The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the talk of the NBA the past week or so. Not just because of the ongoing Lebron vs Barkley war of words, but the Cavs are really playing some phenomenal basketball lately. I am most impressed by their team defense, Ben Wallace is starting to look like the guy that won all those defensive player of the year awards.

But the purpose of this post is to look at the Cavs offense. I wrote about this concept of screening an area with Hubie Brown earlier in the summer. What the Cavs run a lot of is they run an off-ball screen for Lebron, who depending on what the defense does, chooses the best option. Take a look (switched back to Youtube this time as Veoh was down),

So, people have been talking about the Cavs diverse offense, and this play is exactly the kind of offense that takes the pressure off of Lebron to handle the ball. Instead he can focus on what he does best, score.

Off-Ball Screen for Lebron:

The setup is simple, they start out in the 1-2-2 set. O1 (Delonte West) either dribbles to the wing or passes to O4 (Ben Wallace) who pops out to receive the pass. O1 relocates to the far corner, and O2 comes up the wing. At the same time, O5 (Ilgauskus) screens the wing to post area. O3 (Lebron), cuts towards O5 to use the screen and rub his defender off of O5,

At this point, Lebron pops out to receive the pass either from O4 or O1.

So there are 3 options Lebron can go, depending on what the defense does. If X3 decides to go over the top, Lebron will have enough time to pop the 3-pointer or drive baseline. If X3 goes underneath, Lebron can drive middle.

In this first sequence, X3 goes over the top. Notice how O5 uses a butt screen to make X3 go even further around. Lebron then attacks the rim by going 1v1 and muscling up X5 (Dalembert) and scores the layup,

Same scenario, X3 goes over the top, O5 butt screens him, Lebron however, decides to pop the 3-pointer,

In this final scenario, X3 decides to go underneath. Lebron makes the right decision and attacks the middle. The defense collapses and he finds O1 in the corner. X1 helps on Lebron so X2 rotates to close out on O1. O1 then makes the extra pass to the top to O2 for the wide open 3-pointer, which he nails,

The naming in the last one doesn't exactly correspond with the video, but I didn't want to make another diagram just to switch O1 and O2, but you get the point, drive middle, 2 passes, 3-pointer.


I think you can even hear the ESPN commentator (I think it's Mike Tirico), say that the Cavs are running the same play over again. If you have plays that are simple, and let your best players make the decisions, you add some of the unpredictability of a motion offense, with some control of a set offense. If you look at it again and again, there really is no way to completely defend it. Maybe you choose to sag and prevent the Lebron drive, but he'll either make 3-pointers or find guys open in the perimeter. Maybe you choose to trap him or hard switch, but he'll just take advantage of a slower defender. In other words, you have to choose your poison when you play the Cavs.

Thinking of the perfect gift for that hard to buy for coach you know? Look no further than Hubie Brown's 2-pack DVD that has Volumes I and II from his Secrets of Winning Basketball series, definitely worth checking out for any Hubie Brown fan. Discuss your favorite offenses at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.