Archives For Basketball Strategy

The 2016-17 Lakers got off to a surprising 10-10 start, allowing the more optimistic fans amongst us to entertain the possibility of Luke Walton hoisting the Coach of the Year Award after an improbable playoff push. Then the clock struck midnight, with the Lakers losing 31 of their next 41, turning a season that began with such positivity into yet another year where many of us prayed to the NBA Lottery gods while cursing every April victory.

So what happened? And how does it impact the 2017-18 season? The answer lies in the lineup data below: Continue Reading…

I’ve released my proposed ideal Laker playbook for next season, but it’s time to break it down. The playbook is comprised of 55 plays and grouped together in 9 chapters. I’ll be going through the playbook play by play and breaking down each of the plays I think the Lakers should run. Today is the fourth play of the playbook we’ll be breaking down.

Prerequisite Background Information

If you haven’t first read my earlier Forum Blue & Gold piece about Designing a Great Offense, which covers the 7 principles I think every great NBA play and offense NEEDS, check that out first. Each of those principles will be referenced in these play breakdowns, but for an explanation on the principle itself you’ll need to reference that original piece.

What This Includes

I’ll start with background info on each play, including its name, which team was seen running the play when it was diagrammed, the actions involved in the play, who (me or a FastModel contributor) diagrammed the play, and what alterations I may have made to the original play to make it #good.

After that short background, I’ll dig into how each play incorporates or could use improvement on each of my 7 principles of a great NBA offense.

Continue Reading…

I’ve released my proposed ideal Laker playbook for next season, but it’s time to break it down. The playbook is comprised of 55 plays and grouped together in 9 chapters. I’ll be going through the playbook play by play and breaking down each of the plays I think the Lakers should run. Today is the third play of the playbook we’ll be breaking down.

Prerequisite Background Information

If you haven’t first read my earlier Forum Blue & Gold piece about Designing a Great Offense, which covers the 7 principles I think every great NBA play and offense NEEDS, check that out first. Each of those principles will be referenced in these play breakdowns, but for an explanation on the principle itself you’ll need to reference that original piece.

What This Includes

I’ll start with background info on each play, including its name, which team was seen running the play when it was diagrammed, the actions involved in the play, who (me or a FastModel contributor) diagrammed the play, and what alterations I may have made to the original play to make it #good.

After that short background, I’ll dig into how each play incorporates or could use improvement on each of my 7 principles of a great NBA offense.

Continue Reading…

I’ve released my proposed ideal Laker playbook for next season, but it’s time to break it down. The playbook is comprised of 55 plays and grouped together in 9 chapters. I’ll be going through the playbook play by play and breaking down each of the plays I think the Lakers should run. Today is the second play of the playbook we’ll be breaking down.

Prerequisite Background Information

If you haven’t first read my earlier Forum Blue & Gold piece about Designing a Great Offense, which covers the 7 principles I think every great NBA play and offense NEEDS, check that out first. Each of those principles will be referenced in these play breakdowns, but for an explanation on the principle itself you’ll need to reference that original piece.

What This Includes

I’ll start with background info on each play, including its name, which team was seen running the play when it was diagrammed, the actions involved in the play, who (me or a FastModel contributor) diagrammed the play, and what alterations I may have made to the original play to make it #good.

After that short background, I’ll dig into how each play incorporates or could use improvement on each of my 7 principles of a great NBA offense.

Continue Reading…

I’ve released my proposed ideal Laker playbook for next season, but it’s time to break it down. The playbook is comprised of 55 plays and grouped together in 9 chapters. Starting today, I’ll be going through the playbook play by play and breaking down each of the plays I think the Lakers should run.

Prerequisite Background Information

If you haven’t first read my earlier Forum Blue & Gold piece about Designing a Great Offense, which covers the 7 principles I think every great NBA play and offense NEEDS, check that out first. Each of those principles will be referenced in these play breakdowns, but for an explanation on the principle itself you’ll need to reference that original piece.

What This Includes

I’ll start with background info on each play, including its name, which team was seen running the play when it was diagrammed, the actions involved in the play, who (me or a FastModel contributor) diagrammed the play, and what alterations I may have made to the original play to make it #good.

After that short background, I’ll dig into how each play incorporates or could use improvement on each of my 7 principles of a great NBA offense.

Continue Reading…

Renato Afonso is a long time reader, commenter, and friend of FB&G.. He is based in Portugal, played semi-pro hoops, and after that coached his alma mater for two years. He now passes his time in a veteran’s league while waiting the arrival of his first born. This is his inaugural post at FB&G. Welcome, Renato!

In today’s NBA there’s a lot of talking about spacing, ball sharing, efficiency and advanced statistics. Teams like the Rockets assume that feeding a big man in the low post is nonsense and the long two is absolutely forbidden, maximizing the number of shots at the rim, three pointers and free throws.

But this new way of thinking can only be applied when you have good three point shooters, guys that are able to get to the rim and good free throw shooters. Obviously, a free throw is always uncontested but one can argue that an open midrange jump shot may be the most effective shot an offense can get at any given moment. Sometimes the defense doesn’t allow you to finish at the rim or simply denies open three point shots and all you’re left with is what the defense gives you. When such thing happens there’s an obligation to convert those midrange jumpshots. With this, the best shot isn’t necessarily a three pointer but actually the available open shot. It goes without saying that long contested twos are obviously worse than long contested threes. This is also assuming average players and not statistical outliers like our own Kobe Bryant.

In the midst of these thoughts, I found myself completely absorbed by the Grizzlies-Warriors series that proved that there are different ways to run an offense, there are different ways to play proper defense and talent can be presented in several ways.

Continue Reading…

The version of the Princeton offense the Lakers will use this season has the chance to be an evolving oasis of offensive possibility. The sheer talent and versatility of their core four players can translate to a multitude of actions — some obvious, some not so much — that can hurt a defense in a variety of ways.

When the Princeton was first talked about as a system the Lakers would employ, one of the first things that came to mind was Pau Gasol operating at the high post. Using Pau at that spot on the floor, with Howard occupying the low block, would take advantage of his elite passing while also utilizing his ability to space the floor as one of the better mid-range shooting big men.

This, of course, has become a staple of what the Lakers do run on offense. Every game we’ve been treated to at least one Gasol dime to Howard where he makes a catch at the elbow and plays high-low basketball with his frontcourt partner. As the season advances and these two develop even more chemistry, we should see even more of this action and little wrinkles added to it to force defenses into making the types of lose/lose choices that often result in made baskets.

However, one of the not so obvious ways the Lakers have started to take advantage of their talent has been the inverting of their big men. Against the Pistons, the Lakers ran several actions that put Pau at the low block and left Howard at the high post. This is the opening play of the game:

This play starts as many Lakers’ sets have lately, with the point guard (Steve Blake in this instance) bringing the ball up the left side of the floor with Kobe on the wing and Dwight in the ball side post. Blake enters to Kobe who looks to Dwight for a quick post up. Instead of entering the ball, Kobe passes the ball back to Blake who then enters a quick pass into Dwight as he slides up the lane line to the elbow. Blake then screens away for Pau who pops open at the top of the key where he gets the ball from Howard. This is where the heart of this action comes to life.

After Pau gets the ball at the top of the key he swings the ball back to Kobe and then rubs off a high pick from Dwight to dive to the low post. Kobe hits Pau with an entry pass while Howard hovers around the free throw line. It’s important here to note how closely Howard’s man is playing him and how much room Pau has to work on the post:

Pau post up

With all this room, Pau backs his man down and shoots a half hook that misses. But since he’s maneuvered his way around his man, he follows his shot, gets the offensive rebound and scores easily on a put back. It bears repeating, in this next still Howard isn’t even in the picture and Maxiell still hasn’t left the FT line area to help on the glass and is watching as Pau scores an easy two points:

Pau put back

One of the key reasons this set works is that the Lakers have put Pau in the post and spaced the floor in a way where if the double team comes Gasol can use his tremendous passing ability to hit the open man.

Furthermore, with Dwight at the elbow, the defense has a unique problem. If Dwight’s man leaves to double team he’s allowing Howard to dive from the FT line with the best passing big man in the league ready to drop him off a pass that will surely end with either a basket, a foul, or both. Not to mention that if Dwight’s man leaves him but the pass doesn’t go to him, he still has a wide open lane to crash the glass and be an offensive rebounder.

What the Lakers have figured out — and based off how many times they ran a variation of this set, they have figured something out — is that the defense must respect Dwight if he’s anywhere near the paint. His ability to cut to the ball and score off passes or simply get to the front of the rim for rebounding chances means that his man has to keep within arm’s distance of him at nearly all times or risk being exposed.

This doesn’t have to be a full time set for the Lakers. Dwight is still best served operating from the low post and trying to score on his man via touches in the paint. Many of those touches will come from the splendid passing ability of Pau. But there will be times where the Lakers can invert their bigs and use Pau’s strength as a post scorer to their advantage and not hesitate. Even though Dwight doesn’t have range on his jumper and isn’t known as a great high-low passer, it doesn’t matter. He’s too dangerous to leave.

Offensive spacing can come from many places. In this case it comes from Dwight Howard standing at the foul line. Not sure many people saw that coming.

Welcome to the Strategy Session. In this space we’ll explore different aspects of the game from a strategy standpoint. It may mean looking at a coaching decision — like determining a rotation. Or a specific offensive play that we think will work. Or it could be an examination of a defensive scheme. Sometimes we’ll use video others we’ll just blab away for a while on the topic of the day. Hope you enjoy it.

With a lot of negatives to focus on after the Lakers’ first two games, I thought I’d instead look at something that has worked in the past and should be able to work again in the future.

Contrary to popular sentiment, the Lakers’ offense really isn’t the chief problem with this team right now. Of course there are issues — most notably Steve Nash still finding his balance between on/off ball effectiveness and a feel of clunkiness that persists to sets the team is still picking up on — but the team is shooting the ball pretty well and has shown glimpses of what they can be once they settle in and find their stride.

One such action that can aid them in moving forward in a positive direction (it proved to work in the preseason) and should continue to be a useful play for the Lakers is a strong side hand-off sequence. This action utilizes Nash, Kobe, and Dwight on the same side of the floor and puts the defense in a position to make tough choices. All three players are threats on the play and when run crisply it creates good looks.

This first example leads to the type of shot the Lakers want Kobe taking:

The play starts with Nash bringing the ball up the right sideline while Dwight waits at the elbow and Kobe sits on the wing. Nash enters the Howard and proceeds to set a screen for Kobe who curls off the pick towards Dwight. Kobe continues his cut, takes the hand-off from Dwight and then elevates for his jumper over DeMarcus Cousins who helped a split second too late. Kobe knocks down the 16 footer, a high percentage shot for him.

This play worked so well, the Lakers decided they were going to run the exact same action on their next possession. The only difference is that they run it on the other side of the floor:

Here, again, you see Nash bringing the ball up the floor (this time on the left side) with Kobe (on the wing) and Dwight (at the elbow) in the exact same positions. Nash makes his entry to Dwight, proceeds to set his screen for Kobe who then curls to take the hand off from Howard. Here’s where you see the difference, however. When Kobe gets the ball he again looks to elevate for his shot but he’s drawing more defensive attention with a quicker reaction as well. Kobe recognizes the defense is out of position and when Howard rolls to the hoop he leads him to the rim with a lob pass that is dunked home.

One play, two actions, same result.

There are even more actions that can be run off this single look. In both of the above plays, Steve Nash’s man sinks to the lane line to try and help on Howard’s dive to the rim. If Kobe is looking that way, he can hit him for an open jumper. On the play where Kobe threw the lob, you’ll notice that Ron’s man came over to help and left him open on the wing for a wide open jumper. Other options include Nash, instead of flaring to the wing, cutting back door after setting the screen or Kobe, rather than accepting Nash’s screen, cutting back door when Nash comes over to try and free him.

One of the key principles to the Princeton offense is setting up plays to look the same but then countering what the defense does through reading how they react to the action in front of them. The Lakers are trying to get to the point where all of these options are utilized; where the players working together can recognize what the defense is doing and then respond accordingly.

In some cases — like the plays above — they’ve made headway. In many others they’re not yet close. The result is flashes of brilliance mixed with bouts of frustration. The hope is that we see more progress soon. But the good thing is, that hope can be rooted in knowing that this stuff actually does work.