Offensive Basketball: Disorganizing the Defense

Last winter, I published Developing Basketball Intelligence, which aims to teach players how to play the game, see the floor and make better decisions with the basketball. Last summer, I started the Playmakers Basketball Development League which features league-play based around these concepts and creates a learning environment for game play, not just a competitive outlet.

On True Hoop, I saw a link to an article breaking down the Boston Celtics’ defense from their weekend game against the New York Knicks. Rather than focus on the Celtics’ defense, the same article and videos illustrate the ideas that I use offensively to replace the set play or continuity offense: disorganizing the defense through a tactical skill (pick-and-roll, dribble hand-off, etc).

I emphasize two tactical skills (basket cuts and pick-and-rolls). We use some off the ball screens and dribble hand-offs, but primarily we focus on the on-ball screen and basket cuts/give-and-goes.

Our goal is to disorganize the defense and then exploit the disorganized defense with ball movement. In this clip, the pick-and-roll leads to switch and a mismatch in the post with Ray Allen matched up against David Lee. Kendrick Perkins helps off Chris Duhon when Lee receives the ball. The other Celtics defenders rotate as now the three defenders must defend four perimeter threats. Lee skips the ball to Gallinari. KG rotates up to Gallinari who passes to Al Harrington for an open three-pointer before Rajon Rondo rotates to him.

This is hard for many young players (especially those used to set plays) to understand. The initial screen did not lead immediately to the basket, but it did disorganize the defense, and the ball movement from that point created the open shot.

When young players learn plays, they learn that Screen A leads to immediate shot B. When young players learn continuity offenses, they typically learn where the shot should be taken, but not necessarily when: for instance, in Flex, the shots are typically from the elbows or at the basket.

When focused on disorganizing the defense, the shot could be taken anywhere. The tactical skill is not used to get a specific shot, but to give the offense an advantage and unsettle the defense. Players first learn how to execute the skill (i.e. set the screen) and then learn to exploit the advantages to create good shots. In set plays and continuity, players typically learn to execute the skill, but they do not necessarily learn how to exploit the advantage or use the skill to create a good shot unless the immediate shot is wide open (first cutter off a screen).

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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