In recent days, I have been working on a series about how the first- and second-year core players for the Atlanta Hawks are suited for a roster being built around Trae Young. The subject seems relevant as conversation continues about the possibility of the Hawks using their young players and available cap space to capitalize on a so-called consolidation trade when the offseason eventually arrives.
De’Andre Hunter can help Young when he is defended by the opposing team’s bigger wings. While Kevin Huerter can lift from, especially, from the left corner into action that compliments Young’s tendency to play to his right.
After the piece focused on Huerter, I thought it might be useful to share a breakdown of how Atlanta, otherwise, uses offensive tactics to attack defenses that purposefully work to push Young to his left.
There are a number of ways defenses can try to steer him to the left side of the offensive half court. Last year, I wrote an in-depth piece about the coverage Young was seeing in the pick and roll at the time. If you don’t have time to read that in its entirety, it might be worth a few minutes to look at the show, trap and weak techniques.
Here, we will look at the most common ways, from a volume standpoint, Young experiences the schemes intended to steer him away from his dominant hand, the show technique. From there, we will look at the most basic ways Atlanta counters this.
The play above demonstrates the use of John Collins, at the power forward position, and his improving perimeter shot to punish the attention allocated to Young.
The Dallas Mavericks begin this possession with the center, Maxi Kleber, matched up on Collins. Justin Jackson, their power forward in this lineup, begins in the middle of the paint trying to keep Bruno Fernando from posting at the front of the rim.
With Kleber, an excellent defender on the perimeter for a big man, helping at the level of the screen, former Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. positions himself to deny Young a path back to his right.
On the weak side of the play, Courtney Lee stunts to the middle of the floor in an attempt to buy his teammates some time to recover to the base defense.
After helping on Young, Kleber works to get to the lane to relieve Jackson of his responsibility to anchor the defensive possession. Before Jackson is completely free, Collins sets up at the three-point line to the right of the top of the key, the exact spot from where the Mavericks are working to keep the Hawks point guard.
Young makes the simple, smart play in feeding Collins for the open look from the arc.
Sometimes, the best way to counter a defense trying to keep your best player from a specific spot on the floor is to work another good player to that area and take advantage of the free space.
On this play, Collins is working in the exact same action in precisely the same spot, But this time, he is the center in the Atlanta lineup.
On the first play we broke down, notice that the Hawks — apart from the pick and roll action of Collins and Young — had two players set up on the perimeter with Fernando posted inside.
In contrast, the second play has all three players in off-ball roles set up on the perimeter. Dallas plays the same technique at the point of the ball screen but have the (even) quicker defender at the five spot, Dorian Finney-Smith,
With the lane vacant, Collins rolls to the rim instead of setting up on the perimeter.
The subtle, but critical, timing on this play is Treveon Graham lifting from the right corner just as Collins hits the lane. The purpose of the well-executed action from Graham is to make it difficult for Lee, the weak side defender on this possession (again), from doing his job.
In this situation, Lee is responsible to help by “tagging the roller.” The roller is Collins. When Graham lifts he, as is intended, causes Lee to take a step with him which makes it very difficult to execute the “tag” on Collins.
(Note: not every team has their spot-up shooter lift in this situation.)
The result in an easy score.
Let’s look at one more.
At times, the Hawks will just ask Young to dribble left into a dribble hand-off (DHO) with Huerter, as seen on the play above.
This is an “end zone” view of the same action as the previously play we looked although they initiate it differently. Huerter lifts into two screens above the break then resets for the high pick and roll with Collins.
Hunter lifts with precise timing as Collins dives to the rim and ends up with the uncontested look from the three-point line.
As an emerging star in the league, Young is a highlight machine. But when the situation dictates, he very often makes the simple play, as is the case in each of these examples.
There are other, more sophisticated, ways to attack this defensive tactic. But why unnecessarily try something complex when simplicity will do the trick?