Monday, January 30, 2012

The Miami Heat

Sorry to those of you that wanted me to select a different team but I wanted to go with an Eastern Conference team that was still in the playoffs which left with me with the Heat and Bulls. Between the two teams the Heat was the easier team to analyze. Having said that, let's take a look.
Background Info
The Heat's offense can be described as a mixture of double high post offense, triangle offense, and a series of pick and rolls. The offense is still fairly raw and I think that shows in some of the clips we'll be analyzing.
The double high post offense is their main set play and can be diagrammed as follows:
Let's look at what unique characteristics this set gives us. First, you'll notice there is nobody at the low post. This has the obvious disadvantage of limiting low post plays and rebounding. The advantage, however, is there is a lot of space available for perimeter players to drive to the basket. The SG and SF have potential baseline drives and cuts through the lane to the basket.
Second, you'll notice there is nobody in the wing positions. This is also to facilitate as much space as possible for the SG and SF to make moves to the basket.
If this offense looks familiar, you may have seen it used by [2] UConn on their way to winning the NCAA Championship or the [3] Cavaliers in the past.
We'll see how this all works when we start to break down this set.

Double High Post

The basics

Let's start with some basic plays out of this set. We'll use [4] this clip to show how the double high post operates.
The play begins with Bibby dribbling the ball up the court and passing the ball to Lebron who fills in for Bibby at the point. Bibby then fills the right side corner in place of Lebron. Our set is now established and looks like this:
[5] Picture 
You'll notice that this differs slightly from our picture of the double high post above. The important aspect of this offense is the formation, not necessarily which player is which position. The SF is essentially playing the point and the PG is essentially playing the SF. Why? We'll see in a moment.
Once the SF is at the point, he immediately passes to the PF and moves to screen for the SG. The SG then uses the screen to move to the basket. Pretty simple right?
Now let's return to why the PG and SF swapped positions. The answer is fairly simple and underscores a vast difference in philosophy between our previous discussion of the triangle offense and this offense. The play was called as a conscious effort to use Lebron as the screener because he was the bigger body and would be more effective against Brewer. This is a lot different philosophy than the read-and-react systems. Brewer was essentially targeted from the very beginning of the play ([6] come at me bro ).
Back to our clip - we wouldn't be doing the system much justice if we didn't look at the other possibilities available. The first option was the PF could have simply attempted a jump shot after the pass from the SF. Second, the SG could have made a baseline cut away from the screen for the pass. Third, the SF could have showed the screen and made a cut to the basket instead. Do these options sound sort of familiar? They're options generally associated with a classic pick and roll except now they're off the ball and each is looking for the pass from the high post. This is no accident, Lebron is currently ranked 4th in pick and roll points per possession moving off the pick and Wade is ranked 14th. This offense allows them to operate in ways that are familiar and comfortable to them (not to mention extremely effective).

Screening for the entry pass

Let's move on to our second clip [7] found here. The play begins with our familiar double high post set.
This time the defense is anticipating the pass entry to the C and has decided to front his man to try to stop the play. Since the double high post puts the PF and C at opposing elbows, they're able to screen for each other to free up one or the other for a pass. Here, we see the PF screen for the C so he can accept the pass.
Last time we saw a screen for the SG to free him up but this time the PG is going to curl toward the basket opening up the first passing option. The C passes to the SF and immediately sets a screen which is utilized for a lane to the basket.
If you watched the PF after the curl by the PG, you'll notice he was ready to set a screen for the PG to continue on to the wing. Earlier I said the offense is still somewhat raw and you can see that toward the end of this play. After the PG did his curl and the PF looked to set a screen, the PG went to set a screen but the SG instead went to fill the wing at the same time the PG decided to do the same. In time, some of these confusions will likely be worked out.

SF and SG positioning

Sometimes we see the SF and SG on the same side of the floor, other times we see them on the opposite side of the floor. In [8] this clip we see how the double high post offense can be used to create a two man game between the SF and SG.
The play starts with the SF at one of the high post positions. This was accomplished by substituting Chris Bosh for James Jones. Since James Jones can shoot the 3pter, it allows him to space the floor in the weak side wing and corner positions.
The PG passes the ball to the SF and cuts down the lane as a passing option. He's also in a position to grab an offensive rebound if Lebron takes a quick shot. As a side note, take notice that this is different from the previous plays we've seen where the initial pass to the post was followed by a screen and a curl respectively.
The SF passes to the SG as he moves from the corner to the wing position and screens for the SG. The SG's defender went under the screen and the SF seals him forcing a switch. The SF immediately seals his defender and moves into the post position. At this point the SG attempts a post pass but the SF is fouled.
The result is a scary demonstration of what can be accomplished by this offense. Look at how the play ended. Lebron was posting up Korver, Deng was guarding Wade on the perimeter, Noah was floating in the lane, and James Jones was alone on the wing. This play forced the defense into a lot of difficult decisions.
That was an example of putting the SF and SG on the same side of the floor out of the double high post. Let's turn to a play that puts the SF and SG on opposite sides of the court in [9] this clip.
We see the familiar double high post formation, this time to help receive the pass easier the C begins at the low post and flashes to the high post. The PG then moves to screen for the SF in the corner while the PF screens for the SG in the opposite corner. The SF makes a cut to the basket but the C decides against making the pass and instead hands off to the screening PG for a pinch post hand off and drive to the basket. You'll notice on the weak side the SG cut to the wing and the PF rolled to the low post.
That was a lot of options. The screens on each side opened up options for each screener and each person moving off the screen. It also opened up the additional pinch post option on the strong side.


Every good set contains a show for the defense to make them expect the typical set but in fact a different one is played to keep the defense on their toes. In [10] this clip the play starts to look like our typical double high post set with the SF filling one of the high post positions. Instead of a pass entry to the high post we see a screen-the-screener action. The C screens for the SF who then screens for the PG. This causes a number of options to open up.
First, the initial screen could free up an open pass to the C after he rolls to the basket. Second, it could free up the SF for a mid-range shot or drive through the lane. Third, the second screen gives the PG a lane to the basket. Fourth, it opens up a pass to the SF for a shot or drive. Lastly, which is the option chosen here, the PG can look for the open SG or PF.
You'll notice this action takes up a lot of room because of the space required to have two separate screen and rolls. For that reason, this option is best utilized when the PF and SG are three point threats or at least 20ft out. Otherwise, you run the risk of clogging the lane for the separate roll/drive options.
Hopefully at this point you're beginning to see how the double high post offense works. The central theme is to put the SF and SG in position to operate around picks/screens with as much space as possible.

As a variation of a 1-4 low isolation

The formation might look fairly similar to a play typically run at the end of quarters or when the shot clock is winding down called the 1-4 low isolation. That set looks like this:
[11] Picture 
[12] Video

As a variation of a 1-4 low isolation continued

That set tries to minimize help defense by flattening out the defense and maximizing the amount of space for the isolation. It also gives options from the movement of either perimeter player and puts rebounders in position. The double high post series has a similar play seen in this clip.
In that clip we see a high isolation and the high post flattening slightly. This play opts for a screen for the PF which could trigger a screen-for-the-screener action, (the PF could set a pick for the SF), a flare to the corner by the SG setting the screen, or a pass at the wing after the PF's cut.

Clip library

After reviewing the basics and describing a few of the plays you should notice just how many different options are available out of this set. There are so many plays that can be run out of the double high post set that I decided to simply add a library of different plays with a brief description from here.
Clip #Brief Description
1Screen to weak side kick, low post cross
2SG screen for SF low post
3SG double high screen
4Wing dribble entry PG screen PF elbow cross
5SG wing away from screen
6SG wing dribble entry PF cross SF curl reset PF low post
7C screen PG show/screen broken play to weak side wing

Triangle Offense or Who's the Bosh?
If the double high post mostly creates opportunities for the SG and SF, where does the PF fit in? The PF gets his shots out of the double high post at times by isolating at the high post, a two man game similar to our last clip, or an open elbow jumper. However, the Heat have incorporated the triangle offense to help give him some low post scoring options. This version of the offense is less concerned with the read-and-react portion of the triangle offense and more about the similar spacing and motions.
In this clip we see the familiar formation of the triangle with the SF at the wing position for a dribble entry, the PG in the strong side fill, and the PF in the low post. We also see the PG make a banana cut for a weak side fill to form the triangle on the opposite side and initiating the solo series (I didn't mention this by name last time but that's the name of the two man game and isolation formation of the triangle) between the SF and PF. The play is broken here but the intent is unmistakable.
This clip shows the triangle run to create an isolation for the PF.
The Heat seem to run this play almost exclusively as a means to give Bosh his low post opportunities.

Lebron Cross Cut Series
The Lebron Cross Cut Series of plays are designed to give Lebron some touches in the mid post area. The formation begins with an overload on the weak side of the floor with the ball at the wing position.
The positions are interchangeable, the formation is what matters. The key is to set a cross screen for the SF to allow him to cut across the lane and give him space from his defender to receive the pass from the wing.
Let's look at how this works in this clip.
In this version of the cross cut, the PG passed to the SG at the wing then set the cross screen for the SF, freeing him up for the pass. A different approach would have been to have the PG dribble enter the wing (which we'll see later) with the PF or C at the low post and setting a cross screen for the SF.
Once the pass is made to the SF the Cross Cut Series has a few options. The wing player can stay at the wing to set up a two man game, similar to our SG/SF two man game in the double high post series. The wing player can cut through the lane for a pass. What we see in our clip is the wing player overloading the weak side to create an isolation for the SF.
What happens when the cross cut is covered well? The ball will be swung to the opposite side to look for the other options that have opened up. Here we see the initial pass denied and the ball reversed only to return to the SF entry pass for an isolation. If the screener was the PF, this might mean reversing the ball to the opposite wing and looking for the PF.
In our next clip we see a dribble entry to the wing with the SG as the screener. The entry pass was denied which triggered the ball reversal. Since the SG was the screener the C dropped from the wing to set a screen for a curl by the SG.

The Heat's offense is still in its infancy which is apparent by some of the confusion in the plays, the number of broken plays, and the number of pick and rolls. However, I think Spoelstra has created a very good set that maximizes his roster's abilities. If I were to put a rough estimation as to the percentage I see each set I would probably put it at about 40% pick and rolls, 40% double high post sets, 10% triangle, and 10% Lebron cross cuts.
Overall, if you're a Heat fan, you should be very happy with the way things are looking so far. I expect next year to have a reduction in the number of pick and rolls and maybe a play that gives Bosh a high post option. I would like to see a variation of the double high post added similar to this:
This is a play I would like to see added. It gives Bosh a quick low post entry option, gives him an elbow jumper option, gives the C an easy opportunity for a high-low, gives the SG and SF some cutting options, and puts the PG in a position to be a spot up shooter.

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