Beneath the Screen: The Gordon Effect

Published: January 4, 2013

Throughout his tenure with the Hornets, Monty Williams has been criticized for offense–mainly for a lack of. But after watching almost every game and going through plenty of film in the days after, I contend that Monty is a sneaky good offensive coach. While I think aspects of the criticism this season is valid, I felt as if Monty was holding something back until he had a healthy team will all players at his disposal.

Well, with Eric Gordon back in the lineup (except on back-to-backs), Monty gave fans a glimpse of what the Hornets offense is capable of by showing off some previously unseen sets. Not only that, but it has allowed Monty to put players in different spots on the court which enhance their abilities.

So, let’s jump right into the Madistrator and take a look.


The play is a bit of a variation of the Flex offense. It might also be my favorite single Hornets’ possession this season. The Flex offense uses what’s called a ‘flex cut’ which is just a nice word for a horizontal cut across the court off a screen. You’re about to see a lot of ‘flex cuts.’

In the picture above, the Hornets line up in a high 1-4 offensive formation. This is not the standard Flex offense formation, as Monty tweaks the starting spot of the players on the floor.

Tweaks like this only change one or two parts of the formation/player positioning. This will allow Monty to come up with a near limitless looks to throw at opposing defenses. It is not revolutionary, but it is certainly sneaky good.


Gordon performs the first ‘flex cut’ off an Anderson screen and runs cross court. At the end of his cut, he will set a screen for Aminu to perform the another ‘flex cut.’


Instead of running across the court, Aminu cuts to the rim. Look how many people Josh Smith is standing behind. Because of all the picks and movement he doesn’t have a good line of sight on Aminu. It didn’t work out, but Aminu easily could have been wide open on a cut simply because his defender lost him.

While that cut is going on Lopez comes over and sets a screen for Gordon–who set the screen for Aminu while coming off a screen set by Anderson. Screens on screens on screens.



Vasquez see an angle and fires off a pass to Gordon. As the pass is made Anderson shows us another ‘flex cut’ and heads to the opposite side of the court. Had Vasquez not passed to Gordon, he could potentially find Anderson for 3 for a quick catch and shoot. Anderson’s cut also clears space for Gordon once he receives the ball.


Gordon turns, loses his defender and pulls up for an open elbow jumper which he sinks.

The play was a beautiful example of how movement can create space on offense and is a nice change of pace from the standard pick and roll offense the Hornets run. Throwing Gordon into the mix injects the all important speed into the equation. I love it.

Now let’s look at the main staple of the Hornets offense: the high pick and roll.


The Hornets run their standard high pick and roll with Davis setting the screen for Gordon. There are two ideal outcomes for this play: Gordon gets to the rim and scores or the defense collapses and he kicks the ball out for a wide open corner 3. Because of Gordon’s speed and that the screen is set above the 3-point line, Davis will most likely be too far behind the play to be a viable option as the roll man.


After Gordon dices right through the screen, both wing defenders immediately collapse into the lane to prevent an easy layup or dunk. Look at all the space Anderson and Mason have.


Gordon fires an easy pass to a massively wide open Anderson who drills the 3-point shot.

So what makes this play different than the high pick and rolls the Hornets were running before Gordon’s return? To put it simply, the answer is speed.

Vasquez often struggles driving to the rim on the pick and roll. He simply isn’t fast enough and lacks to the strong finishing ability to make him a huge threat to drive. Yes, he has a nice no-jump layup and floater, but it’s not enough to cause the defense to completely collapse like they do above.

With Vasquez’s limitations, Monty has often used Anderson as the screen setter. After setting the screen, Anderson flares out slightly on the pick and pop and Vasquez looks for him to get a good look for 3 from there. This takes Anderson out of the corner and is the main reason why his corner 3 attempts have gone down this season. Now, with Gordon back, Monty is able to run more plays designed to get Anderson those high percentage looks.

As we get deeper into the season I fully expect Monty will continue to keep flashing new offensive looks. And with Gordon back, and soon fully in gameshape, we should start to see these sets more consistently. Sneaky good, and I’m excited.

Beneath the Screen is a reoccurring series throughout the season run on Fridays. See past editions here.


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