Hoops Picture Pages: Countering the Hedge, Pt. 1

Submitted by Ace on January 17th, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Yesterday, I highlighted one of the main issues with Michigan's offense in recent games: their struggles with the hard hedge against the pick and roll. When the Wolverines—especially Trey Burke—run a high screen, opponents have found success by having the man guarding the screener provide a strong double-team on the ballhandler, limiting his ability to drive to the basket and making passes into the post difficult.

There are several ways to counter the hard hedge, as discussed yesterday in both the post and the comments (thanks to all of you who added your thoughts—I'm not a basketball coach, so any additional knowledge about the game is very valuable). One such counter, brought up yesterday by MGoUser Kilgore Trout, is to get the opponent to commit to the hedge and then immediately cross back over, which should create an opening for a pass to the near-side corner.

Though he didn't execute it perfectly, and the play didn't result in a basket, Tim Hardaway Jr. provides a decent example of how to do this, and you'll be able to see the possibilities it opens. With teams over-committing to the screen, something inevitably must open up, and in this case several holes emerge in the defense. Here's the setup, as Hardaway has just received a pass from Trey Burke:

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As you can see, Hardaway has the ball on the left wing, and Jordan Morgan is setting an off-ball screen for Douglass in the middle of the court—Stu will head to the near-side corner and Burke will clear out to the high side on the opposite side of the court so the team maintains proper spacing. Now that the team is properly spread out, Hardaway calls for a screen, and Morgan makes his way over:

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Hardaway starts to dribble towards Morgan, but as soon as Melsahn Basabe (#1, guarding Morgan) jumps out to hedge, Hardaway makes a quick crossover dribble back to the near side—this is exactly how you want to counter Basabe's aggressiveness in this instance, especially with Hardaway's man already attempting to fight over the pick:

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This opens up several possibilities. If Morgan was ready for the crossover, he could crash hard to the basket, forcing the defender guarding Douglass to slide down and vacate the corner or give up an open dunk (or the defender guarding Novak could do this—either way, a open corner three should be there). Morgan doesn't roll hard, likely because he hadn't fully set the screen when Hardaway made his move, and also because Hardaway will drive to the lane himself. Hardaway's drive accomplishes what Morgan's roll would do—force the near-side defender to commit, leaving Douglass alone in the corner:

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Unfortunately, what you see above is where this particular play doesn't work as well as it should. Hardaway picks up his dribble before he gets into the lane, so when he passes to Douglass, the sliding defender still has time to get back out and force Stu to drive. I think if Hardaway takes another dribble, it would create enough separation for Douglass to get an open three, a much-preferable option in Michigan's offense (and especially with Stu, who's much more comfortable as a stand-still shooter than a slasher). As it is, the defender is able to get out on Douglass, and Stu drives and misses a pull-up jumper in the paint. Full video of the play:

As was pointed out yesterday, the biggest problem here isn't the play, but the execution. If Morgan dives hard to the basket, or Hardaway penetrates further into the paint, this play likely results in a bucket. Instead, Douglass is forced to settle for a contested fallaway in the lane when he doesn't have the space to get off an open three. If Michigan can execute this adjustment with a little more precision, however, it should help keep opponents from over-committing to the hedge defensively and allow the Wolverines to run the pick-and-roll more effectively.

Comments

jg2112

January 17th, 2012 at 2:32 PM ^

You mention above that you think Hardaway should take one more dribble to create separation for Douglass to get an open look.

One more dribble makes any passing superfluous, as Hardaway can get to the basket with a dribble and 1 1/2 steps. You'll also notice that taking that extra dribble would have led him right into the weakside defender and basically a double-team (the weakside defender was already there WITHOUT the extra dribble).

Another thing - my coaches always taught me never to jump stop in the lane unless my motivation was to shoot (the 3-second rule in play). It looks on that play like Hardaway has the same instruction.

Ace

January 17th, 2012 at 2:42 PM ^

That's a valid point—I just thought that Hardaway didn't quite do enough to draw in Douglass's defender, though the weak-side help is obviously there and he had to do something with the ball. I guess in this circumstance, I'd rather see him either go all the way to the hoop (probably not a good idea with the weakside help right there) or give it to Novak in the opposite corner (preferable, and should lead to either an open Novak three or swinging the ball around the perimiter as the defense scrambles to recover).

jg2112

January 17th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

I watched the play a few more times. Something just seems.....off the way it was played. If Hardaway is going to make the switch dribble back to the left and penetrate, it makes little sense to have Morgan a foot from him making the same cut.

You'll also notice, as you said, that Iowa played this 100% correct - Hardaway's defender almost gets a hand to the pass to Douglass, Douglass's defender is playing correct help defense, as is Novak's (if Novak's defender was a shorter player I agree that the pass to Novak is the correct move, but the last defender we haven't talked about would likely swing to Novak).

The best option when running this play is to have a big who can set and hit the 15-18-footer or 3 pointer off the roll where Morgan goes a leeeeetle bit too far into the lane.

FWIW - these dissections are a fabulous use of your time. We can see the tweaks the players and coaches need to make. Well done.

Ace

January 17th, 2012 at 3:26 PM ^

Thanks for the insight, jg, and for the kind words. I'm looking to do at least one of these for each game, at the very least, and hopefully start getting to the point where I can turn around defensive UFRs (I'll definitely be doing one for the State game) in time for the next game. I'm still working on figuring out a balance between this kind of stuff and recruiting, but I think this kind of analysis is what makes this blog great, so I'm hoping to do a lot more of it in the future.

Tom_McC

January 17th, 2012 at 3:09 PM ^

in the opposite corner as Zack's man rotates over and has both feet in the key.  The angle wasn't great for a kick out pass to Zack if you watch the play, but that is in part because Tim doesn't force Zack's man(Aaron White) to really address him.  What we should see is a 3 for Zack or a pass from Zack to Trey assuming Trey's man(Cartwright) helps on Zack and then Trey has a 3 or an open lane to drive.

Like most of the Iowa game, there was a lack of crispness where UM either seemed a little slow in making cuts. passes or they got impatient and didn't force the defense to put all of their cards on the table. If Tim simply stays with his drive a mite longer, I think White continues to help a little more freeing up the angle to pass to Zack for a clean 3 or Zack passes out to Burke who can then go to work.

If you watch the play in realtime, Tim is too quick to pass to Stu and that is what allows Iowa to reasonably defend this particular exchange.