and 3 throws the skip pass. 2 cuts because they were skipped. In this case, they fill to the ball side. Since 5 is now opposite the ball, they fill the high post while 4 fills the low post.

4 may not be able to receive a pass off of a seal from the pin screen, but 4’s defender is going to have to make a choice.  Little do they know that behind them the other post player is moving to the high post and taking away help side defense.  3 is filling the top spot which brings the last help side defender 1 pass away. If 4’s defender plays behind, we should be able to get 4 the ball. If not, the lob should be available.

 

 

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If you’re Phil Jackson, this might look familiar. There’s a strong side triangle on the left side of the floor. We could have had this alignment on the first pass if 1 had cut to the ball side corner. Of course there are dozens of actions in the triangle that start from this alignment.

For the sake of continuing the offense, let’s say 4’s defender plays behind and we’re able to get the ball to 4.  1’s responsibility is to Laker Cut. Now they could Laker Cut and screen for 2, 3, or 5, but for now we’ll say they just fill out. Notice how turning the Laker Cut into an X-cut or into a back screen as a NBA would make things interesting.

Again 1’s defender should stay in help, which sets them up for a nice little pin screen from 5. 2 fills up from the corner. Of course 5 may be open on a dive to the basket, but that probably turns into a lay-up so let’s keep going.

 

 

Page 639
Notice if 4 puts the ball on the floor to the baseline side, 1 would fill the corner spot following the Baseline Drive principles.  If 4 drove middle, everyone would circle move. The question might be what about 5. I would encourage them to circle move to the right and be available around the low post/short corner.

However, 4 doesn’t feel comfortable trying to score or put the ball on the floor so they decide to kick it out to 2. They could kick it to 1 or 3 as well. The best option is the open option, and for now we’re going to say 2 is the open player.

4 could repost.  They could sprint into a ball screen, but in this diagram they screen away for the other post player. 5 knows their job is to go low since they are on the ball side.  4 has to stay high.  Notice we look a lot like we did in the second diagram.

 

 

Page 640This time instead of a skip pass, 2 passes to the top to 3 and cuts to the basket.  5 steps up and back screens 2’s defender on the cut. As 2 exits the lane, 4 back screens 1’s defender as 1 cuts to the basket.  Then 5 sets the second screen for 1 to either flare to the wing or curl to the lane. You might be thinking, there’s no way I could get my players to do all this.

I say, why not? Let’s keep moving. I will address that in a minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 641
1 and 2 have basically switched sides of the court. However, these actions were not predicated. Who knows what kind of match-ups we have right now. It’s quite possible that the defenders have switched at some point along the way or that a defender has gotten themselves out of position.  However, let’s say they’ve played great defense on actions that they couldn’t foresee, because our own players aren’t following a prescribed set of actions.

Now 3 decides to dribble-at 1 for a dribble handoff. 2 fills just as they would if it were a dribble-at.  4 and 5 wait patiently and prepare for the next action.

 

 

 

 

 

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As 1 turns the corner, 2 circle moves while 4 and 5 slide away from the penetrator to either open up the lane or open up themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Now 1 has a decision to make. Does the action have to stop on this penetration?  Of course not. 1 might dribble back to the top of the key and pass to a wing.  They might kick out to 2 who makes an entry pass to 4 and Laker Cuts.  The action could continue as long as the clock is running and the offense doesn’t give up possession of the ball by either shooting it or turning it over.

The point here is that this is just one combination of actions that are based on this one alignment.  Yet, the action could look very different at any number of points along the way. In each frame of the action, the ball handler could have chosen any number of different actions to take with the ball. Then as a cutter, what they do when they cut changes things. Even which side of the court a player decides to fill makes things different as well.

 

 

 

 

This may seem complicated. Remember all the players are doing is executing one simple action and then reacting accordingly. They don’t need to know what action to execute next. They just need to focus on executing the next one correctly. The action of the post players is not predicated either. Remember they have two rules to follow in this case.  The first is that when the ball is driven towards the basket to move out of the way.  The second is based on the call that we made at the beginning, “32 Split Low”.

You might wonder how post players know when to set these screens. You’re right, there are no rules, but they can be taught. These screens aren’t being set by them going way out of their way.  All of them “make sense” based on their location and the cutter’s movement. All they really need to do is see the cutter coming prepare for the contact. The cutter just needs to use the post players as they cut off of them.

The good news is that the offense doesn’t break if someone forgets to set a screen. Maybe a post player is busy posting up instead of screening.  Well this can be just as effective. Maybe they decide to set another kind of screen somewhere along the line. That’s good too. This single possibility has a number of others built into it. The way I see it there are no wrong answers as long as players remain spaced, move themselves with a purpose, and move the ball with a purpose, including attacking the lane off the dribble.

32 Split High

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

This is a first on this blog.  I’m actually talking about making a call. You might be surprised. I certainly think there are times when a coach can impact a game by making the right call. The question is how does that call change the team’s outlook. I will cover that in a different post. For now, let’s look at “32 Split High”.

“32 Split High”

“32” is obviously 3 out 2 in. That’s the easy part.

“Split High” refers to the location of the post players. “Split” tells them that one should be high and one should be low at all times. “High” means that the ball side post should be at the high post.

All I’ve done is called an alignment.  I haven’t called any actions. I haven’t restricted the play of the offense.  I’ve just created the opportunities for some interesting offensive spacing and actions.  There is no set pattern here. Let’s look at a couple different possibilities when players follow the basic concepts that we’ve outlined so far. These are actions that just naturally flow off of the basic actions of the players.  The combinations and possibilities are endless.

 

Page 629Initially, you might ask which post is “High” when the ball is in the middle of the floor.  You can answer that any way you want. It could be either, both or neither.  There is justification for all three answers.  I chose the 4 just because that’s how I happened to draw it. There is no specific reason.

In a very inauspicious beginning to the action, the point guard passes to the wing and cuts to the basket just like they are supposed to.  2 fills the spot vacated by 1 and 1 fills out to the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

Page 630As 2 fills up, 5 yells “PIN” on the backside and 4 sets a back screen for 2.  You can certainly call this a fade screen.  It could also be considered a “PIN” screen. Either of those are fine, but to keep it consistent with I’ve written so far, it would technically be a back screen. Pin screens are set on help side defenders.  2’s defender is 1 pass away. Depending on your defensive terminology, this could be considered “help side”.  Usually, I reserve help side for more than 1 pass away. Again, it’s up to you, it’s just important that you’re consistent with your players.

Back to the action. 4 is screening for a defender who is moving to get in the gap defensively to help on the potential middle drive from 3. 5 has pinned in 1’s defender. 3 has driving lanes and also has 4 passing options.  If the defense cheats the pin screen, 5 could be open on the weak side.  We’re screening for 1 and 2 and 4 might be open on the slip.  2 could certainly cut to the basket if the defender tries to chase over the screen.  In this case the defender tries to go under the screen.

 

 

Page 631Let’s say that no one is open or 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable making the pass or drive at that moment. 4’s defender probably helped on the back screen and will probably be late in getting in position on the ball screen if 4 will sprint to the screen.  If 1 and 2 don’t receive the ball from either of the screens, they should fill up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 632As 3 drives off the screen, this filling movement keeps their defenders off balance.  If either of them help on 3’s drive, then someone will be open.  If not, 3 should be able to get into the lane with 4 passing options. 5 slides down as 3 drives. After setting the screen, 4 can roll to the rim or pop to the perimeter based on the defense and/or their skill set.

 

I didn’t draw this diagram, but let’s say 3 refuses the screen.  2 would fill behind 3 as a safety on that baseline drive.  1 would still go to the corner for the drift pass and 5 would rise to the elbow. 4 can dive to the rim or pop, again depending on the defense and/or their skill set.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a whole different set of actions

Page 629Everything starts just like the last set of actions.  1 passes to 3 and dives to the rim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 633This time 4 sets a back screen and 2 dives to the block and posts up.  Maybe 2 gets the ball and maybe they don’t. Either way, 2 and 4 have switched roles. 4 has become the perimeter player and 4 has become the post player. This means that since the ball is on 2’s side, they must come back to the high post, if they are going to stay in the post. In this case, I’m assuming 2 wants to stay in the post for a pass or two but doesn’t receive the ball. If they did receive and entry from 3, there would be a Laker Cut and then who knows what might happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the pass to 4, 3 cuts off of a back screen by 2.  They might be open, but if they aren’t they continue to the rim and run off a down screen from 5. Without really trying that hard, we’re just set a staggered screen for 3  They can curl off this screen if they are being chased or pop to the corner if not.  As 4 reverses the ball to 1, 5 posts up off the screen and 2 back screens 4 back into the post.  Again if 4 can shoot, 4 might fade off of this screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If 5 isn’t open on their seal after the second staggered screen for 3, they can sprint into a ball screen.  5 can roll or pop off of the screen based on the defense and their skill set.  Everyone else is either circle moving or sliding in the post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an exercise for you.  Take “32 Split High” and following the concepts that you understand, what are some combinations that you can come up with?  How do things change if there is a dribble hand off as the first action?  What happens if the action starts with a back screen on the wing?  What if we make an entry pass to a post player, but that player doesn’t take a shot?  What other options or opportunities are created?

The (Over) Use of the Ball Screen

The ball screen has become a very popular offensive strategy in the game of basketball. Mastered by the duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone, it has become a staple of most offensive packages in professional basketball. The result is a trend towards the ball screen becoming a prevalent weapon at lower levels as well.

I’m afraid it is being overused. I think it hurts some players and teams more than it helps them. As a result, I think it hurts the game.

To start, let’s look at the skill set that a ball handler needs to have to truly take advantage of a ball screen.

1. Ability to handle the basketball well with either hand
The person with the ball must be able to handle the basketball with both hands against pressure in traffic. A ball screen is going to bring an extra defender to the ball. The offensive player must be comfortable dribbling the basketball in both directions with the ability to change direction and speeds quickly. Can the ball handler turn the corner on a hedging defender no matter which side the screen is set? Can the ball handler split a trap? Can the ball handler protect against a defender who ices the screen? Let’s say the defender goes over and forces the ball handler to attack. Can the ball handler beat the post player who might zone up? How many players have the skills to handle all of these situations?

2. Ability to make shots behind the screen
Players at many of the lower levels aren’t able to shoot consistently behind the screen. Many times this is a shot off the dribble over a taller player. For NBA guards, this is not a difficult shot. For many players who are not that calibre, it is a very low percentage shot. If a player can’t shoot over the screen, the ball screen becomes pretty easy to defend.

3. Ability to make the pull up jumper or floater
How many players have an adequate midrange game? How many players can consistently pull up from 15-18 feet and consistently make those shots off the dribble? Off the catch they are probably money. They can probably knock them down all day. How many of them can make shots off the bounce with a post player approaching them to contest the shot? How many players can make floaters consistently? Again, some players may be able to do one or two of these things. How many can execute them all?

4. Ability to see and pass to anyone on the floor
Scoring isn’t always going to be the best decision for the player with the ball coming off the screen. FIrst they have to be able to make that decision, but let’s say for a second they understand when they are not a scoring option. Can they make the next decision? Can they evaluate who is open and who isn’t? And then if they evaluate that correctly, can they make the play?

5. Ability to read the screen
This is obviously necessary to be able to execute a ball screen successfully, but yet many players don’t have the patience or the skill to be able to read the screen and act correctly. Defenses can guard a ball screen in so many different ways. Players must be able to read two defenders at the same time and make split second decisions on what they should do. Assuming they make this read correctly, they also have to learn to read help defenders in the next split second.

How many players can do all of these things well? Of the number of people in the world who play the game of basketball, there are very few. There might be 100-200 players in the world who can do all of this at a high level. Many players have some of these skills. Most don’t have all of them.

It’s understandable that the ball screen is heavily used in professional basketball. These are high level players with well matured skill sets and exceptional athleticism. A ball screen is very tough to defend when a player like Lebron James, Chris Paul or Tony Parker has the ball in their hands.

Now let’s consider the screener. Regardless of who the ball handler is, Lebron James as a screener is a lot different from Spud Webb as a screener. Kobe Bryant as a screener is a lot different from Kwame Brown as a screener. How many players who set ball screen have a diverse skill set? At lower levels, the people setting these screens are typically less skilled than the players with the ball. Just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me to reduce on spacing around the ball with a player who is even more limited.

Did I say ball screens should never be used? Not at all. A spontaneous ball screen is very tough to defend. However, ball screens can put players in positions where they are forced to execute skills that they aren’t comfortable with.

Use ball screens. Teach them. Incorporate them in what you do. Develop skills so that players can use them better. Let’s not forget the other aspects of the game that don’t take as much skill to execute, but are still effective ways of scoring.

Ball Screen: Description

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

A ball screen is simply described as a screen set on the defender who is guarding the ball.  This  remains the same in the R&R.  Ball screens can be very useful in creating offensive advantages.  They can create mismatches or a numbers advantage.  The bigger questions become when and where can ball screens be set as well as who sets them.  As with anything else in this offense, the answer is whenever you want and wherever you want.

By this point, you should have expected this.  The offense creates a lot of freedom for the coaches and players who are in it.  Let’s break this down a little and explore some different options.

WHEN:
In the “pure” version of the R&R, the “default” time to set a ball screen is when the ball handler takes a dribble backwards. We don’t use this rule for a couple of reasons.  As a general rule, we don’t want our ball handlers dribbling away from the basket. The only time where this might be encouraged is to avoid a trap or to run more time off the clock in an end of half or end of game situation. Likewise, if a ball handler dribbles backwards, we may not want a ball screen to be set at that time.  We don’t want our players to have to decide if it’s a good time to set a ball screen in that situation.

So instead of talking about when NOT to set a ball screen, let’s talk about when to set one. You may come up with others. This list is not meant to be exclusive. Coaches can have players set a ball screen when…
1.  Player X has the ball. The cutter or post player must go set a ball screen for that player wherever they are.
2.  Player X cuts.  Every time Player X cuts they must set a ball screen.
3.  The ball is caught in a certain spot by a designated player or by the player in a designated spot.
4.  It is “easy” to do. In other words, the screener doesn’t have to go out of their way to set the screen.
5.  A player sets an off ball screen.
6.  The possession begins.
7.  The possession ends.
8.  Player X calls for a ball screen.
9.  Following a specific action

WHO:
This was alluded to in the last section.  Who should be the player to set the ball screen?  The primary determination in this decision should be based off of personnel.  Who is your best screen setter?  Which player is going to make the ball screen most difficult to defend?  Who is in the best position to set a good screen?  This is going to partially depend on the alignment that you’re playing out of.  Are you 5 out?  Are you 4 out 1 in?  Are you 3 out 2 in?  If you’re playing with a post player or post players, where are they located?

WHERE:
The location of the screen can also be wherever the coach prefers it to be set. The screen can be set on the wing, in the corner, at the top of the key, or even closer to the basket.  I am a big fan of the ball screen around the elbow area. A “dumb drive” can turn into a surprise ball screen that can be pretty tough to defend.

Page 230 Page 231
In the above diagrams, it could be said that 2’s drive to the middle is “dumb”.  It would be better if 2 went baseline right?  Well maybe.  But maybe 2 prefers going right.  Maybe 2 doesn’t feel comfortable throwing that left handed pass to the 1 on the baseline drive.

2’s drive to the middle can turn into a ball screen that’s pretty tough to defend.  In this case, the screen is set by a post player instead of a cutter, but it’s all the same idea.