Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back Screen For a Flex Cut: The Defining Play of the Season So Far

To my eye and based on no formal or thorough re-examination of the 12 games the Atlanta Hawks have played so far this season, the Hawks have run the following play more often and more successfully than any other as part of Larry Drew's new motion offense.

Diagramming and showing an example from the November 7th game against the Phoenix Suns...

The first frame shows how the Hawks get into position to run the play. As the point guard (Mike Bibby) crosses half-court he quickly gets the ball to the shooting guard (Joe Johnson) on the wing to establish the strong side of the play, which also includes the center (Al Horford) at the elbow. The small forward (Josh Smith) and power forward (Josh Powell) are going to remain on the weak-side, uninvolved in the play, but by crossing slightly, they'll distract the weak-side help defenders every so slightly, pulling the (initially) closest help defender up toward the three-point line and getting the (ultimately) closest help defender on his heels.

As this play is a quick-hitter where many important things happen at once, there's a bit more to diagram in the second frame and apologies for the clutter. Bibby cuts toward the baseline between and past Johnson and Horford. However, simultaneous with Johnson's pass to Horford, Bibby pivots to the left and screens Johnson's defender (Jason Richardson). Bibby's defender (Steve Nash) tries to step out to cut off Johnson's direct path to the basket but events are transpiring to quickly for this to work and all Nash can accomplish is to make Johnson's cut to the hoop more circular than angular. As soon as Johnson clears Nash (and with Bibby still holding his screen on Richardson), Horford gets the ball to Johnson.

In the video of the full play (below), note the weak-side defenders for further evidence of how quickly all this occurs. By the time Johnson receives the ball, Grant Hill has only turned his head and Hedo Turkoglu, though he's aware of what's occurring, has yet to take a complete step to help.

Play Diagrams in this post were created in FastDraw. To learn more about FastDraw and to purchase it today visit their website at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Why don't any NBA announcers walk through this kind of thing during the game like NFL announcers? All I usually get is two overweight former players chuckling stupidly...