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Basketball Concepts (Latest Update: Containing Dwight Howard)

  • crzy
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Defending Screens: Switching

The basics of switching on screens is pretty straight forward. The pick-setter's defender switches over to the ball-handler. And the ball-handler's defender switches to the pick setter.

Aggressive switching defenses can disrupt the flow of the offense. The word "aggressive" is key because switching can often lead to lazy complacent defense, as opposed to fighting through screens.

Also, this defense really only works if you have the right players to avoid any big mismatches. Most intelligent defensive teams only switch as a last resort and never switch on a big-small screen.

Here is a video below that shows what I'm talking about. The same thing happens twice.

Greg Oden steps out to set a screen for Steve Blake. Jermaine O'Neal switches over onto Steve Blake. Jose Calderon switches over onto Oden, who rolls to the basket. In order to avoid the mismatch (Oden vs Calderon), the Raptors add an extra switch between Calderon and the help side post defender, Chris Bosh. Bosh switches onto Oden and then fronts him to deny the post-entry pass. Calderon ends up guarding Aldridge on the perimeter (And the Blazers do a horrible job of taking advantage of that mismatch).

Unfortunately, I can't find a good video of the Warriors' small ball lineup effectively countering the Mavericks screen and rolls by aggressively switching. The reason the Warriors were able to do this, is because Dirk Nowitzki can be guarded in the post by smaller defenders like Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. So the Mavericks weren't able to take advantage of any mismatches created on the switch.


In any case, switching on screens is a defensive strategy that is very dangerous and easy to counter.

Countering the Switch

At 4:13, Boris Diaw steps out and sets a screen for Steve Nash. Al Harrington switches over onto Steve Nash and Baron ends up guarding Diaw in the post. Unlike with the Raptors video above, the Warriors don't add an aditional switch and are comfortable leaving Baron Davis alone in the post against Boris Diaw. Baron is quite strong, but Diaw is a forward-center and Baron ends up fouling him. You can see how this strategy can backfire because of mismatches. At 4:40, the Suns do the same thing again, but now the Warriors rotate over Matt Barnes to help on Diaw in the post. Grant Hill is left open for the jumper.

Here is another good video that shows the problems that can arise when a team decides to switch on EVERY perimeter screen.


Here Nene is often left guarding a smaller player and even Beno Udrih is quick enough to take Nene to the hole. Later on in the game (at 2:53), the Nuggets adjust by collapsing the paint so that the Kings can't take advantage of the big vs small.
[ Edited by crzy on Sep 30, 2009 at 12:42 PM ]
Originally posted by crzy:
I like turtles

There. Now your edit has flare!
Today's Concept: How Dwight Howard is used in Orlando's Offense

There are several elements to this, so let's address what they are.

How does Orlando want to use Howard? - D12 is almost always stronger, faster, and more athletic than the guy that's guarding him, so Orlando wants to put him in a position where he can use his physical advantages to overpower the opposition. That means that almost everything that they design around Howard is going to be for the purpose of getting him as close to the basket as possible.

How do they go about doing that?

Transition: Big men are taught to run right down the middle of the court as far as the can until someone stops them on a fast break. If they are fast enough, they can often times get right under the hoop, or close to it. Doing this effectively has the following impact:

Transition Option #1 - An easy layup or dunk.


Transition Option #2 Teams are obviously going to try to prevent Option #1 from happening, but if your big men can't get down the floor quickly enough, (which often happens with Howard because of his speed) a guard or forward has to step in front of him to keep him from getting directly to the hoop. They only stay on him until their big guy can catch up, but in the meantime their guy is open behind the 3 point line. This is often referred to as "semi-transition".

Using fast breaks to create open 3's is a phenomenon that's only about a decade old, as it used to be a BIG no-no. Orlando does it better than anyone. Sadly, I can't find a video of this. They don't make YouTube vids of a lot of this stuff, but it happens all the time.

Transition Option #3

If Options 1 & 2 are taken away, the offense will usually have to set up their halfcourt offense. But if they can get into it quickly, Howard has usually been able to get pretty close to the basket because the guard that comes over to help isn't strong enough to prevent it.

So now you have D12 deep in the post. How do you get him the ball? Often times, the direct passing lane is blocked, and that means you have to "reverse" the ball. Here is an example of ball reversal with D12 @ 3:25. This isn't after a fast break and is on the pick and roll, but the same concept is used.


Howard sets the screen, and Hedo goes one way....but it's designed to end up on the other side of the court. Battie heads to the top of the key, Lewis to the elbow, and Howard heads to post up on the other side of the basket. Hedo makes a quick pass to Battie, Battie makes a quick pass to Lewis, who makes a quick pass to D12, who's now very close to the basket, and the Lakers have to foul. Bynum's late in getting there because he had to stop Hedo's drive. 3 crisp, perfect passes made it nearly impossible for the Lakers to stop. As these passes happen, Howard's job is to "seal" his man, which is like boxing out, but for offense. He keeps Bynum on his hip so he can't get around him. Shaq, Karl Malone, & Barkley were great at this. Shaq still is.

Anyway, that's ball reversal. The ball starts on one side of the court, and quickly gets to the other side while the defense is chasing. And every offensive player has a job & a place to be.

Half Court Offense - Due to his lack of post moves, Howard is considerably less effective in a half court offense, but he's still a very important part of their offense.

High post - The "high post" is anywhere from 15-20 feet away from the hoop. While it's not where you'd picture D12 being effective, he can be against slower centers like Ilgauskas by taking them off the dribble. Watch the first play of this game at 2:35.


Howard gets the ball above the free throw line, and has the option to hit an open 3 point shooter or to take Big Z off the dribble. He doesn't see a shooter open, and just takes Z to the hole. Ilgauskas knows where he's going, but just can't get there in time.

Pick & roll - Orlando uses a TON of pick and roll with D12, and perhaps the biggest reason is because it puts him in good rebounding position. If you watch 3:31 of the video that I posted above, Mo Williams does a really bad job of getting in D12's way when he rolls to the basket, and the result is that Howard's 2 feet from the basket when the shot goes up. He's gonna win that battle most of the time. But even if it's defended well...IT'S MO FREAKING WILLIAMS that's trying to slow him down. That's because Big Z allows Hedo too get close to the hoop because he's not quick enough. This is another exploitation of Ilgauskas' foot speed. 8:53 is another example of using the pick and roll to get D12 right next to the hoop.

He's also used to get shooters open. If he sets a good pick, the guy who's defending the corner 3 has to come and help (because the big man is too slow to guard the ball handler), and that leaves the corner 3 open. Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili (w/Duncan) are probably the best in the league at making this happen. But Orlando's good as well. Plus, Jameer & Hedo (VC this year) can take the jumper if they're open as well.

Low post - Ugh. [facepalm] If he developed a goddamn drop step, he'd be the best player in the league. Almost everything he does in the low post goes toward the middle. He sometimes tries to go baseline, and it's usually awful. There's evidence of this in the video above. And that's why, despite his recent comments, he really DOESN'T draw double teams in the post. However, if he can get deep post position (usually via transition or ball reversal, as explained earlier), none of that matters, because he's so close to the hoop he can just physically dominate.
After thinking about it, I thought that I should delve into that before going into how the Laker defended him.
  • crzy
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Originally posted by LA9erFan:
Using fast breaks to create open 3's is a phenomenon that's only about a decade old, as it used to be a BIG no-no.

Really? Why?
  • crzy
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Originally posted by LA9erFan:
After thinking about it, I thought that I should delve into that before going into how the Laker defended him.

Maybe you should elaborate on what exactly a "drop step" is.
Originally posted by crzy:
Originally posted by LA9erFan:
Using fast breaks to create open 3's is a phenomenon that's only about a decade old, as it used to be a BIG no-no.

Really? Why?

Because coaches wanted layups. The idea of someone shooting a three pointer in transition, regardless of how open it was, made coaches nuts because they thought that you should always pursue a layup if you have numbers. It isn't always possible, and NBA players shoot high enough percentages on wide open 3's that it's justifiable.

As for a dropstep, it's when a post player is backing a player down, and then turns toward the baseline instead of the middle. It's the natural counter move to the jump hook that D12 has. If a defender is trying to prevent you from going toward the middle, this is what you're supposed to do.

Shaq had one of the best drop steps ever. This is the difference between D12 scoring 20 points a game and Shaq scoring 28-29 in his prime. But I'd rather post a video of Andrew Bynum using this move AGAINST Shaq.

EDIT: The foot that you use to go baseline matches the side of the court that you're on. If you're in the post on the left side (aka the left block), you step your left foot toward the baseline, and establish that as your pivot foot, swing your other foot around, and then go up for the shot. If you're on the right block, you use your right foot.
[ Edited by LA9erFan on Sep 30, 2009 at 10:05 PM ]
  • crzy
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What's the biggest reason Dwight has not be able to develop a good drop step to this point?

Is it his lack of footwork or that he relies on his athleticism and strength too much? I mean, he's an agile, physical specimen.

I'm wondering whether or not Howard will ever be anything more than a bigger version of Shawn Kemp.
[ Edited by crzy on Sep 30, 2009 at 11:14 PM ]
Originally posted by crzy:
What's the biggest reason Dwight has not be able to develop a good drop step to this point?

Is it his lack of footwork or that he relies on his athleticism and strength too much? I mean, he's an agile, physical specimen.

I'm wondering whether or not Howard will ever be anything more than a bigger version of Shawn Kemp.

It's just a lack of preparation. As you said, he's extremely agile, and a dropstep is a pretty elementary move that's just a matter of footwork. We're not talking about Dikembe Mutombo or Hasheem Thabeet here. Heck, even Yao has a good drop step, and he's not the most agile guy either. And Shaq was as big/athletic as anyone, and that was one of his biggest weapons. D12 just needs to put the time in. I honestly don't know what Ewing teaches him.
I love this thread! Can we next get a step by step explanation on how a player gets a bad basketball tat?
Originally posted by LA9erFan:
Shaq had one of the best drop steps ever.

Well isnt this just a thread of epic proportions...lol

If anyone cares to explain the use of combination zone defenses, that'd be nice. I remember tryin to coach my kids and just throwing a s**t load of em and it got to a point where offenses were just so confused because everytime they came down, I had them switch into a different combo zone and it'd, for the most part, confuse a couple of the guys on the court and throw off their flow...but I still get confused at times trying to see them (probably because their a bit more complicated than the ones Im using lol), obviously moreso when I watch college ball than NBA ball, but REGARDLESS...the thread is titled basketball concepts so yeah...

And I cant believe you havent done a post on the Triangle yet Pete...I mean...COME ON...its the damn triangle! lol
Today's Concept: Containing Dwight Howard

So now that we've covered a bit of how Orlando wants to use D12, let's delve into what needs to be done to stop it. We're going to use Game 1 of the NBA Finals as an example.

Transition: First and foremost, it's containing Orlando's fast break, and turning it into a half court game. This is important against all teams, but even moreso against Orlando because of Howard. This is where he can use his athleticism to beat his man downcourt, which opens up opportunities for both himself and his teammates on the perimeter...who are deadly 3 point shooters. So how do the Lakers counter that?

Speed & Athleticism: The Lakers are especially built to contain a guy like Howard, because the gap between Howard's athleticism & speed and the opposing front court isn't as pronounced as it is against other teams. If Bynum can't get back in time, Gasol can pick Howard up and not much is lost. If Odom's in the game, he's able to close out on shooters better than most 4's as well. Those are two of Orlando's biggest advantages (being faster and more athletic than other PFs and Cs) in normal circumstances, and that often shows in transition when guys like Ilgauskas or Varejao are trying to get back to guys like Howard & Lewis.

Offensive rebounding: Almost all fast breaks start off of missed shots, which means that the first step of a fast break is getting a rebound. Orlando normally relies on Howard to do all of this, allowing a guy like Lewis to start heading up court and getting in position to score. (this is called "leaking out") However, against the Lakers Howard has to contend with either Bynum/Gasol or Odom/Gasol on the glass, which is a much tougher task because of their length. As a result, a guy like Lewis has to stick around a little longer to put a body on someone, which means he can't fill the lane as quickly as he wants to.

Defending the outlet pass: One of the most underrated parts of the game is the outlet pass. An outlet pass is the first pass that's made after a rebound that advances the ball up court, or to a player (usually a point guard) that can advance the ball up court. If you're trying to run a fast break, this is important because it all depends on your ability to beat the other guys down court. This is what makes (or made) guys like Magic, Kidd, & LeBron so effective in transition...they don't need an outlet pass, and get a ton of rebounds. They can just get the ball and go. Odom's very good at this too.

However, a guy like Howard can't do that, he needs a guard to. This is where the length of the Laker front court comes into play. Often times when Howard gets a rebound, the big guy who's closest to him will apply a little bit of pressure. This isn't because he's trying to get a steal, it's because he's trying to make D12 take a little longer to get the ball to a guard...which gives the Lakers time to get back on D. In addition to this, you'll often see the Lakers putting a little pressure on the guard for the exact same reason. It's all about buying time.

Commitment: As simple as it sounds, a team has to make a conscious effort to get back on D quickly. In this series, I don't think that Orlando scored their first fast break points until Game 3. Sometimes simply making a commitment to stopping something can go a long way.

Half Court Offense

If Orlando's running their half court offense, the Lakers have already won some of their battle. In terms of what the Lakers did to contain Howard, it's usually just the polar opposite of what Orlando wants to do. Orlando wants to get D12 as close to the basket as possible so he can use his strength/athleticism to dominate the opponent, and the Lakers want to get him as far away from the hoop as possible so he has to use his skills instead. That part's pretty obvious, but HOW they do it is what's interesting.

Beating your man to the spot: This is really no more complicated than it sounds. The guy you're guarding wants to get to certain spots, usually the left or right "block"...which is the left or right side of the hoop, just outside of the paint. If you get there before he does, he has to catch the ball 10 feet away from the hoop instead of 5. Offenses use a lot of counters and different ways to get to those spots, but the spots themselves are fairly consistent. The Lakers did a good job beating Howard to the spot, whereas Cleveland was awful. At 5 feet, D12 can just go up with it. At 8-10 feet, he has to dribble, and he's MUCH, MUCH, MUCH less effective when he has to put the ball on the ground.

Sag Off on the pick and roll:
This might be why you saw D12 practicing jump shots this offseason, because this is what a lot of teams did. He sets the screen, but the defender stays back in the paint. This requires that the guy who's defending the ball handler goes over the screen and funnels the ball handler into the big guy who's waiting in the paint. It leaves D12 WIDE OPEN from 12-15 feet, but of course you can live with that. The Lakers did a lot of this

Show & Recover: "Show & Recover" is another common way of defending the pick and roll. For example...Trevor Ariza gets screened by D12, and as Hedo is coming around that screen, the Bynum's job is to "show" which means that he gets in Hedo's way long enough to:

a) make him go sideline-to-sideline as much as possible (instead of going to the hoop)
b) block an easy passing lane to D12, who's now "rolling" to the hoop.
c) not give up an easy jump shot to Hedo
.
What this does is buy enough time for Ariza to get back to Hedo. As Ariza's "recovering" toward Hedo, Bynum is doing the same thing, usually running into the lane with his hands up to keep making that passing lane to D12 difficult. Once again, the Laker length helps out a lot in achieving this.

While this is happening, you have Gasol rotating over and guarding D12 (who's rolling to the hoop) until Bynum can get back. Gasol's height helps here. Kobe will temporarily help on Gasol's man, and it would usually end up with Courtney Lee being open from 20 feet on the other side of the court...which the Lakers can live with AND it requires a cross court pass (or 2-3 good, short ones) to get there, which gives you time to "recover".

This is why coaches stress fighting through screens...because it means that everyone else has to buy a lot less time in order to get back into good position.

When do you know when to do what on the pick & roll against Howard?: The Lakers usually had Bynum sag off on the pick and roll when Rashard Lewis was at the 4, but they would switch Pau on Howard when Battie was at the 4.

Going back to crzy's post about switching on screens, it only really works when you have 2 guys that have similar size & skill sets. While Gasol & Bynum are the same size, Gasol's considerably quicker. Therefore, if you switch when Lewis is at the 4, it means that Gasol's guarding D12...but Bynum's on Lewis, and is probably gonna have to chase him around the perimeter. Yikes.

Bynum on Battie? No worries.

Bottom Line: Those are the main ways that the Lakers kept Howard in check. Keep him away from the hoop, and make him use his basketball skills instead of his physical ones.

Here is Game 1.

Some things to watch for...


1) Don't watch the ball, watch D12.
2) After misses, how soon do the Lakers make contact w/D12 in transition, slowing him up?
3) How often do Bynum/Gasol/Odom "switch" guarding D12, depending on who's in the best position to do so?
4) How often is D12 left alone from 15 feet out?
5) Where is D12 catching the ball in the post?



[ Edited by LA9erFan on Oct 2, 2009 at 23:39:49 ]
You are SSSSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOo of the fcking hook with this sh!t, Pete!!!
  • Dino
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Great read Pete. Very interesting.