One of the bright spots of this season–in terms of pure X’s and O’s, if not results–has been the creativity of Monty Williams’ New Orleans Hornets offense. They’ve rolled out fun, effective, and innovative sets all season long, a number of which have been highlighted here at HoopChalk.
Sunday night against the Trailblazers, the Hornets broke out one of their most clever sets yet. They threw off Portland with misdirection, spacing, and movement, and it resulted in two buckets for New Orleans–important considering the final margin of two points. Lets take an in-depth look at the play.
Things begin with the point guard entering the ball to a man in the high post, who in turn swings it to a man on the wing. After making this pass, the high post man cuts through the key, taking a back screen from Al-Farouq Aminu along the way. This initial screen is nothing more than a ruse; if this play was designed for a lob pass to the high post man, Ryan Anderson wouldn’t be positioned as he is on the left block, putting his defender in easy help position. Instead, this initial cut begins a sequence that triggers a trickle down effect of defensive helping that will eventually put the targeted Blazers’ defender far behind the play. New Orleans isn’t worried about getting this first man open; they’re just working to get Portland’s help schemes confused and unprepared for the next screen to come.
And that next screen comes fast. Ryan Anderson springs from his position on the baseline to set a diagonal cross pick for the original back screener (Aminu). This is a screen the screener action where the Hornets take advantage of the original screener’s defender (head is circled in blue) helping out by running this screener through a pick of his own.
Often times the original screener’s defender will be too far behind the play to contest and in all the confusion, there will be no man available to help the helper. If there is? That’s where this next action comes into play.
That’s right, a double screen the screener. While Anderson’s man (head is circled in blue) is helping, Anderson sprints across the court to take pin-down screen designed to free him on the wing. By the time he gets to the three point line, he’s either wide open or his defender will over pursue, leaving him a wide lane to drive to the basket baseline. This chain reaction of help all started with the first little backscreen. Here are the two times New Orleans ran it:
Help schemes and team defense are becoming an ever more important part of the game, oftentimes far more important than individual ability. Teams with strong back lines don’t have to worry much about iffy perimeter defense because there’s always someone there to clean up the mess. As defenses evolve though, offenses have to find more ways to counter and exploit what little weakness remains. Forcing the defense to help and using that against them is a clear and effective example of this, as the Hornets showed us Sunday night.