Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lakers' Strong Corner Offense

The Lakers' Strong Corner Offense

Background Info

This season brought a lot of new changes to the Lakers. One of the more interesting changes this season is the replacement of Phil Jackson by Mike Brown. Under Phil Jackson the Lakers ran the Triangle Offense, a system that brought Jackson's teams multiple championships. This year Mike Brown introduced the Strong Corner Offense to the Lakers. Brown's Strong Corner Offense utilizes some of the same concepts as the Triangle Offense and adds some new elements that are intended to add more low post scoring opportunities.
Let's take a look at how the Lakers run the Strong Corner Offense.


The Strong Corner Offense has two major sets which can either be the basis of initiating the offense or formed as transitional portions of a play. The first set is the 4-out-1-in set that we've covered when discussing the Heat's Pace and Space Motion Offense and the Mavericks' offense last season. The Lakers will use either Gasol or Bynum as the post man while all other players on the floor cover the perimeter.
This set allows the post player to try to create a shot or provides an opportunity for cutting players to score.

Here we see the Lakers quickly set up in the 4-out-1-in with Bynum in the low post. If either post player is able to move quickly in transition it allows for him to seal his defender and get an easy shot opportunity.
The set also allows Bynum or Gasol to begin an isolation play for them with various cutters as passing options.

The second set is the Strong Corner Fill.
In this set, one post player fills the high elbow while the other fills the opposite low block. The wings are filled and the strong corner is filled. This set creates a formation that the Lakers are familiar with in the Triangle Offense. The spacing is very similar except rather than emphasizing filling the defensive balance position (the top of the arc), the strong corner is filled.
This set is usually used as a transition piece rather than to initiate the offense.

Continuity of the Offense

Let's take a look at how the offense operates.

The play can be diagrammed as:
In this clip we see Gasol as the post man in the 4-out-1-in set. It's quickly apparent that he's covered too well for a post entry pass so Fisher reverses the ball by passing to Bynum. This keys the offense to set up the Strong Corner Fill set. Gasol flashes to the high post and Bynum does a dribble hand off to Kobe then occupies the low block. Barnes and Fisher then run a wing reversal. The result is a transition into the Strong Corner Fill set.
When Kobe passes to Gasol at the high post it allows Kobe and Fisher to run any number of pinch post cuts. In this clip, Kobe runs a UCLA cut that turns into a screen for Fisher who makes a cut for the basket. Fisher's cut doesn't result in a pass so Kobe uses Gasol for the hand off and has an open shot.
The play presented a number of options and a review of the options helps illustrate the continuity of the offense.
Our first option was a quick post entry shot by Gasol.
Or a post entry pass and pass to a baseline cut from Kobe.
When transitioning to the Strong Corner Fill, Barnes and Fisher could have opted to not execute a wing reversal.
After the transition to the Strong Corner Fill Set we can see the options that open up. Gasol may now work for a shot at the elbow, look for a weak side cut by Barnes, look for an open shot with Fisher in the corner, or if Bynum has his man sealed away from the basket a high-low pass might be available.
The set is also designed to give Kobe space in the lane and passing options from the drive.
If Kobe drives from the wing he should have Bynum just off the low post as an option, Gasol as a mid-range around the elbow, and a corner and wing position to kick out to.
Also, we can see how the continuity can reset the set back to the 4-out-1-in set.
In our next clip we see the shot opportunity develop before the transition completes.

A diagram better illustrates the movement involved.
In this play, Gasol is the post man and the ball is reversed - keying the set transition. While Gasol swings to the opposite side, Kobe is freed up by a Bynum screen and Kobe takes the shot. At the time of this writing Kobe has scored 4 consecutive 40+ point games. Many of his shots come as a result of this set transition that gives him an open driving lane or an open shot after receiving a screen on the elbow. Generally, this is the first scoring opportunity off of the basic set transition.
Let's look at another clip.

Once again we see the offense initiated with the 4-out-1-in set, this time with Bynum as the post man. Bynum doesn't have deep enough positioning so Fisher opts to reverse the ball. This keys the offense to transition to the Strong Corner Fill set. Fisher fills the strong side corner and Barnes feeds Bynum in the post. On the opposing elbow Gasol sets a screen for Kobe. Kobe, Barnes, and Fisher all cut to the basket and Bynum finds Fisher open on the baseline.
Diagrammed as follows:
Like most offensive schemes, there are wrinkles in the main offensive set to allow for specific player or shot opportunities to arise. Let's take a look at some of the wrinkles for the Lakers.

Triangle Offense

The first wrinkle in the Strong Corner Offense is the addition of some Triangle Offense. This is mostly because of the familiarity the players have with the former offensive system and it serves as an opportunity to trick the defense because of the similar formations created.
Here we have two plays where the Lakers run the familiar Triangle.

So far the Lakers seem to run more Triangle Offense with bench players on the floor and I believe this is partially because they don't have a solid system in place yet for their bench.
Here we see two clips where the bench executes the Triangle poorly resulting in bad possessions.

Double High Post

Earlier we discussed how Gasol and Bynum can receive isolation plays but the Lakers also use a number of plays to give Kobe isolation opportunities. The Lakers use the double high post set as a way to free up Kobe for either a baseline drive or an isolation at the top.

Other Kobe Isolation Plays

Here we see some clips of Kobe in isolation.
First, just off the post area.

Next, on the wing.

Here he's isolated with Gasol as the corner option.

And lastly, in the 1-4 low set.


What do you think of the Strong Corner Offense? Do you think Mike Brown picked a system that utilizes all his players effectively? The Strong Corner Offense seems to allow more early low post scoring opportunities and gives Kobe opportunities right off the elbow but the other perimeter players seem to have very reduced roles. Is that a good thing or a bad thing given this roster? Does this system take into account the condensed schedule like Spoelstra's system seems to? Trying to answer these questions will be interesting as the season progresses.

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