It's really difficult to create layups and dunks in the halfcourt. There's a reason the most desirable players in the sport are those who can create looks at the rim, either to score or force the haphazard collapse from the defense to create opportunities elsewhere. The Raptors are still a bottom-five offense in the halfcourt, so they need to create easy looks as often as possible.
Actions that create layups and dunks are extremely valuable, and the Raptors have been using one of their own lately: The Flex Screen, and a couple different looks to feature it. I'll show you what it looks like, and why it works.
Let's start by looking at one of the alignments the Raptors use to get to a flex screen: Horns Flex.
So, this is the Raptors starting out in a horns alignment. The Raptors have been running Horns Flex for a lot of different players over the years, and it's been by far their most common way to utilize a flex screen. In the above plays you can see it run for any of O.G. Anunoby (most common), Chris Boucher (somewhat common), and Pascal Siakam (not very common).
A couple things don't change at all. Firstly, Fred VanVleet as the screener. Why? Well, to quote Nick Nurse: "Freddy's a really good screener, for one. He really nails those guys, so they can get open."
Secondly, Jakob Poeltl as the trigger man. Why? Well, to quote Nick Nurse: "Jakob is a really good passer." Nurse also mentioned: "Whoever's coming off there -- Chris or O.G., usually -- pretty good finishers. All three things."
You'll notice in the last play that Siakam is coming off the flex screen. A changeup, perhaps thrown because Nurse talked about the play pre-game. He isn't typically pleased with such specific questions about plays (most coaches aren't), but I appreciate that he answered it and gave a clear answer on why it's successful.
It was also the first play the Raptors ran against the Wizards last game. Anunoby remarked on the incomplete highlight after the game: "Jak's a great passer, so he'll throw it -- this one, I coulda got it -- he throws it up there, and I just jump and get it. So, I know if he gets it, I can just go to the rim, he'll throw it up there and I can get it."
"It's just a play we run more often now, and he's (Poeltl) a great passer. I think they're (the coaches) aware he's a great passer, so they trust him to throw the ball."
Thank you very much to our Raptors and the coaches for lending their expertise to Horns Flex. Now, let me put my coaching cap on and tell you why the Raptors are running a variation of this. Because, as Anunoby says, they are running it more, but it's much more when you take into account what they run out of the Elbow Alignment.
Here's what it looks like:
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