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.
Today’s Play: Boston Celtics Slice
Original Team: Boston Celtics (the Rondo, Pierce, KG, Allen Celtics)
Actions: Flex Cut, Flare Screen
Play Diagrammer: Craig LeVasseur
Alterations by Tim: 2 cuts to opposite corner instead of just to opposite block; the ensuing action is all new.
Action Over Motion
All of the movement in this play is action. First the flex cut, then a flare screen. Both generate advantages for the offense and create opportunities for good shots.
The Celtics liked to have 2 stop his cut on the left block and post up, but I’ve changed it so 2 continues his cut to the opposite corner if he doesn’t get the ball. But if you want to post up a guard, this could be another way to make that happen quickly.
Verdict: Thumbs up
Weak Side Action
This play doesn’t have more than one action occurring at a time. When looking at the existing action, I don’t see much opportunity either. The play is very simple, the reads are simple, and there’s not much that can be added in based on the location of the ball and players if we’re to keep the flex cut and flare screen in place.
Run Action the Right Way
In most cases, this lack of more than 1 action at a time would be a big negative, but both actions don’t allow the defense to switch without creating huge mismatches, don’t allow the defense to help with other defenders, and the reads are simple. Both actions have the proper spacing and are run the right way.
Verdict: Thumbs up
The two actions don’t pressure the same defenders and are rather isolated in their execution. That’s okay, but not the ideal. However, they do exploit any helping that could be attempted by the defense due to the spacing and ensuing action.
Spacing & Usage of Personnel
In General, this play is great because it can work even if 1-2 guys aren’t great floor spacers. You want shooters at the 1, 4, and somewhat the 2 spots, but 3 and 5 don’t need to be. And the interchangeability of the roles in these plays allows for an easy flipping of 4 and 5 and potentially 3 and 2 in this play.
3 and 5 don’t need to be shooters, but it’s nice if they can. It’d be beneficial for 5 to have the option to step out to the corner after setting his flex screen. It doesn’t impact the play in that one frame, but 3 being a shooter would open things up for effective split cuts after this play concludes and the ball is potentially entered into the post.
For the Lakers in this specific play, I’d love a lineup of Lonzo filling the 1 spot, Ingram playing where the 2 is, KCP at the 3, Randle at the 5, and Lopez being the 4. Randle and Lopez can play either spot, but I’d slightly adjust the play if Randle were to play the 4 and Lopez the 5.
KCP has been a below average finisher at the rim in his career, so I’d rather not him coming off of the flex cut. Instead, Ingram would be a better option finishing and would be a huge target with his length.
Lonzo running off of a flare screen is a great look for LA, but the way the diagram above shows it, that flare screen would be much easier to shut down with Randle as the screener rather than Lopez. With a quick tweak we can fix this:
There are two tweaks here. The first is Lopez (5) filling the corner after setting the flex screen, then stepping up toward the wing on 4’s pass to 3. The second is Randle (4) cutting to the rim after setting the flare screen.
Verdict: Thumbs up
This play starts off the same as every other play in this series, and the actions in each play are different enough that the defense can’t know what is coming. Based on that, I’d say it has the requisite disguise to be less scoutable and limits automatic adjustments from the defense.
Verdict: Thumbs up
Set Counters & In-play Counters
As far as what can be done by the defense to adjust, there isn’t much. The two actions taking place, the positions of the players executing them, and the spacing of the players doesn’t allow for the defense to effectively gameplan a response to this play.
Defending the Flex Cut
Switching the flex isn’t a great idea, because then you likely have a substantial mismatch that can be exploited. If that were the case, the offense can have 2 continue his cut to the left corner and bring 4/5 into the post against 2’s defender for a post up mismatch.
Helping down to defend the cut by the top of the key defender (either 4 or 5’s defender) can help negate the flex cut, but if that offensive player at the top of the key can shoot, you’re conceding an open 3-point shot. If that player can’t shoot well, you’re still out of position to help on the flare screen. So helping down also isn’t a great option.
Defending the Flare Screen
The flare screen also doesn’t allow the defense to help or scheme around it. Depending on the option being run, 4 is either cutting to the rim with the paint open or is spotting up for 3, so 4’s defender can’t linger or help much on the screen. Just like with the flex screen, a switch would result in a significant mismatch.
There are a couple simple reads 1 will make to counter the defense’s playing of the screen. If 1’s defender trails, he can attack downhill after catching the ball. If the defender goes underneath the screen, 1 can read that and fade off of it (as you would in floppy action with fades to the corner).
Verdict: Thumbs up. The reads and adjustments for the offense are easy and generate solid looks.
Where Do You Go From Here?
After running Slice, the team will have this resulting alignment:
4 and 5 will be switched depending on which option is run, but in either case you’ll have the big man that can shoot on the wing and the big man that can’t shoot on the block.
From here, the ball can go a couple different places for easy action. A pass from 1 to 4, or from 1 to 5 to 4 can result in a 1/5 split cut, perhaps with a flare screen or a pin in on the weak side.
Here’s what that would look like after the ball gets to 4, with a split cut between 1 and 5 and 2 setting a hammer flare screen for 3, meaning that the flare screen is being set for 3 to cut to the corner. If the defense switches this, 2 cuts to the rim. If the defense doesn’t switch, 3 may be open in the corner. Either way, their defenders will be occupied and not helping on 5’s cut to the rim.
1 passing to 3 can be followed by a 1/4 pick and roll and 2/5 flare screen with 2 lifting, which I’d call “Fist Flare Lift.” That would look like this:
The ball being passed to 3 can also just result in 4 moving from block to block and the team being in the starting position of all of the Slice Series plays.
It can also be followed by 1 setting a ghost screen for 3 (setting and then quickly slipping a ball screen and sprinting to spot up at the 3-point line) where 1 is running to the corner. As that happens, 2 can run off of staggered screens from 4 and 5 to create another scoring look and occupy the defenders of those three players. 3 can attack off of the slipped screen into the paint and look to hit 1 or 2 spotting up. That would look like this:
The final iteration to take a look at is if 2 were to stop his cut at the block and post up, then receive the ball. At that point, this action would be a good option to clear the paint and have shooters spotting up:
The two players at the wings moving to the corners gives you players spacing the floor and spotting up at the closest 3-point shots available. 4 setting a flare screen for 1 will either get 4’s defender away from helping on 2’s post up, or if not, will likely result in 1 being open for a 3-point shot.
Verdict: Thumbs up. You can quickly get into other Slice plays or the other plays I described above.
Overall Play Thoughts
This is a simple play with easy reads, easy adjustments, doesn’t take a lot of time, generates good looks with solid actions, and easily flows into more sets or action. The defense’s hands are tied to a fair degree through the spacing, specific actions run, and ability to disguise the play by using it and other plays from the same alignment (that are also included in the playbook). To top it off, the set can work with lineups having three, four, or five shooters, meaning the Lakers could run it with any lineup they have on the court. There’s a lot to like with this play, and is one that the Lakers should definitely consider utilizing.
Mr. McBasketball, thank you for efforts to punch up analysis and conversation during the lazy and dry basketball month of August.