A coaching pedigree isn’t the only thing Brett Brown picked up in San Antonio.
This year has been a refreshing transformation for Philadelphia basketball. In just two months, Brett Brown has been raising eyebrows and slaying giants with a team compiled of misfits and NBA rejects. With the lowest payroll in the league, the Sixers trot out a lineup that seemed to be a virtual lock for less than 15 wins. But good coaching prevails, and Brown learned from the very best.
After 10 years in San Antonio, five serving directly under Popovich as an assistant, Brown has picked up a few things from the NBA’s most innovative coach. He has derived quite a few sets from the Spurs’ scheme, and I’ll outline Brown’s implementation of the motion weak offense.
Here’s a video of the Spurs running the motion weak.
It’s really quite simple. The point guard dribbles up the side and passes to a wing (in this case Danny Green), then proceeds to run across the paint.
As you can see by the picture, the wing man passes to a trailing big, who continues to swing the ball to Tony Parker once he has completed his run across the paint. While all this is happening, Gary Neal is screening Matt Bonner’s man in the paint.
After Parker receives the ball, he has Matt Bonner open in the paint. For the Sixers this is often times Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes or Daniel Orton, three players who have done well in post-up position thus far. Also as an option, Neal is cutting to the top of the arc and Blair will screen his man to create separation. This play resulted in a Neal three.
The Sixers run this play in identical fashion. Either Michael Carter-Williams or Darius Morris will dump it off to Evan Turner, cut across the paint, receive the ball again and either pass to a big man under the basket or a streaking James Anderson at the top of the arc.
The beauty of this play is the confusion it causes for the defense. While the point guard is cutting across the floor, it serves as a distraction for what is going on in the paint. Neal screened for Bonner, so the defense thought it was an effort to get him open in post-up position. But while Neal’s man was providing help defense on the screen, he shoots to the top of the arc for an open three.
Even if the defense figures out what is going on, there’s more than enough movement to leave options. If the defense crowds the man cutting to the top of the arc, usually the man on the block has a one-on-one. If they switch on the screen in the paint, the big man has a mismatch in the post. And if somehow nobody is open off of the initial movements, the big man can run up from the post and start a screen-and-roll.
It’s simple, it’s deceptive, it’s flexible and it’s efficient.
The principal beliefs of Brown’s offense alone are more economic than whatever the Sixers had been cloaking as an offense for the past three years. Their attempts at the rim have risen 10 percent this year, while they are shooting far less from the long two-point area. Much of this is attributed to their increase in pace, allowing for them to get into transition and pick up easy baskets. But it also comes as a result of proficient play calling. Brown is creating space for his players in efficient areas of the floor all from the sidelines, something the Sixers haven’t been able to do consistently in quite some time.
It may be his first year with the title “head coach”, but Brown still emanates basketball knowledge. Although it’s within the franchise’s long-term interest to have a roster compiled of mostly feeble players, it’s rather comforting to know you have a coach that can play chess with checkers.