In anticipation of Duke's game tonight against Albany and 11th ranked Pitt on Thursday, I thought I would do a detailed analysis on the transformation of Duke's offense this year. A lot has been written about it, like this article on CNNSI. It really has been remarkable what Coach Mike Krzyzewski has been able to do in just a short amount of time. I'll be real honest, going into this season, I didn't think Duke would be any good at all. With their traditional 3-out 2-in motion set, it would be extremely difficult for Duke to be successful without a legitimate back-to-the-basket player. But given the new recruits that Coach K has brought in, the new Spread PNR system has worked beautifully.

You look at the players that Duke has, a couple of great guards a bunch of great shooting forwards. The new system that Coack K has adopted from working with Mike D'Antoni during the summer with Team USA is fast and scores in bunches, similar to the Phoenix Suns. It utilizes penetration of the paint, and excellent 3-point shooting, both of which Duke currently has.

Given all that, in order to really illustrate the transformation, I thought it would be prudent to compare video from the 2006 NCAA tournament, sweet 16 matchup between LSU and Duke to a game from this season, Wisconsin vs Duke.

3-out 2-in Motion, 2006

I wrote about Duke's motion offense earlier before the season started. It was great because Duke had some great all-american forwards like Sheldon Williams, Josh McRoberts, Carlos Boozer, etc..

It was very simple, get the ball in the post, the guards on the weak side screen and fill. From the clip, the guards do an L-cut while the low post screens. It is a very patient, delibrate, use the whole clock offense. Emphasis on getting the ball into the post. They will use a high-low on occasion against a fronting defense.

Spread PNR:

Fast-forward to the present. The current lineup includes some great driving and shooting guards in Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson and great shooting forwards in Jon Scheyer, Taylor King and Kyle Singler. The 3-out 2-in wouldn't work. So this year, they've spread out the offense, penetrate the key and shoot 3-pointers. It really is an early offense as the idea is to score within 10 seconds of the shot clock. Here is the play from the video,

Notice how everyone the floor is spread, the defense has trouble recovering because the players are spaced very well.

The Blue Devils will run a lot of sets with Greg Paulus with the ball near halfcourt, Kyle Singler will come and set a pick, because Greg has been penetrating the key, they decide to switch to try to stop him, Kyle simply pops out of the pick and spots up for the 3-pointer,

Finally, depending on the defense, if they show hard and try to trap the ball-screen, O4 will fake the PNR and slip to the basket. Greg will reverse dribble and go over the top to Kyle for the easy dunk,

Gerald Henderson, O5, will usually come up to the weak side high post for better spacing and allow Kyle a free lane right to the hoop.


The Blue Devils really look like the Phoenix Suns this year with a couple of notable differences. Namely, the Blue Devils don't have an Amare Stoudamire. So, they run a lot more dribble drives, and ball reversal. The Suns use the roll very often because Stoudamire is unstoppable going to the basket. This really is the perfect offense for the Suns because they can shoot, drive, and have forwards that are extremely athletic and can finish.

Just how good is Duke's new offense, the proof is in the numbers 86.7 ppg, 7th in the country so far this season. Last season, Duke did not finish in the top 50 in scoring. I couldn't even find their stat for ppg but it was below 72 ppg, so at least a full 15 ppg differential. Remarkable.

There are a few other teams that run a Spread PNR in college. Florida ran it alot the past 2 years under Billy Donovan with Joakim Noah. I've seen Indiana and Oklahoma run it with Blake Griffin.

If you are thinking of running a spread, keep in mind 2 things,

1. You must have players that can shoot. No point to spread the floor if they cannot hit outside shots, otherwise, the defense does not have to respect the spacing and can sag.

2. You must have guards that can penetrate the key, and/or athletic forwards that can catch the pass on the run and finish strong going to the basket.

The best video out there that teaches this offense is Billy Donovan's DVD on the Spread Offense. Coach Donovan used it to win back-to-back national championships at Florida. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.