Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Small Market Series pt. 1 - The Atlanta Hawks' Flex Offense

Small Market Series pt. 1 - The Atlanta Hawks' Flex Offense

Background Info

Recently, the redditor HumanAfterAll posted a thank you to those contributing material about small market teams. I noticed that lately I have neglected small markets with posts about the LakersHeatClippers, and Knicks so I thought I should do my part to give some small market teams some attention. The first installment will take a look at HumanAfterAll's team, the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks run a mixture of isolation plays and flex offense. The Flex Offense was popularized by Jerry Sloan's Utah Jazz. Like any effective offensive system, the Hawks run their version of the Flex Offense mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of their roster. Let's take a look at the Hawks' Flex Offense.

Flex Offense

If you've followed my previous posts you may remember that we covered the Bulls' version of the Flex Offense last year. As a bit of a refresher, the typical Flex motion is as follows:
In this play we see Jeff Teague perform the down screen for Joe Johnson and then screen for Al Horford to allow a flex cut (the cut across the lane at the baseline). This play ends before the flex cut is performed because of Joe Johnson's drive to the basket, but we can see the play's intent.

This time the flex cut is performed by Marvin Williams off a screen by Joe Johnson. Johnson is then freed up by a down screen by Josh Smith.

An animation might help identify the flex motion in this play.
In this next play, we see the Hawks use the Flex set with Al Horford and Tracy McGrady occupying the corner positions and Ivan Johnson on the low block as a means of performing a high pick and roll.

Since the set is set low, it provides a lot of room for a pick and roll motion or dribble drive motion to be performed with the corners as perimeter options and the low post man as a drop down pass option or, if set slightly off the block, as a short jumper option.
A variation of the Flex set can also be used to open up isolation plays as we see in these plays.

In this next play, Joe Johnson moves toward the low block but opts out of the screen for the flex cut and instead an isolation play is created.

The Hawks have been criticized in the past for isolating too much and it appears this year they're doing a much better job of finding other players out of the isolation.


So far the Hawks' offense has been fairly efficient, ranking 6th in points-per-possession. How does this system differ from the Bulls' version of the Flex Offense? Which system do you think is better adapted to its roster? Do you think this system is the right choice compared to the other systems we've looked at?
Looking forward, I'm going to continue to examine small market teams - next up, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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