Offensive Staples: Cleveland Cavaliers Horns Option
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 Cavaliers used this action out of their ‘Horns’ alignment to get their most creative players in a dangerous position with the ball. The screening action prior to the final option opened up space for Kyrie Irving or Dion Waiters to get the ball and create.
The play starts in the Horns alignment, with two players at the elbow flanked by two in the corners. The ball handler, Irving in the first example, passes the ball to the right elbow and cuts to the weakside block.
The Cavs then initiate a quick flex set, with Irving set a screen for the wing player to cut to the rim. The defense has to guard this so they don’t give up an open layup at the rim.
Irving then receives a screen from Tristan Thompson to pop out to the elbow. Thompson waits a beat after the initial screen, to ensure that the first Cavalier was not open and then to find Irving’s defender and make sure he sets a good screen.
Irving is then able to use this screen to flash to the elbow where he can either take the mid range jump shot or drive to the rim. The set is designed to get him in an open area where he can be dangerous and the screening action does a good job of getting him the ball at the elbow where he has several options.
How to Defend
The key to this play is the defense having to take away the first screen so they are not exposed to an open layup or dunk at the rim. This forces either the screener’s defender or the second screener’s defender to step off their man and bump the cutter.
If the screener’s defender does it, he is late to recover on the second screen and the Cavaliers put their best offensive player in a dangerous position. Therefore, the better option seems to be having the defender guarding the player on the elbow to sag down and bump the first cutter.
This allows the defender guarding Irving to stick to him as he comes off the second screen. Even if Irving is able to make the catch, the defender is right there and has the ability to defend the play. If the player who has the responsibility to bump the first cutter sags off too much, the likely outcome is a jump shot for a player such as Tristan Thompson, a more favorable outcome than an Irving jump shot.
They key is having the defender guarding Irving to make sure he doesn’t stray to far from him. His teammate guarding the elbow player has to step down and bump the cutter to take away the first option. This will hopefully allow the defense to slow down Irving coming off the screen and force him into a contested jump shot or tough drive.