Breaking It Down

Raptors Playbook: Snap Series

Casey’s tie game isn’t too bad, either.

Raptors Playbook: Snap Series

Over at the Raptors Playbook YouTube channel (@RaptorsPlaybook on Twitter), I am breaking down the X’s & O’s of the Toronto Raptors. This week, we’ll focus on their Snap Series – a pass and chase action that precedes a constant progression of actions. Watch the video embedded below alongside the summary written, and remember to follow and subscribe to never miss out on a video.

Option 1: Wide Pindown

The play starts with a pass-and-chase action between the lead ball handler and the trailing big. This forces the ball handler to go away from the big’s eventual pindown screen, allowing for enough of a gap between the 3 defenders.

The big will set a wide pindown screen for an off-ball perimeter player, a role largely filled by DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and C.J. Miles.

If the defender goes under the pindown screen, the Raptor player can flare away from the screen, using the big as a shield before taking a catch-and-shoot jumper.

When the threat of a jump shot forces the defense to trail over the top of the screen, the Raptors will use their momentum to carry them into the paint. At this point, a myriad of floaters, euro-steps, and kick out passes can be used to execute on the created advantage.

Tough and well-prepared perimeter defenders will often try to “top lock” the pindown screen, disabling the Raptors from using it. However, they can use this overeagerness against the defense and cut under them.

An oft-forgotten about wrinkle the Raptors use is allowing the trailing big to not pass the ball away, instead directly engaging the eventual screen-user in a DHO themselves.

Option 2: DHO

While the wide pindown action is an essential part of this series, the Raptors have systematically adapted this year to not allow their offense to crumble once the initial option has been snuffed out by the opposition. When the Raptors are unable to create meaningful separation on the pindown, the off-ball player will exit to the weak side of the floor while the ball handler enters the ball to the big near the elbow. At this point, the big and the previous ball handler can engage in a dribble hand-off (DHO) action and negotiate screen usage until the defense crumbles.

While two players on the strong side of the floor use this DHO action, the weak side players can shift and exchange positions to alter the help responsibilities.

Option 3: Weak Side Step-Up Ball Screen 

Continuing the trend of continuity and progressing until a meaningful advantage has naturally been created through movement, the step-up ball screen option flows seamlessly out of the potential DHO.

The perimeter player that is in the weak side corner that did not previously use the pindown screen will shoot up to the top of the arc to receive a pass from the opposite-side big. On the catch, that player will be met with a flat, step-up ball screen. This action is the epitome of shifting a defense horizontally in order to contort the opposition in uncomfortable ways before penetrating the defensive shell vertically and putting pressure on the rim.

Again, while this action happens, the weak side players will exchange positions to complicate help-side coverages by shifting around the Low and High I. In some situations, the weak side big will even set a Flare screen for the guard to create an open corner three.

Counter: Weak Side Stagger 

This action is similar to the weak side step-up ball screen in that it has the big on the elbow in a playmaking role while weak side action occurs.

However, rather than using a ball screen, this option uses the guard that initially was unsuccessful in utilizing the pindown utilize a staggered screen.

Counter: Flip Ball Screen

While all the previously described actions stem out of the wide pindown that occurs at the beginning of the play, this option happens instead of that.

After the ball handler pass-and-chases above the break with the trailing big, they engage in a simple high ball screen with the opposite big that was situated in the slot.

For defenses that are prepared and set to defend the primary sequence, this is a nice change of pace action.

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