Breaking It Down

Raptors Playbook: 5 Out Motion Offense & Preseason Observations

Raptors Playbook: 5 Out Motion Offense & Preseason Observations

Over at the Raptors Playbook YouTube channel (@RaptorsPlaybook on Twitter), I am breaking down the X’s & O’s of the Toronto Raptors during the season. Today we’ll focus on some of the newly implemented actions in Toronto’s 5 Out Motion Offense. Watch the video embedded below alongside the summary written, and remember to follow and subscribe to never miss out on a video.

The offense begins with a ball handler dribbling up one wing and passing to the trailing center in the middle of the court. After passing up the ball, there will be two players on both the strong and weak side of the floor with the big man above the break. The center will have the choice of engaging in a dribble hand-off (DHO) with the a player on either side of the court.

The first option would be to engage in a dribble hand-off with the strong side wings. The two players will exchange positions with each other as the center makes his way over to the wing. There is no specific scripted action that occurs next because that is the purpose of a motion offense – the players are put in a position to succeed by presenting constant advantages. Beyond that, they have to read what the defense is giving them and react accordingly. Either of the players can engage in a dribble hand-off with the big man, which effectively serves as a pick and roll. They can also engage in a twirl action before receiving the DHO, with one player emptying that side of the floor before the other drives to the rim. Additionally, if the defense overplays the top side of the handoff or the screening exchange between wing players, either one can cut back door. The players can also just flow into a natural progression of moving the ball and can opt to enter it into the post.

After those options have been exhausted, the players on the strong side of the court can swing the ball to the weak side, where the two players there have also been engaging in exchanges of position and screening for one another. Once the ball is received, the ball handler can engage in a pick and roll or dribble hand-off with either the player slotted in the corner, or the center who has dove into the paint. Additionally, if the defense is out of position due to the ball movement and horizontal shifting, the ball handler can take advantage quickly and drive to the rim before the defense sets. Again – it’s important to emphasize that while there are predetermined and frequently occurring reads, the players ultimately have much more freedom to attack advantages that spread far beyond a traditional scripted play.

Just as the center chose to move the ball to the strong side of the court, they can similarly start the offense off by going in the opposite direction. This unlocks the same set of sequences, such as back cuts, dribble hand-offs, and off-ball twirls. The Raptors have used the weak side as a trigger to one pet set – a slice cut post up that has a weak side screen-the-screener flare, as well as a strong side grenade dribble hand-off. If that sounds convoluted, it’s because it is.

I’ll break that down in more detail at some point later in the season when there is enough film to warrant it. Just wanted to point out an intricate play design that is weaved into the template of the 5 Out Motion Offense.

Misc. Preseason Thoughts

  • Dwane Casey seems to feel much more comfortable allowing his 4-men to switch and blow up all kinds of actions. OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam are obvious beneficiaries of this and have proven to be moderately successful doing so. The obvious advantage is neutralizing the effectiveness of a screen by switching, so long as both the ball handler and screener’s defender can guard the mismatch.

    • An added benefit of switching Siakam onto the perimeter so much is his ability to leak out in transition. He’s a tough fit on offense in the half court (but is willing and at least somewhat capable of hitting a corner three, which is crucial for his development) but neutralizing a guard on defense and putting a quick bucket in on the other end can help supplement that.

    • A drawback of the increased switching is the secondary action, where the power forward, now guarding on the perimeter, is screened by the other big man. The Raptors have fooled around with switching that screen as well, but with nowhere near the same effectiveness. It’s a tough tightrope to walk with two somewhat traditional big men on the floor, even with a mobile defender like Jakob Poeltl.

  • Delon Wright’s methodical pick and roll game being unleashed full time is a treat to watch. I frequently noted last year how he was able to create corner threes for his teammates, which he has continued to do, but he has also added a nifty in-and-out dribble and euro step to finish at the rim. Between all of that and his amoebic, herky jerky style where he puts defenders on his hip in Chris Paul-esque fashion, he’s becoming a maestro in pick and roll scenarios.

  • All the big men flashed their short roll, 4-on-3 passing in the preseason. Lucas Nogueira continues to lead the pack in effectiveness. He has an innate sense at flinging the ball cross court in the shooting pocket to the slightly more open shooter. (His mix of vertical gravity as a lob threat, while also being able to beat traps/aggressive schemes is a rare combination. Whatever team signs him next is going to be uniquely versatile on offense.) Poeltl and Siakam, just like last year, continue to progress towards Nogueira’s level. Jonas Valanciunas, who was atrocious in previous seasons, was a mixed bag. In his first game, he picked out weak side shooters on the short roll after the guard was trapped a couple times. In the remaining games, he barrelled to the rim against weak side defenders that took charges or waited too long to swing the ball and enabled the defense to recover, neutralizing the advantage gained by the screen. He is going to have a lot of opportunity to flash his decision making skills with the new motion offense that has the Raptors’ centers patrolling the perimeter, but the short roll decision making has to catch up as well.
  • If Anunoby ends up being a reluctant non-shooter this year, at least he is an intelligent cutter against inattentive weak side defenders. If not, all the better.
  • Valanciunas had intriguing moments defending the paint. Much better anticipation doubling from baseline against weak side post up threats. Somewhat crucial for him when the Raptors switch, as often teams will exploit that through posting up a guard, which he will have to rotate over to.

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