Breaking Down a Broke-Down Offense: The Post Entry Cut That Does More Harm Than Good
I understand why Frank Vogel likes this offensive action. It is tough to cover, it can create open layups and it, sort of, allows you to get away with moving screens easily. What I’m talking about is a staple in the Pacers half-court sets: an action where a perimeter player feeds the post then rushes directly towards the recipient to cut off his shoulder towards the hoop.
Really, it is a fine method to clear out the strong side and give the post player room to work, all while potentially getting a layup. It worked very well last season at times when Danny Granger did it. Even this season, it has given Indiana two easy points a few times.
Here is one great example of the play working ideally.
Here is another example of it getting the team two points against Denver last night.
This year, however, it seems to be doing a lot more harm than good by and large.
Paul George has been particularly poor at it on the season as a whole. I imagine it is a technique that he can figure out. It can’t be terribly difficult. And he has probably gotten better at it as the year has gone on. But throughout the 20 games as a whole, he has just usually done it like he has been doing most things on offense: indecisively and non-threateningly.
The result: everyone ends up tripping over each other’s feet as the shot clock just gets closer to zero.
Again, I get the idea. If you’re going to enter the ball and then leave the area you passed from to give Roy or West room, why not make a rim run? And, hell, why not try to lose your man in a way that could, potentially, always work? Why not try to catch the defender snoozing and get a layup?
If that was the case, sure. But if the cutter is just getting in the way much more often than he is creating a threat, just tell him to get the hell out of the way.
Here are a few examples.
In the first, when you watch the play at full speed, it may look like it’s just one more bad post move by Roy Hibbert that results in a careless turnover. And you can certainly argue that he needs to be more aware of potential help defenders swiping at the ball.
But right after is the same play, slowed down.
Note that Roy does much of what we consider good post play. He establishes excellent, deep position early in the shot clock and calls for the ball. He receives the pass, keeps the ball high and starts to spin middle on a smaller defender. Then, realizing DeMarcus Cousins gets to the inside spot quickly, he counters back to the other side, ready to put up what feels like it will be a good shot over his right shoulder.
But … Sam Young never cut all the way to the opposite corner, which allowed Tyreke Evans to both keep covering Young and be in position to surprise Hibbert with a last-second double team. Roy never saw it coming, and the Kings sprint the other way.
Here’s a similar play, involving Paul George and David West, against the Knicks. Again, watching the play live looks like West just settles for a terrible fadeaway. True. He does. But it really doesn’t help that George stays under the hoop and allows Rasheed to just hang around. West turns baseline in a mismatch with Carmelo after a switch. Presumably, he was at least considering that he would have space to take one more bully-ball dribble to push Melo back another few feet and take an easy (for him) shot over the top of Anthony from right around the block.
Instead, Sheed wasn’t afraid of George scoring from beneath the other side of the hoop and showed to make West realize any further advancement was probably futile. If Paul keeps cutting, maybe Sheed follows George all the way to the corner, maybe he doesn’t. But if he did, there was at least the possibility that West could kick it out and two quick swing passes could get Indiana a wide-open three from the opposite baseline as Wallace cheats by staying in the paint.
This one doesn’t so much affect Roy’s finish as it does show how indecisive and straight disruptive the cut can be at times. This example, in which Paul George basically fouls Hibbert, is more egregious than most. But he often fakes his cut to one side before — slowly — juking to the other, achieving little in terms of getting open while slowing his teammate’s rhythm as he attempt to make a move.
Below is another example.
This one is not so harmful in and of itself, but just shows how a seemingly simple action can detract. Watch how the Pacers spend 9 seconds, while making a series of screens and cuts, to isolate Hibbert in the post against a rookie center. A rookie center they can reasonably expect Toronto to use to guard Roy one on one no less. It’s the exact situation where Hibbert should thrive: mano-a-mano in space against a traditional big with time to work.
Yet, after all that effort to put him in a place to succeed, they don’t give him much time to do so — and a cut through by Hill almost ensures that the only thing they’ll get out of this possession is a Roy shot. There will be no time for a second option if Roy can’t create an advantage. By the time Hill cuts through and Hibbert waits for the defender to clear out of his way and starts his move, the clock is under five. He has a kickout option to Paul George, but there really isn’t much else to do with the ball other than shoot. It’s a whole possession spent developing a single option rather than cultivating various secondary weapons that could be used were Hibbert unable to put a good move on Jonas Valanciunas. I get that Vogel wants to get Hill’s defender out of the way to clear out the whole side for Roy, but if you don’t get him the ball there sooner, you’re essentially putting all your eggs in one basket.
I’m not sure Vogel should scrap a mainstay of his offensive movement simply because guys are struggling to execute it properly. And if you’re going to run a post-heavy offense, that entry passer on the wing either needs to clear or get to the corner so his man can’t dig down to easily disrupt the guy on the block. And especially since West likes to catch the ball a littler further out than the block and Roy struggles to get deep post position, the cut-through clear out is probably the best way to ensure they have enough space to work.
But the dilly dallying isn’t helping. Just make a quick cut. Until Granger returns or Roy starts being able to make shots amid some adversity, it may be time to tell the guys to just sprint through to the other side.