Stealing Sets: Spurs Edition

Published: July 3, 2013

Although the Pelicans lacked any consistent shot-creator last year, they still managed to finish tied for 15th in offensive efficiency. Ryan Anderson’s ability to stretch the floor and Davis’s ability to crash the rim were a large part of this, but so was Monty Williams’ play-calling. Despite being known as a defensive-minded coach, Williams was drawing up some very creative offensive sets.

Free agency is still very young, but the Pelicans already have a deal in place to land Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers once the moratorium lifts, and it’s never too early to be thinking about next year. Holiday provides the Pelicans with a guard who can get into the paint and get the defense rotating.

I really enjoyed last postseason. There were so many creative sets being drawn up by smart head coaches, and of course, there was no shortage of creative plays drawn up by San Antonio Spurs’ Coach Gregg Popovich.

There is an awesome, awesome Youtube channel that puts together videos of some sets that NBA teams run. This series will focus on taking some of these creative sets and applying them to the personnel of the Pelicans.

Team of Interest: San Antonio Spurs
Offensive Set: Baseline Drive/Drift Hammer Sets
Object: To generate an open corner 3, perhaps the most efficient shot in the NBA game.



  • Player A: drive baseline, away from screen, hit corner shooter
  • Player B: show as if a pick/roll is being run. Decoy
  • Player C: can start from different places, but role is to set screen on shooter’s defender near opposite block.
  • Player D: as Player A is driving baseline, start moving towards corner 3 spot.
  • Player E: make initial pass. Stand still. Look pretty. Move a little towards corner 3 shooter when he receives ball.

Why it Works

A lot of teams play “Ice” versus sideline pick/rolls, meaning that they force the ball-handler baseline and away from the screen, and this play is perfectly suited to exploit that, because the guards are often quick enough to beat the opposing bigs baseline off of the dribble. Of course, it has more uses than that, and this set can be run anytime the defense is giving up the baseline.

The ball-handler (Player A) is allowed to drive baseline, and if he’s quick enough, another big man has to come over to help. This forces Opponent D (guarding Player D, the shooter) to come over and help down low, but he doesn’t realize that Player C is about to clock him with a screen, which prevents him from getting into the passing lane and from contesting the shot.

Because the ball-handler is driving baseline, it’s hard for weakside defenders to keep track of Player D, the shooter, who is behind them and not in their field of vision.

Personnel Needs

  • Player A: Quick ball-handler who can get to the baseline and hit the opposite corner with a pass
  • Player B:  The decoy pick/roll man.
  • Player C: Weakside screener who can get a body on the designated shooter’s defender and knows how to time it.
  • Player D: A player who can hit the corner 3. The most important part of this play. Without someone to finish the play, what’s the point?
  • Player E: Dummy

Best Personnel Fits

These are some players that I think would fit very well in these particular roles. The roles are not limited to these players- they are just examples.

A: Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday

Both of these guards are very quick with the ball, and I have seen teams play “Ice” versus Gordon on numerous occasions. Usually, he winds up hitting the roll man with a pocket pass, which is great, but the corner 3 is such an efficient shot, and some variation would help keep the defense honest. The guard must be able to beat the man containing the pick and roll to the baseline, and Gordon and Holiday are absolutely quick enough to make it there.

B: Jason Smith, Robin Lopez

Other fit: Ryan Anderson. Can suffice, but probably better in other roles for this set.

Smith sets bone-crunching screens and is an ideal candidate for this role. He is very mobile for his size and has no reservations sacrificing his body or dealing out punishment to smaller guys. I love his potential for this role.

If Lopez stays on the roster, he is also a good candidate. Lopez is big, and although he doesn’t set as hard of screens as Smith, he does a good job of getting a body on defenders and creating separation for his teammates.

C: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson

Neither Davis nor Anderson is the best screener, but each is very, very good finishing pick and rolls. Anderson loves to slip screens and pop out to 3, and Davis is an elite finisher rolling to the rim. And as the ball-handler drives baseline, away from the screen, these guys never actually even have to set the screen.

If Anderson approaches as the ball-screener, he can immediately pop out to the 3 point line as the player drives baseline.

If Davis approaches as the ball-screener, he can stay ready to pop from mid-range or can time a cut to the basket once help has left him and the defense has lost sight of him.

D: Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Darius Miller, Brian Roberts

Ryno, Miller, and Roberts all showed they could shoot the 3 last year. Unfortunately, none of them ever got many opportunities to shoot from the corner. Miller was a low usage and low minutes player whose 3s were spread around the perimeter. Roberts spent very little time in the corners, which isn’t particularly surprising, as he did a lot of ball-handling. Ryan Anderson took many more above the break 3s. Holiday shot very infrequently from the corner as well, but really thrived there last season.

Each of these guys can spot up and shoot, and the Pelicans need to find ways to provide these players with open looks in the corner. If Roger Mason is back, he is suited for Player D’s role as well.

E: ..I won’t go there


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