Monday, March 30, 2015

Importance of Pace of Play in Basketball

I have been watching a lot of basketball lately, both NBA and March madness. One of the things I've noticed is how good offensive teams run offense at a great pace. This is kind of a "no duh!" type statement, but I feel it's greatly over looked. This year during the NCAA Tournament it is apparent that offense in college basketball is on the decline. I think a big part of that is pace. Many of the teams I watched slowly ran through their stuff, almost looks like a walk through sometimes. And they are running actions and not looking to score. When I watch some of the best teams in college or the NBA, they play with great pace. The Spurs and Hawks are two teams that come to mind that play with great pace, and they are fun to watch.

What does "pace" mean anyway? It doesn't mean hoisting up shots right away, thats for sure. Pace to me is more about how quickly they move the ball and people in their offense. Teams that play with great pace are quickly, and constantly, moving the ball and people. They aren't waiting a long time to "let things develop" they are forcing the action and making things happen. They also aren't running their stuff robotically, they are constantly looking for openings to attack and make moves.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Chips": A BLOB for An Inside Scorer

One of my favorite things about scouting is that you constantly pick up new ideas that you can steal and use. One of the teams that we played this year (I won't say which one out of respect) ran this play called "Chips". It's a baseline inbounds play for a 4 or 5 man (or anyone really) that is a good inside scorer. This team ran the set for their stud 4 man and got him lots of good shots off of it. It was too good not to steal!

The set starts in a line. Put a shooter first to occupy the defense on the back side. A post player is second.  Your best shooter is the third player in line. The first player goes basket and corners out. The second player goes to the ball side corner. The third player cuts hard to the rim (sometimes you can get this shot). The inbounder throws to the corner who reverses to the point at the top. The third guy in line, who dove in-screens the inbounder who curls to the rim.
As the inbounder curls, the corner (5) pins in for the  screener who pops to the corner for a three.

Here is a short clip of Euroleague team Maccabi Tel Aviv running something pretty similar in a game this year.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Great Last Second SLOB Look

One of the rare nights off during the season took me over to see Bethany Academy and Hope Academy. I went partially because it was close to home and partially because I have an affinity for Hope Academy as a school. I wanted to see how new coach Kelby Brothen was doing with the Lions as well. I definitely saw a different team this year and Coach Brothen is doing a nice job with the squad. They are pressing, pushing the tempo, and scoring some points.

Anyway, Hope Academy was up 2 with .4 seconds left in the game. It was Bethany's ball on the sideline at about the top of the key extended. Based on the time, they had to go for a tip in to win or tie.

What they ran was pure genius. I don't remember the alignment (I wish I would have!), but they basically ran an action bringing a shooter to the ball and occupying the defense. As they did that, they had a big 1-2 steps off the backside block just hanging out. At the last second they threw it off the backboard to the big for a tip in! Kid missed the tip in, but he was darn close to tying the game. The reason it worked was because everyone was between the ball and their man and his man was, smartly, helping a little more to play anything to the rim. It was the perfect set up and ALMOST perfect execution. I'm always a big fan of out of the ordinary situations stuff and this definitely falls into that category.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Using a Games Based Approach and Bench Depth

Using a games based approach over the last few years has given us an advantage that I really didn't even consider until recently. A coaching friend made a comment to me that he had not seen many teams who could sub the way we did and still be successful. With our team we play all 13 guys and many times play them almost equally without much drop off. I have to admit a big part of it is I am completely spoiled by having a really, really darn good group. But I also believe that taking a games based approach to practice helps to build that depth over the course of the season. We've had a lot of different guys step up in a lot of different situations and I think that some of that can be attributed to our practice structure.

I believe that it's a key because you've created an environment where every player is constantly playing in game situations. No one is stuck doing a "dummy offense or defense", everyone is constantly working on their skills and abilities to function in a game setting. Player are always competing for wins and losses at a high level and that carries over when it's game time. I believe our players are less "game shocked" when they finally get in because they have spent many hours competing and playing in practice already. Just one more reason that I really like a games based approach.

What is a Master Teacher?

The other day I had a brief, but insightful, exchange with Seth Greenberg. Coach Greenberg is a former NCAA coach and current ESPN analyst.

I thought his answer to my question was spot on. As a teacher myself, I think this applies to teaching ANYTHING. Being able to communicate in a way that everyone can understand and process. So how do we accomplish that? I'm certainly not a "master" and probably not qualified to answer this, but below are a few bullet points that I think help communicate with players:
  • Teach in bullet points, not paragraphs. 
    • This is something I stole from Kevin Eastman. Keep it short and simple. 
  • Use common and consistent vocabulary.
    • It's important to have key terms that you use to teach concepts. 
    • Terms should always be the same for that concept. 
      • For example, when talking about close outs say it the same way every time. For us, I use "sprint, drop, chop, high hands" every time I talk about closeouts. 
  • Talk about what you WANT them to do, not what you don't want them to do. 
    • Anyone can tell players what to not do, but that's not nearly as helpful as painting a picture of what they should do. 
  • Talk about movements and how to perform those movements. 
  • Use metaphors and mental imagery that helps them to visualize what you want. 

So there you go, some simple, yet effective, things that I think you can incorporate to communicate with your players. I would love to hear feedback on ways that other people communicate effectively with their players. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Spurs SLOB Down Screen the Screener Set

There are not a lot of great, quick hitting, SLOB sets out there. There is only so much you can do from that spot to get quick shots for your guys. On top of that, most defensive teams sag off in a SLOB situation and force you to just inbound the ball.

One GREAT SLOB was posted by HowU the other day, and I saw the Spurs run one another one the other night against the Blazers.

The set starts in a box with your 5 on the opposite block, your 4 on the ball side block, and your 2 and 3 on the elbows. Your point or best driver takes the ball out.

The set starts with a big-big low cross screen. The ball side elbow player screens down for the screener who pops to the perimeter. On the inbounds pass, the inbounder comes off for a handoff and they play out of it from there.

If it were me, at the high school level, I would put my best shooter in the 4 spot and other post type player at the 3 spot so we could get a three point look for our shooter and then the post on the high elbow could set a ball screen for a hand off to ball screen action. But Coach Popovich has won more NBA Titles (5) than I have high school games (1) - 5x more to be exact - so what do I know?!

Hawks Quick Iso BLOB

The best thing I did so far in this new year is buy the digital version of NBA League Pass. I've been watching game after game and picking up some great Xs and Os. It's been years since I've really watched the NBA, and I've got to eat some crow. It really is good basketball, if you watch the right teams. I've been watching a lot of the Atlanta Hawks (I am glad the Pac Man logo is back) and love how they play.

Below is an inbounds set that they ran to get their point guard, Jeff Teague, a look to attack the basket. It's a really slick set if you have a great shooter and a great slasher that are not the same player.

The set starts with your driver in the ball side corner (Teague for the Hawks). Your best shooter is on the ball side elbow (Korver for the Hawks). Your have your two post players on the back side looking like they are going to screen for your shooter. The set is designed to be a mis-direction. You want everyone in the building to believe that you are looking for your shooter coming off the double. This causes everyone to focus on the shooter and the double screen action. As your shooter comes off the double, you throw the ball to your slasher in the corner who then drives the ball to the rim with everyone preoccupied with the double for the shooter.