NBA Spotlight: Rolling Thunder

NBA Spotlight: Rolling Thunder

As the NBA season inches closer and closer, we continue to be surprised by the headlines being made and this one is a game changer. The Oklahoma City Thunder have not only added Paul George to their organization, but they have also been able to grab one of the best pure scorers of the past decade in Carmelo Anthony. With this deal, Sam Presti and the franchise have given the walking triple double, that is Russell Westbrook, even more firepower. This should make for an exciting spectacle on the court. For the purposes of this article we will focus on Billy Donovan’s Xs and Os as well as how it will mesh with the projected starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams. The following sets will take advantage of the athletic talents from Russ and Andre who shot 46% and 61% respectively on 2point field goals the power of Adams (57% on 2pt FGs) and most importantly the shooting ability of Paul and Carmelo. Last year, the team shot 32.7% from three (ranked 30th) and 74.5% from the free throw line (ranked 26th). Without question, we should expect these numbers to rise since Carmelo posted percentages of 36% and 83% while Paul chipped in with 39% and 90%. As always, these stats are courtesy of


Ballscreen Motion
Dating back to his days leading the Florida Gators, Billy Donovan’s teams have been every effective with their use of the pick and roll. The spacing and movement that’s created forces defenses to truly defend the entire floor. Here are three entries into his motion offense and we should expect him to go back to his roots to a certain degree now that he has the kind of firepower at his disposal that fits these principles. Also keep in mind that Patrick Patterson will play the backup 4/5 roll and will use his 37% three point shooting to space the floor for others to attack.


After our guard cuts To the Weakside of the floor, a pick and roll takes place. Our trail will receive a pass and is looking for a hi low or lob of some kind. If nothing develops, they look for cutters and flow into another pick and roll. Of course at anytime, that trail player has the freedom to attack a slower defender and in the cases of Carmelo and sometimes Paul George, that’s not something the defense would like to deal with.


From here, we reverse the ball to flow into our motion. If they can’t flow into a pick and roll, imagine Carmelo passing to a backdoor cutting Westbrook or George for a highlight at the rim or dump off pass to Adams.


There aren’t many things more terrifying than Russell Westbrook in transition but the next best thing would be a drag screen from another lethal offensive player in Carmelo who should see a lot of time as the trail 4 man.


Box Screen the screener
We will start with a quick hitting set that gets all 5 players moving and placed in scoring positions. With the attention that Russ, Paul and Melo attract, it will be very difficult to defend when screens are set and the ball is moving around before the spread pick and roll collapses the defense. Look for melo to occasionally reject the cross screen and use the pin down instead to set up a 4/5 pick and roll.


Horns backdoor
This is the play that I call old faithful because it almost always yields a score or a foul. The misdirection goes away from the target before a backdoor is attempted. If nothing develops, it flows into a sideline ballscreen with melo and Paul.


Stack flex
If you want to force a particular defender to run in circles, then this is the play for you. Your best scorer will set a ballscreen, get a backscreen, then set yet another cross screen before finally using a down screen to score. On the chance the defender makes it through all of that action, then they now have to defend a ball screen on while being out of position. We should look to see a lot of Weakside cuts from Andre Roberson who is one of the best cutters in league as illustrated here.


Stack Ram
The stack ballscreen also known as Spain is a really popular trend that more teams are using to open up the floor. If you haven’t had a chance, take a look at our Spain pick and roll article in the coaches blog! The term ram means that we will screen the ballscreener to prevent them from trapping the pick and roll. After that ball screen, the screener will receive a backscreen to the rim which forces help from uncomfortable situations


Fist Iverson
This quick hitter is uses an Iverson cut to open up the floor for the spread pick and roll. Take a look at our Iverson series article on our coaches blog for even greater detail of this action! Right before the pick and roll takes place, our shooting 4 man will loop behind the play to the slot as our point guard looks to attack. Our 5 will sprint to the ball before turning the screen at the last moment.


Flow Fist
This final set makes things really difficult for the defense. Since the screening actions that take place are occurring at the same time, it prevents Helpside rotation by the defense in multiple areas. If nothing develops from that screening action, you’ll have a Westbrook and Carmelo pick and pop action!

That does it for NBA Spotlight: Rolling Thunder! This should be a very exciting year for the team that is sure to be loaded with excellent basketball! Feel free to contact me via twitter @KJ_the_scout, or via email at and see how these actions can benefit your program.

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