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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

Pin Screen: Offensive Fundamentals

The pin screen by itself is a not a difficult skill to execute. However, there are a number of offensive fundamentals that are required to successfully complete this action.

The Screen

This is the easiest screen in the game of basketball for players to set.  The chances for players to get called for a moving pin screen are minimal.  The likelihood of the screen being a good one are high.  All they have to do is find a helpside defender and screen them. Ideally, they keep them from closing out to their player.  Most likely, the screener slows the defender down enough to make it difficult for them to closeout.

The Recognition

Three different people must read the situation to make a pin screen effective.  This starts with a screener.  Without someone to set the pin screen the action obviously can’t happen.

It is easiest to teach post players to set this screen. They are in and around the lane and have the shortest distance to travel to set the screen.  Post players are also not required to move as much in this style of offense.  They can stay on one side of the floor and when the ball goes away from them they can find a help defender and screen them easily.

Cutters are also able to set pin screens. However, teaching them to sprint their cut and then stop to find a help side defender can be tough. Many times they are focused on cutting and filling and they aren’t thinking about setting a pin screen.  Of course you could make a call that makes them think about setting pin screens, but then everyone is looking to set them and there may not be anyone on the perimeter to set them for.

Weakside perimeter players are also potential screening candidates.  However, this is even more difficult to teach because they are so focused on being ready to react to the ball that they aren’t programmed to think about sitting pin screens.

The second person who must recognize the pin screen is the person who the screen is set for.  They must read the screen and put themselves in position to make the most effective use of the screen.  They must line themselves up with the ball so that their defender must go around the screen instead of just closing out straight to them.

The final person who must see this action develop is the person with the ball. They must widen their vision and see the screen being set and determine if they can make a good skip pass to the open player.

The recognition for the ball handler and the perimeter player being screened for are triggered by the screener’s call. Offensive players may say that they don’t want to call the screen because they don’t want the defense to know it’s coming. It’s much more important for the offense to be on the same page instead of the defense to know it’s coming. Also, just because the defense knows it’s coming, doesn’t mean they can stop it. In fact, in the pressure of the game situation, the defense may over compensate to the call and then something else will be available.

The Pass and Catch

The ability to make a solid skip pass is critical to make the pin screen work well.  The pass must be thrown strongly, quickly, and on a line over the top of the defense.  Passes that aren’t high enough will easily be deflected.  Passes that are too high will give the defense time to closeout and possibly intercept the pass.  The receiver must have ready hands and feet to be able to take advantage of the defender who should be out of position.

The Seal

Once the screen is set and the pass is thrown, the screener should look to seal the next level defender in the lane.  If the receiver’s defender closes out well, the screener should be open close to the basket. Of course, this requires another effective pass.

Here are some video clips of pin screens.  We don’t score on all of them, but the pin screen is well executed in each instance. The first clip is of a high pin screen against the top of the 2-3 zone.  The receiver does a good job of using the screen.  A well thrown pass leads to an open shot.

When offense is being played like this, it’s pretty hard to guard.

Here’s a clip against a 1-3-1 zone.  This is a heady play by the screener. The post player’s seal serves as a sort of screen as well.

This one might have been a little bit illegal, but again this could easily be considered a post up  by the post player.  In any case, it created an open opportunity.

We turn the ball over, but the kick out to the open shooter shouldn’t have been a difficult play. It was all created by a well executed pin screen.

Keeping Things Simple

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

A recent opponent played a true matchup zone against us. These defenses can give teams problems. Zone offenses tend to be less effective because the defenders aren’t assigned to a certain area. Man to man offenses tend to not work as well because defenders aren’t assigned to certain players either.

Here’s a simple set of actions that we used for a few consecutive possessions in the second half which helped us create a number of good scoring opportunities.  Of course players had to make plays, but as coaches we have to put them in position to do so.

We drew up the first three frames in a time out. The fourth frame was not part of what we did, but it would be one way to simultaneously create two 3 point shots on either side of the court.

The lesson learned here is that sometimes simple is better.  The trick is not the complication of the action.  The trick is putting players in places where they can be successful while creating ball movement and player movement with good spacing. These actions were created based specifically on the skills of the personnel on the floor.

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There are a few interesting things to notice.  The alignment changes in a very simple way from 4 out to 3 out with an even front. Notice how the defense defends the same action differently all three times.

The tandem alignment is designed to take away the middle of the floor.  By starting in a 4 out alignment, it brings out the middle person of the tandem.  This along with the denial of the low post player opens up the high post and causes the defense problems.  The entry to the high post causes confusion.  Now it just takes one attack dribble to hold the low wing defender to create the open 3 point shot.

 

In the second clip, the person in the middle of the zone is worried about that weak side post player.  She remembers in the previous possession how that player flashed to the high post and compromised their defense.  That little bit of attention draws her away from the cutting post player.  A good post entry and a good individual play lead to a layup.  Notice also in this clip how the weak side post player could have sealed the backside defensive player to prevent their rotation to help.  It worked out anyway, but posting on the weakside can be a huge benefit to the team even if they don’t receive the ball.

This is just a tough individual play.  But notice after scoring the first time how the defense reacts.  They decide to double team that player which obviously opens up other players who react well to the openings it creates.

After this they started fouling and we didn’t run the action again.  We didn’t have to.  It’s amazing how such simple actions can lead to productive offense.

Passing is Communication

This entry is part 17 of 28 in the series Leadership

I have the ball.  I might want to throw it to you.  Are you looking at me?  Are you ready?  Are you open?  Will you meet the pass?  Can I trust you to catch it?  What kind of pass can you catch?  What kind of pass am I comfortable throwing? Should I be throwing it to someone else because they are more open, more ready, more trustworthy?

I have some extremely valuable information that I can only tell one person.  I might want to tell it to you.  Are you acknowledging that I might want to tell you? Are you ready to receive the information? Will you come closer to me if you need to so that I don’t have to talk as loud so that no one else will hear me? Am I able to communicate clearly? Can I trust you with that information? Do I need to tell you in a certain way so that you understand it clearly? Can I communicate information clearly? Should I tell someone else?

You have the ball.  I want the ball. Am I looking at you?  Am I ready to receive the ball? Am I open? Am I ready to meet your pass?  Can I catch any pass that you might throw?  Can I make the right decision when I catch it? Can I execute that decision well?

You have a secret.  I want to know that secret. Do you know that I’m willing to listen?  Am I ready to hear whatever it is you have to tell me?  Am I ready to work to clarify any misunderstandings before they become a problem? Am I ready to protect that information when you give it to me?  Do I know what to do with that information once you tell me?

Clear communication is a key ingredient to successful relationships.  Clean passing is essential to successful offensive basketball. Deflections at best throw off the offensive timing. At worst they lead to uncontested fast break lay-ups.  Poor communication leads to confusion and often ruins relationships.

Passing is a communication between the ball handler and the receiver.  Each have their own responsibilities.  We must work hard to make sure passes reach their intended target, accurately and on time.

How is that any different from a communication between two people?  I say it isn’t at all actually.  How can we teach players to communicate better by teaching them to pass better? How can we teach them to pass better by teaching them to communicate?

 

One Decision Makes a Big Difference

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

Let’s take a quick look at one example of how teaching players to play this way is so powerful. We’re going to look at a traditional 3 out 2 in alignment. I don’t care how they get open.  They can come off screens from the post players.  They can V-cut.  They can post up.  Getting open or being open is not irrelevant, but I’m going to assume that they are. 1 passes to 2.  Fancy huh?

Page 588It’s pretty simple and straight forward right?  When 1 passes to 2, 1 cuts to the basket.  That’s the rule right?  There’s nothing to dispute or discuss. 1 must make a basket cut. We can talk about how they make that cut.  We can talk about faking one way and going the opposite way.  We can talk about sprinting without a jab.  We can talk about cutting in front of the defender or behind the defender.  Again for this discussion, that’s irrelevant. 1 is cutting to the rim. 3 must fill because there is a spot open that’s one pass away.

 

 

Page 589Here’s where the fun begins though.  1 now gets to make a decision. As a coach, you can give the player the freedom to make the decision or you can tell them where to go and what to do.  Let’s look at some different  scenarios.

 

 

 

 

Page 590Let’s say you tell the player to fill the strong side corner. Doesn’t this look like you’re running triangle?  Yeah I know that in the triangle the guard doesn’t cut to the rim.

What happens next?  I don’t know.  It depends on what the ball handler does.  Maybe they throw it to the post player and Laker Cut.  Maybe they throw it to the corner and the post sets a back screen and then a ball screen.  Maybe 4 flashes and 3 pinches the post with 4.  Maybe 5 back screens for 3 or cross screens for 4.  Maybe 2 drives it and hits 4 on a post slide in the short corner. There are other more complicated options.

Page 591Let’s say 1 cuts out to the weak side corner. Remember they don’t have to fill up because they are more than 1 pass away. Talk about an easy and obvious pin screen. 4 doesn’t really even have to do anything.  2 could still drive either way.  They can still throw it to 5.  4 can still flash to the high post.  There are still lots of different screening options.  Can we teach our players to do try different things?  Do we have to require them to do the same thing all the time?  Can we teach them to find ways to score on their own?

 

 

Page 592Let’s say 1 decides they want to screen.  As the next four diagrams show, they really have 3 screening options.  The only one that probably is not a good idea is the screen on the ball.  Though theoretically it would not be “against the rules”, we would not want our players to play that way.

1 screens for 4.  This could turn into a high low look.  It could be a stagger with 5.  It could be a screen the screener if 3 decided to make a Read Line cut and saw that 1’s defender is vulnerable to be screened.  4 could sprint into a ball screen.  4 could flash high and get re-screened on a back screen from 1.  There are numerous other options.

 

Page 593This one may look a little weird, but 1 could screen for 5. I’m pretty sure the defense wouldn’t switch.  Would this be an easy way for 1 to get good post up position? Maybe.  Maybe not. But I have a feeling not many teams cover how to defend this kind of screen.  Maybe you don’t want your 1 in this position, but 1 could very easily be any other player on the court.

 

 

 

Page 594Maybe 1 decides to back screen for 3.  You might say well the lane is so full, 3 will never be open.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  At the worst, 3 is not in a position to make a decision that the defense cannot anticipate.  Maybe 4 or 5 steps up with 1 and sets a double or staggered screen for 3.  Maybe 1 wants to try to get an open look at a 3.  Maybe 1 doesn’t trust 2 to handle the ball and wants to get it back ASAP. Again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know there are a lot of possibilities.

 

 

Page 595Or 1 could take the boring way out and just fill out to the wing.  Useless huh?  Or maybe vanilla is exactly what is needed right now.

 

 

 

 

 

The point is that a different decision by 1 player changes everything.  It provides endless possibilities.  Just one decision.  This doesn’t include the decisions that the other players could be making at the same time. Is it too much for players?

I don’t think so.  I think we can teach players how to play and then let them play.  One decision can make a huge difference.  Just consider how big of a difference the variety of two or three decisions could make to how your offense looks.  Just think about the scoring opportunities that could be created with this unpredictable variety.  We just need to teach the game better.

Zone Offense in the R&R (Part III)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

As a smart coach pointed out to me last night, one reason teams play zone is because the offense can’t shoot. Well, I don’t know of many offenses that can cure that problem.  So get in the gym and get up reps.  In the meantime, let’s look at some options for zone offense as a part of the R&R.

There are a number of ways to defeat zone defenses.  One way is to force defenders to play out of their zone.  Another strategy is to overload a zone. The traditional overload, puts four players on the ball side of the court and forces 3 players to cover them.  What if we overload the zone in a different way?

What if we make 2 weak side defenders guard 4 offensive players?  What if we make two defenders guard one person which leaves no one to cover a second offensive player in the same zone?  What if we simply put two people in one zone and make one person guard both of them?

Below are three single action options. The first is an attack dribble.  The second is a Pass and “hook and look.”  The last one is third is a Dribble At.

I guess you can use them as quick hitters.  I would say this is a way to get a zone defense chasing right away.  I will include some variations of these zone offense diagrams in a following post.

I look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions.

 

An Attack Dribble can make 2 people guard 1 person.
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Who is going to guard 2?  X1 and X2 both helped on the drive from 1.  A simple reverse pivot and a kickout to the safety can cause issues for the defense.  You might not get a wide open 3.  You might not want a wide open 3. Regardless, it creates a situation where X1 and X2 might be in confusion about who guards 2.  Not to mention that there is a numbers advantage on the right side of the floor. On the kickout, does X5 come up to help on 1?  That leaves 5 open.  Can 1 post up one of the top defenders for an easy return pass?

 

Pass and Hook & Look…Oh but wait, I can just take a couple steps and bury my defender with a screen.  

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I doubt X2 will come all the way over to help.  X1 is stuck with a decision to make. In the meantime, 5 can seal X4 in the lane or out of the lane on the weak side.  If 5 commits to help X1, X3 is stuck guarding 2 one on one.  If X5 is too worried about 5, then 1 is open.

 

Dribble-At & Pin Screen

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A simple dribble-at can set up a double pin screen on the weak side. Somebody has to close out to 4. Who’s gonna do it, X2 or X4?  That’s gonna leave somebody open.  Maybe 5 on the post up?  Maybe 2 for an open jumper.  Maybe 3 at the elbow.