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.
Today’s Play: Slice Split
Note: Slice Split is different from regular Slice, which I covered here.
Play: Slice Split
Original Team: Boston Celtics (the Rondo, Pierce, KG, Allen Celtics)
Actions: Flex Cut, Down Screen, Split Cut, Flare Screen x2, Staggered Screen, Pin In, Chicago Action
Play Diagrammer: Originally Craig LeVasseur, but I added a lot in this play
Alterations by Tim: Added everything after the first frameI
Action Over Motion
There is a lot of action in this play. The defense will constantly face pressure and need to make decisions, facing 5/7 actions in about 10 seconds, depending on how the play progresses.
In this play we have actions creating shots at the rim (Flex Cut, Split Cut), actions creating 3-point opportunities (Split Cut, Flare Screen, Fan Flare Screen, Pin In, (potentially) Staggered Screen), and two actions that get a player attacking the paint with 1/2 steps on their defender (Down Screen, (potentially) Staggered Screen, Chicago Action).
This play certainly has action over motion, and those attacks on the defense in quick succession and in key areas make this play a strong one.
Verdict: Thumbs up
Weak Side Action
In two of the four frames, there are two actions occurring simultaneously. One frame even has 3. In the one frame where there’s only one action, it’s weak side action that will either create a scoring opportunity for 3 coming off of the staggered screen or ensure the paint will be clear for Lonzo to attack in the post.
All of this weak side action should either result in good looks for shots or should occupy help defense and enhance the primary, action being run through isolation the involved defenders. With all of these frames, if help defense decides to help, they’re exposing themselves
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Run Action the Right Way
Each of these actions are being run with the proper spacing, ball location, and timing. This allows for those 7 actions to truly create 7 scoring opportunities. If the timing weren’t right or the ball was in a weird position to pass to where cutters/shooters are running, we could potentially have 7 actions run but only realistically be able to use 4-5 of them.
Spacing, player alignment, ball location, and actions being run are such that every cut to the basket or drive to the paint should be toward open waters. Every shooter running off of a screen should not be crowded. If those aren’t the case, it’s because the defense is helping to stop that action and a glaring opportunity should be elsewhere.
In the second frame, the reads are clear and the options progress well. Lonzo’s reads are 2 on the flare, 3 cutting, then 5 on the flare. After that (and moving to the third frame), Lonzo has time to attack his man in the paint as the staggered screen occupies the defense, and if he can’t get a shot from there he’ll then have a clear option to pass to Ingram off of the screens.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
As I mentioned earlier, the actions being run will exploit any attempt at help defense. In that way, the actions are synergistic. The The use of quick flare screens and a split cut will make it hard for the defense if they try to ball watch even a little. Because of those quick attacks to exploit adjustments or laziness and schematic elimination of helping by the defense, it’s a thumbs up from me in this component.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Spacing & Usage of Personnel
Let’s think of how the Lakers will run this with their personnel and how the spacing and actions fit those players. I’d have the Laker lineup look like this:
2: KCP (KCP and Ingram are pretty interchangeable in this play)
As far as spacing and personnel, the only player without floor stretching ability of that group is Randle. His placement within the set eliminates any concerns about his man sagging off of him to help, since he’s a screen in every frame. That means if his man is helping off, the player running off of the screen will have a much easier time getting open.
If we’re looking at player strengths and the actions they’re put in, the fit is also good. We have Lonzo, who the Lakers decided to use in the post during Summer League as a scorer and passer and did a good job in that position, getting a chance to pass and score (in that order) out of the post. Designing a play for Lonzo that’s just a post up isn’t a great play, even with a size mismatch. This play gets him in the post and lets some high quality actions take place for great opportunities first, then he can go to work if none are open (and there will be a staggered screen occurring during that post work to occupy the help defense and make his job down low much easier). The main passer in this place is the 1, and Lonzo is our best passer, so I’m happy with that fit as well.
KCP will be used as a shooter and also will be put in a position to attack downhill off of the down screen in the first frame.
Similarly, BI will be used as a shooter, cutter, and running off of handoffs or screens looking to attack the paint while having a step or two on his defender.
Randle’s usage in this play is pretty much just as a screener. He’ll be featured more in other sets, but that role fits well and he may be open on some dump offs if he’s left alone near the basket or while screening.
Lopez is used in the play as a screener and shooter, two areas I think fit him well. Utilizing him as a corner 3-point shooting threat (off of screens, not just standing there by himself) opens up the floor and adds another attack on the defense.
Verdict: Thumbs Up. None of the Laker players are put in a position they aren’t equipped to handle, and the spacing fits the personnel well.
The fact that this play starts in the same alignment and with the same entry pass as regular Slice and the other plays in this series disguises it well. That prevents the defense from sitting on certain actions or being able to prepare too much against this play or the others, and identify the play being run later than ideal to call in-play defensive adjustments.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Set Counters & In-play Counters
As far as set counters, this set effectively operates as a counter for the regular Slice play we have already outlined. Expecting 2 to flex cut and 1 to come off of a flare screen (as they do in regular Slice) and adjusting to those actions will put the defense in a bad spot.
When looking to counter the defense’s adjustments during the play, the offense has options and the defense not as many. Switching anything from the first frame will result in a big mismatch. Helping on either action in the first frame will give the offense an open look in the other action. If 2’s defender tries to go under the down screen, he can read the defense and fade back to the top of the key.
The defense can switch the 4/5 flare screen in the second play and try to nullify it. 4 can look to re-screen for flare screen to the corner for 5 (hammer action), and 4 may have a chance to cut to the rim during the switch for an open look at the basket. If those don’t work, it’s okay, as the flare screen action will still occupy the defense and open the paint for the split cut.
On the split cut, the offense has options. If the defense switches, the cut from 3 will likely be open. If they don’t, the flare screen will likely be open. 2 can also reject the screen and cut himself, resulting in 3 running back to the 3-point line and spotting up.
In the third frame, switching on the staggered screens will result in mismatches, especially 5’s defender defending 3. 3 can also read how his man navigates the two screens, and can fade to the corner, come off straight, or curl off of the first or second screens depending on how he’s played.
And in the final play, if the pin in is switched, 1 can cut to the rim and has a good shot of being open. Switching on the Chicago action leaves Ingram attacking downhill on an overmatched big man. Helping on Ingram from 4 or 5’s defenders leaves the fan flare screen for 5 wide open. And if that flare screen is switched by the defense, 4 can cut hard to the rim and may be open.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Overall Play Thoughts
This play overall is very solid. It’s another great set from the same series as regular Slice that should generate different, but still effective, actions. The execution of the play is fairly simple due to the carefully planned out timing and spacing of players and ball, and any adjustment by the defense leaves them vulnerable if the players read the defensive adjustments properly. This play fits the Laker personnel well, and is a set I’d definitely want them to be looking to run next season.
Since 75% of this play is my concoction and no one has run it before, we don’t have a video for you of the play.