At 1:00 AM last night, NBATV returned to it’s normal programing and started featuring actual NBA players once again. Though it isn’t official yet, it is obvious that there will be an NBA season this year, with camps opening on December 9th and games starting on Christmas. With the season set to come back, it is time that we leave the EuroLeague and get back to the NBA, previewing this upcoming season by looking at each coach’s best play when coming out of a timeout. Keep in mind, this is coach, not team, so when we get to the Lakers, we will be looking at Mike Brown, not recently retired Phil Jackson.

I’ve always said that playcalling during timeouts might be the best way to evaluate a coach’s Xs and Os ability, so I thought it would make sense to look at those situations and pick the best one from each coach. With five of these on deck before the season gets going, we’ll be looking at six teams every post. Today, we are starting with the Hawks, Celtics, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavaliers, and Mavericks.

Atlanta Hawks

When looking at the Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson is such an important piece for them. When Larry Drew took over, he promised more movement and less isolation from Johnson, and here is an example of what Drew meant.

The play starts with Jamal Crawford bringing the basketball up and getting the ball to Marvin Williams, who came off of a downscreen set by Joe Johnson.

After Crawford makes the pass, he cuts off of Williams as if he was expecting to get the dribble handoff. Meanwhile, on the weakside, Joe Johnson is getting a staggered pindown screen set for him by Atlanta’s two bigs.

Johnson comes off of the two screens and spots up behind the three-point line. The screens were effective as Johnson’s defender, John Salmons, is just getting around those screens when Joe gets the ball. Johnson uses the space to knock down the wide-open jumper. Here is the play in real time:

This is a great example of what movement can do to a defense and it shows us the Hawks don’t have to rely on isolations to get Joe Johnson clean looks at the basket.

Boston Celtics

Coming out of a timeout on the baseline, Doc Rivers does what he does best, using secondary actions to free up Ray Allen for a three-point shot.

As the ball goes to Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce dives to the rim as if he is expecting a quick pass from Rondo. As this is happening, Kevin Garnett pops out to the short corner to receive a pass from Rondo.

After making the pass to Garnett, Rondo comes inbounds and gets a handoff, followed by two screens from the Celtics’ bigs. Getting the ball, it appears the Celtics were setting up this play to get Rajon Rondo in the paint.

However, that isn’t the primary goal of the play. The primary goal of the play is to get Ray Allen open for a three, so they run him off of three screens along the baseline to try and get him open in the corner.

It works as the third screen knocks down Allen’s defender and leaves him open in the corner for the pass. Allen is so automatic that if he is this wide-open, the shot is going in. Here is the play in real time:

This play depends on the defense getting sucked in on that Rajon Rondo drive. That is exactly what happens here as the defense pays too much attention to Rondo and that allows Allen to use his screens effectively and create space.

Charlotte Bobcats

With the Bobcats, we are going to look at a play that puts Stephen Jackson in a position to score. Even though Jackson isn’t on the team anymore, this is a good example of what Paul Silas does well, giving his guys options and allowing them to execute.

This play starts with D.J. Augustin entering the basketball to the wing and then coming off of a backscreen set for him.

As the ball gets swung to Boris Diaw, Augustin gets in position, setting a screen for Jackson. Jackson now has the option of either using a pindown screen or using a cross screen, and the read is coming from how the defense is playing him.

Since the defender was topping him (playing over the top to prevent him from coming off of the pindown effectively), Jackson chooses to use the cross screen set by Augustin.

That creates enough space for Jackson to get the ball on the block and finish before the defense can recover. Here is the play in real time:

Just a great play all around. Giving Jackson the option and trusting that he will use the correct screen is a bit of a risk, but when you give a player two options like that, it allows them to counter the defense and still be in the set.

Chicago Bulls

With the Bulls, we are going to look at how Tom Thibodeau is able to create opportunities for players not named Derrick Rose by using Rose as a decoy.

The play starts with Derrick Rose passing the ball to the wing and then cutting straight to the block on the strong side.

Once Rose gets to the block, he comes off of a staggered pindown screen, curling around it to get a dribble handoff from Kurt Thomas. The Bulls start just about every set with an action similar to this.

With Rose coming off of that curl, all five defenders are focused on him, ready to help when he inevitably attacks the rim. However, this is a set play for Luol Deng, as he comes off of a downscreen set by Carlos Boozer.

With the defense focused on Rose, Deng is able to make the catch off of the curl and get to the rim with ease. Here is the play in real time:

As I mentioned earlier, the Bulls start just about every play with the action of Rose coming off of a pindown or two. Because of that, it is hard to both defend Rose and make sure you are paying attention to the weakside. This puts the defense in a tough position, and usually ends with them paying attention to the wrong thing defensively.

Cleveland Cavaliers

With head coach Byron Scott working with a lot of no name guys, he was forced to rely on timing and execution to get good looks out of timeouts.

The play starts with Manny Harris getting a downscreen that allows him to flash to the top of the key for the basketball.

Once Harris makes the catch, Alonzo Gee flashes to the wing, and then quickly cuts through to the opposite corner.

Once Gee clears, Harris passes it to his teammate on the wing. As this happens, Anthony Parker starts walking down his man then quickly changes direction, uses a screen to get to the high post.

J.J. Hickson sets a very good screen on Parker’s man, creating a lot of room for Parker to work with. The pass is on time and comes as soon as Parker comes off the screen.

The result is a wide-open shot for Parker off the catch, as Parker’s man tries to get back for the close-out, but it is too late. Here is the play in real time:

This play is all about timing. If Anthony Parker makes his cut too early and Manny Harris isn’t done with his cut yet, he isn’t going to be open. Wait too long, and the defense will sniff out the play. The timing is perfect here, and that is what leads to the open shot.

Dallas Mavericks

Much like Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle likes to use deception to help create openings for his players. With Dirk out of the game here, this is a great example of using deception to get an open shot.

The play starts with Jason Kidd bringing the basketball up along the sideline. As this happens, Tyson Chandler flashes from the block to the elbow, looking for the basketball.

Once Chandler gets the pass, Kidd cuts off of him, as if he is going to receive a handoff.

That isn’t his intention though, as he instead sets a screen for Jason Terry, who is at the top of the key. Terry comes off of the screen and runs right to Chandler, who hands the ball off to him.

Because Andrew Bynum didn’t know who was going to get the handoff, Terry is able to rise up and not worry about Bynum’s help because it was coming late. Here is the play in real time:

Watching the tape live, you notice how confused the Lakers’ defense is here. That confusion results in a wide open jumper for Jason Terry.

Comments (38)

  1. This is EXACTLY why people say the NBA lacks fundamentals compared to the NCAA game. Its not like the pros DON’T run plays, its just that they run them way fast. Any of those same plays run in a college game would’ve taken 20+ seconds instead of 10-15. NBA Playbook rules and its the first place I send people who complain that the NBA game is an isolation game. Great post; can’t wait for the next one!

  2. This is exactly what the raps have been lacking for years. Decent post time out plays. Have not had it since smirch.

  3. I blame that play on Kobe, just sagging of kid and wandering around in no man’s land. Doesn’t help 5 on the pick and leaves Andrew to mop up his mistake.

    I’m glad the nba is coming back, I miss getting annoyed by my team :)

  4. Seconded, Finn. Exactly why I find it so infuriating when people complain that the NCAA game is more thoughtful than the NBA game. That’s like saying a leisurely game of checkers is more thoughtful than speed chess.

  5. Great Post.
    I really appreciate the breakdown of these plays.
    The great teams, and coaches, are the ones that design plays to get their best players in positions to make plays – either by scoring or having other options once the defense converges.
    Doc Rivers is a master at this. If the Garnett’s man helps out on Allen off the screen, Garnett then cuts to the basket where Rondo finds him for an open lay-up/dunk.

  6. very nice! i always feel smarter after seeing a post from nba playbook. Im looking forward to the rest.

  7. We baaaack! Nothing but blue skies ahead.

  8. “…the NBA lacks fundamentals compared to the NCAA game.”

    In 2011, Butler, the national-championship runner-up for the second straight year, lacked such fundamentals as “shooting 20 percent–hell, even 19.” That should help bury that argument.

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