Inside the Play: Washington Staggered Screen
Soon enough, we are going to look at Washington’s offense in full, which I really enjoy watching. They set multiple screens on nearly every possession, forcing defenses to work hard. In this post, we are going to look at a single set play that Washington ran in the Pac-10 Final last season. Watch how the multiple screens force the defense to constantly move and how Washington is able to exploit this in the end of the play, as they get the ball to their best scorer, Isaiah Thomas.
We pick up the play with Matthew Bryan-Amaning posting up Derrick Williams after setting a down screen for Scott Suggs. With Williams having to let his teammate through the screen, Bryan-Amaning is able to gain position on the block. I believe this is token post action, as Washington is setting up the rest of the play but any possibility of feeding the post is lost when Suggs fumbles the ball.
Justin Holiday then sets a backscreen for Thomas which puts Thomas in position to use the staggered screen. Bryan-Amaning will be the first screen followed by Holiday setting the second screen. Thomas uses the screen to get in position below the rim for the staggered screen rather than try to get open.
After setting the ball screen for Suggs, Holiday immediately moves to set the second screen of the staggered screen for Thomas. Arizona chooses to switch the ball screen and Holiday’s defender switches on to Suggs. This leaves Kyle Fogg to guard Holiday. Fogg sees Holiday moving and thinks he is going to roll to get open, so he sprints hard to recover and get between Holiday and the rim.
However, Holiday is not moving to get open himself but is setting the second of a staggered screen for Thomas. When Fogg overpursues to get in between Holiday and the rim, this leaves nobody to hedge on Thomas. Williams is in the center of the lane to take away any dribble drive from the ball screen. He also needs to be in the lane to take away the slip of either screen, so Fogg is the key help man here on Thomas.
Jordin Mayes is a few steps behind Thomas thanks to Bryan-Amaning’s strong screen. When Holiday sets the second screen, Mayes needs help from Fogg on the hedge. However, since Fogg is trying to hard to defend Holiday after the ball screen, he does not see Thomas coming and doesn’t hedge on the screen. This gives Thomas plenty of room to catch and shoot (although he does have to double clutch thanks to a late challenge by Fogg).
Arizona has some difficulty defending the numerous screens set back to back. All the screens are designed to set up the staggered screen for Thomas and they are used to get the defenders out of position and focused on the other screens, instead of zeroing in on taking Thomas away.
This is a perfect example of the offense Washington likes to run. They force the defense to defend the initial screens, although their main scoring threat is coming off a later screen. These first screens put the defense out of position, which Washington capitalizes on. We will see more of this later on, when we take a further look at Washington’s offense.