Offensive Staples: Philadelphia 76ers Baseline Set
This offseason series will look at plays from each team that they relied on throughout the year and the variations they ran off each set. To see the rest of the series, click on the ‘Offensive Staples’ category at the end of this post.
The Sixers did not rely on the three point shot last season, as they attempted only 17.5 per game, ranked 25th in the league. However, they had a nice set in their playbook that they could pull out to get any number of players either a corner three point shot or space to create off the dribble. Let’s take a look at one of the offensive staples.
The Sixers liked to initiate this set out of both sideline out of bounds plays as well as from the halfcourt offense. They start the set in various ways to disguise the set, so the critical movements begin with a pass from the player who the play is being ran for to the top of the key and the passer receiving a backscreen to begin the baseline cut. This initial screen is usually set by a big man in order to free the shooter to run off the next set of screens.
After using the back screen, the shooter then runs baseline off either a staggered screen, with each screener on the block, or a double screen at the opposite block. The key here is for the screeners to set good screens and get a piece of the defender running through the paint. The last screener opens up to the corner to be a safety option, so his defender has to cover him after the screen. This allows the primary option the space to be open, as long as solid screens are set and the shooter uses them properly.
The two screen shots below are an example of the staggered screen variety. Nick Young uses one screen in the middle of the paint and one just outside of the paint from Dorell Wright. Wright then fades to the corner after the screen, so his defender has to stay with him. This gives Young the space to catch and shoot.
Here is an example of the double screen variety. Wright and Spencer Hawes both set up on the right block and set a double screen for Young. This has a similar effect as the staggered screen, it just gives a different look. After the double screen, Wright sets a screen for Hawes, who opens up to the short corner to be an option for Young after the catch.
In these clips, watch to see how the defense is able to recover to take away the jump shot but how the offensive player is able to adjust to this and penetrate by them before they are able to get on balance.
This set also allowed the guards to catch and penetrate if the defender was able to stay tight to them through the multiple screens. In the below shot, we see how Jeremy Lin is closely guarding Jason Richardson as he is making the catch. At this point, Richardson immediately puts the ball on the floor and penetrates to the middle of the key, which looks to be clogged by Omer Asik.
This is where the last screener’s movements after he sets the screen are so crucial. Lavoy Allen sets that screen here and opens to the baseline, where he is available for a dump off pass. Asik can’t fully commit to Richardson, as he realizes he needs to be available to recover to Allen, so Richardson is left isolated against Lin.
The finish is tough, as Lin is able to stick with him on the drive but Asik is not able to double due to the movement around him. If it wasn’t for the threat of the dump off pass, Asik would be able to defend Richardson harder and cut off his lane to the rim. As the play develops, Asik has to be aware of Allen, which gives Richardson the sliver of space needed to finish the tough play.
A simple variation on this play is also a favorite of the Sixers, which involves the primary option starting the baseline cut before pivoting and returning to the place he started. The player who set the initial backscreen then sets the screen that frees the shooter to either have an open jump shot or create off the dribble.
In the first play, Jrue Holiday notices that the defender is going over the screens and overplaying the cut to the opposite corner. When noticing this, he changes direction and moves back toward where he started and is helped by a screen from Hawes, who set the initial backscreen. Holiday is then able to beat the defender who is off balance after scrambling to recover.
This is a simple read by the guard, who can make the decision to reverse direction if he notices the defender overplaying. Since the defender often tries to jump the cut to get into the passing lane in the opposite corner, they go over the screens instead of chasing the offensive player. Once this happens and they overplay too much, the primary option retraces his cut, which takes advantage of the defensive overplay, as they have to sprint back to recover, which allows the offensive player to beat them off the dribble.
How to defend
This shows that the best way to defend this play is not to do what the defender does in the above clips, as there is a simple way to take advantage of the gamble. I think that the best way to blow up this play is to do it early, before you have to deal with the staggered or double screen.
The player who sets the backscreen is not a threat after they set the screen, so its crucial the defense pounces on this opportunity. The defender on the player setting the backscreen should attempt to bump the player using the screen to allow his teammate time to recover after fighting through the backscreen. The defender guarding the second screen needs to do the same to slow down the offensive player in the same way. The Sixer who is setting this screen usually cuts to fill the void left by the primary option but there should be enough time for his defender to recover after bumping the cutter. It won’t always be successful but it gives the defense the best chance to stop the primary option and force the offense to look for a secondary option, which will hopefully result in a lower percentage shot.