It is tough guarding a play where Stephen Curry handles the ball up high and Kevin Durant sets a screen for him. If you guard Curry straight, he will have the advantage after the screen. If you help off the screen, you are leaving Kevin Durant who can pop out for a 3 or roll to the basket and finish well at the rim. If you switch assignments, either you have Curry roasting a big on the perimeter or you have Curry’s small defender guarding Kevin Durant, so he will post up the small and finish with the unblockable jump shot.
But you can imagine that if you know the play is coming, you might be able to blitz Curry with a double team and then rotate someone to cut off the release pass to Durant, or to think of other defenses. Also, countering the switch with isolations requires Curry or Durant to be outstanding 1 on 1 players, which sometimes doesn’t happen (natural variance, injuries like in the playoffs) and also stagnates the passing flow of the offense.
So the W’s have been developing alternatives to the vanilla Curry-Durant pick and roll. . Remember, the theme of this year’s rebooted Warriors offense is defeating switching defenses without isolations.
Let’s look at two plays. They both start the same way. Curry will have the ball up high and Andre Iguodala will start high but he’ll cut down the lane and screen for Kevin Durant, who then comes up to set the real screen for Curry. This is a common action that I like to call Pre-screening the Screener (others call it a Ram Screen). The pre-screen puts Durant’s defender behind the play which makes a switch difficult.
Version 1. Klay Thompson Curl
This begins with a Ram Screen, then Durant will slip the screen and pop out for 3. But on the other side, watch the other three players are cooking up another play on the weak side...
While Durant and Curry occupy all the attention, Thompson loops up around a double screen from Iguodala and Green. Not a bad play and the defender has to play very well to stay with Thompson. He attacks the closeout and forces the big man to pick him up in the lane. Good individual play to power the ball in. Notice how Harrison Barnes does not follow Iguodala to the corner — showing a rightful lack of respect for Iguodala’s range — and stays in the lane to force Thompson to finish on the right side of the basket.
This extra weakside action is a hallmark of mature Kerr offense. For instance, here is how the Thunder typically ran the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant pick and roll:
The two superstars in the middle, two spacers standing still in the corners, and a big rebounder clogging up the lane.
Version 2. Slip, opposite pick and roll, flare screen
Same play, with some deception as Iguodala comes out to fake a screen before looping down to pre-screen Durant. I like how there are five good options out of this play. I think that the last one or two options came out of improvised standard actions that the Warriors can spontaneously run. Count them yourself.
- Kevin Durant slips the screen and pops out for a catch-and-shoot 3. This is similar to the Thunder clip above. Durant doesn’t work very hard to shake his man, so I think he’s intentionally trying to get to option 2:
- Curry gets a flare screen from Green which is well avoided by Seth Curry. The ball comes to Green but Curry is covered, so
- Curry does a V-cut towards the basket and then back out, which is covered, so it seamlessly turns into
- a Curry-Green pick and roll. Two men cover Curry, so Draymond forces a defender to rotate. That means one defender is is covering two men somewhere. And there on the weak side is Iguodala and Durant being covered by a single defender, so
- on the weak side Iguodala sets a blind back screen so Durant can flare out for an open 3. Watch how Iguodala signals to Durant to “thumb a ride” behind him, which is the Warriors signal for “use my screen”. It’s also a signal to Curry to throw the ball to Durant, who cans the open shot.
These two plays exemplify two of the basic principles of High Kerr Offense: (1) action on the weak side away from the ball, and (2) actions with 3+ men to prevent or confuse switching defenders.
If you want to read more about the W’s Beating Switches, Three Man Game or Pre-screen the Screener, go to the Index and search for those terms.
If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full, updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.