I wrote about the Sacramento Kings defense improving under new head coach Reggie Theus. That was before Ron Artest and Mike Bibby came back from their injuries. I watched the 4th quarter of the game between the Kings and the red hot Hornets and what struck me was the incredible balance the Kings have offensively. They have 7 players averaging double-digit points and are solid 1 through 8. They have a lot of offensive talent and in my opinion, the most underrated team heading into the second half of the season.

The Kings offense is essentially a series of 1v1 isolation matchups taking advantage of help defense with the kick out for the 3-pointer. The Kings fit this style of offense perfectly because they have a number of players that can dominate a 1v1 matchup and they have the shooters to knock down shots. Here is a few sequences from tonights game showing the balance that I'm talking about,

Though many people (HS coaches mostly) I talk to lament the NBA because of it's 1v1 play, I think that 1v1 can and should be prominently used if your team features one or more outstanding players. After all, isn't it smart basketball to put the ball in your most effective scorers and isolate them against 1 defender? I like the way Reggie Theus has designed his offense, it allows his best 1v1 players the ability to exploit their 1v1 matchups and pass out when help comes for the open perimeter shot.

Wing Isolation from 1-4 High:

In the last of the 2 sequences from the clip, the Kings basically run the exact same play, 1 was with Ron Artest from a 1-4 high set, and 1 was with Kevin Martin from the inbounds. Both result in a score. This one diagrammed is specifically with Ron Artest,

They start 1-4 high, and there are a couple of stagger screens set for O3, Ron Artest. Both screeners pop up beyond the 3-point line. Mike Bibby clears out to the opposite wing after the pass. This creates the spacing required for Artest to go 1v1, maximizing the floor space such that if help comes, the kick out will go to a player that is wide open.

Artest gets the ball and has a clear path to the basket. All he has to do is breakdown Tyson Chandler, which he does by backing him down, pivot, and score. Kevin Martin decides to attack the elbow and go up with the mid-range jumper. Basically, it's 1v1 from the wing and it's your best move against the defender.


I was talking with a coach today and the topic came up about what kind of offense you would run if you had one completely dominant guard. He said he would run a lot of ball-screens and PNRs. I said wing isolation, or my favorite, 1-4 low. The reason why I don't like the ball screen or PNR is that good defensive teams will use techniques like the trapping the ball-screen or jump and switch or both. The argument was that if the defense traps or jumps the screen, you could dump it down to the open rolling screener. But my counter-argument was, isn't that what the purpose of the defense is, to force the ball out of your best players hands, plus most good defensive teams would rotate to cover the paint off a trap.

The argument against isolation or 1-4 low was that if the defense had their best defender against Star, it would negate the advantage, and thus a ball-screen is required to help out Star. My response was that if Star isn't good enough to beat defender 1v1, then he really isn't a star. Anyways, the point is that there is no wrong or right answer here. I not only enjoy these kinds of philosophical debates but I find them fascinating, it's what keeps us coaches sharp.

If you want to find out more about getting the most out of your top players, you should check out Bobby Lutz's DVD on Getting Great Shots for Your Best Players. Bobby Lutz is the head coach of UNC-Charlotte. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.