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Breaking down the Hawks’ offense from the baselines

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Coach Bud has Atlanta running some creative baseline out-of-bounds sets.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Across all levels of basketball, teams usually have a few baseline out-of-bounds (BLOB) set plays they run each year. In the NBA, BLOB offense constitutes about 2.5 percent of all possessions, per Synergy, and they’re one of the least efficient plays a team can run. Trapped on the baseline, there’s less space to run anything interesting, allowing the defense to load up on the strong side, but more importantly, baseline out-of-bounds plays are usually run later in the shot clock, after the ball has been knocked out of bounds, either off the dribble or as a blocked shot. Still, Atlanta has a handful of plays they go to in this scenario, and as we’ve come to expect from head coach Mike Budenholzer, they range from very simple to involving all five players on the court.

The simplest BLOB the Hawks run is called “1 Curl”, in which the point guard sets an up screen for a big man, then curls off a single screen toward the ball and takes a short jumper:

As elementary as this set may be, it’s the one the Hawks go to a majority of the time. Because the point guard curls toward the inbounder, the pass to him is very short, which allows the guard to get his shot up even if his defender is right there with him. Atlanta will usually call this when the shot clock is already very low because it doesn’t take much time to run and while actively generating a mid-range jumper isn’t ideal, the overall efficiency on BLOBs with less than 5 seconds on the shot clock is so low that any mildly open shot is going to be good enough for that situation.

1 Curl also can be a quick pass to the big man cutting to the rim behind the point guard’s screen, but it’s rare that this option is open:

If the point guard draws the attention of one of the defense’s big men, that usually means there’s an opening right under the rim, but again, this is a relatively rare occurrence:

When they have more time, the Hawks like to run more complex sets, often to get a shooter open for a three-pointer. Their favorite play out of BLOB situations is “STS Stagger”, where the point guard will set a screen for a shooter to cut to the rim, then come off a screen of his own to get a catch before finding that same shooter in the strong-side corner coming off staggered screens:

Mostly run for Taurean Prince, this play looks innocuous at first: the ball swings up to the point guard at the top of the key, making it look like the Hawks aren’t running anything special and are just getting into their normal offense before Prince sprints off a pair of screens for an open corner three. Prince ranks 14th in the NBA in BLOB efficiency, albeit on a very small number of attempts, mostly due to this set, which the Hawks don’t break out more than once or twice a week. Prince only has 31 attempts on BLOB plays in 74 games this season, but he makes them count when he gets these open shots.

Baseline out-of-bounds sets aren’t necessarily the most important aspect of the game, nor do teams spend an enormous amount of time practicing them, but having a few to go to when needed has been a boon to the Hawks offense, especially in late-clock situations.