Sergio Scariolo is the head coach of Khimki Moscow and of the Spanish National team, which won the FIBa EuroBasket last year. He started his career in 1985 as assistant coach of Brescia, Italian A1 Se-rie, then he became assistant coach in Pesaro, winning an Italian championship. Two years later he became head coach, winning a title in 1990. Then, he coached Desio and Fortitudo Bologna, in Italy before moving to Spain where he won a King's Cup with Tau Vitoria. Following a move to Malaga, he won another King's Cup as well as a Championship title and reaching the Euroleague Final Four.
The biggest difference between modern basketball and that one of 15 years ago is the physical level of the players. The improvement of their physical skills has also improved the defensive performance: we talk of big and athletic players, able to defend one-on-one much better than in the past. Besides, we need to underline the advantage that the coaches have gained from technology, matched with the talents of the players and the work of of each coach.
In the 1990s it was used to play an offense with few risks, using practically all 30 seconds, following the Yugoslavian school. Then, offense evolved, thanks to the new rules and the refereeing criteria, because now the referees whistle more fouls.
So, I think these are the three basic factors on which to create one's own offensive philosophy:
• Rule changes.
• The different refereeing criteria.
• The knowledge of the coach, with the avantages offered by technology.
Until recently it was impossible to watch a perimeter player playing inside. But then this solution was adopted, enlarging the spaces and sending also the perimeter players playing inside, forcing the defense to adapt.
Therefore both in Europe and in the NBA, the set with two big men inside has been replaced by the set with a big man able to play 5-6 meters (15-18 feet) away from the basket. In this way we will have perimeter players able to play inside, at the post area, to drive, and so on. It is essential to have an inside player able to shoot for opening the spaces inside (diagr. 1 and 2).
Four players on the perimeter
With this offensive set, we will open the spaces for playing in situations that take advantages from:
• A backdoor cut (diagr. 3).
• Back picks and backdoor cut (diagr. 4): in this way, the defenders on the help side must cover a longer space to help, provoking in this way unbalanced defensive situations.
• Pick-and-roll (diagr. 5): with the center, who goes inside the lane as much as possible, creating a continuity of the action, or, if the defense collapses inside, with possibilities of shooting from outside.
Two inside players
Adopting this set (diagr. 6 and 7), we can have situations where we will have four players on the perimeter and one player inside. If there is a match up with a big man guarded by a perimeter player, we will try to use this inside advantage, while, if we have a match up of a perimeter player guarded by a big man, we wil try to have an outside advantage.
Our aim is to enlarge the court to find spaces for driving: a set with the proper spacing and with open lane helps also to have different solutions and initiatives.
If we take a look at the statistics and if we verify, if it's more efficient to play with defined sets or with drives to open up the defense, we will see that with the second option we will have more chances to go to the shot.
We want that the player, who drives, has a good vision of his three or four teammates. The inside player 5 takes position inside the three-second lane for anticipating the second help (diagr. 8). If this has already happened, he screens on the defender, who has helped (diagr. 9). After the drive and the kick out, the player, who has drived, goes on the open spot of the court and where there is only one teammate (diagr. 10). In this way, we want to help the player who drove on the corner, so the other teammates on the perimeter must adapt and rotate (diagr. 11 and 12). If the ball is passed to the low post, we cut for receiving the ball and we let the inside player play one-on-one (diagr. 13). The post can kick out the ball to a perimeter teammate, depending on how the defenders help. When the ball is kicked out from the post position, the inside player repositions himself aggressively in the lane, or comes out to screen on the teammate near him, who has received the ball (di-agr. 14). As a general rule, if there is the case of a perimeter player in the low post position, the post 5 goes to the free-throw area.
We want in any case to have always a player on the opposite position to where the low post is set with the ball.
This inside player must always be ready to show himself by the post with the ball, because his defender will have the tendency to help on the low post (diagr. 15 and 16).
Straight screen on the ball
First of all, we must attack the side opened by the screen with maximum aggressiveness, trying to penetrate toward the middle of the lane. The post player, who has come out of the lane to set the screen, after the screen must roll and go in the free-throw lane (diagr. 17). If the straight screen is brought in the middle lane of the court, 5, after the screen, rolls and goes to the free-throw area , not on the low post. If it is 4 who drives to the basket, going to the middle of the lane, 5, after the screen, rolls and goes to the corner of the free-throw area, opposite to the drive of 4, and then cuts under the basket to receive tha ball (diagr. 18). Instead, he makes the contrary movement, if 4 drives along the baseline.
With two post players at the free-throw area, after a side screen, 5 rolls to the basket for receiving by 1 (diagr. 19). If we have a high post, 4, and a low post, 5, on the other side of the court, and 4 sets a straight screen for 1, 1 drives on the open side of the screen, 4 rolls and flares away after the screen, while 5 cuts under the basket for receiving from 1, on whom the 3's defender has helped (diagr. 20). Here is another case in point: player 4, after the screen, rolls to the middle lane of the court, receives the ball from 1 and drives; now 5 cuts behind his defender, who has helped on 4's drive, and then receives the ball on the other side of the court (diagr. 21).
If there is a defensive change on 1's drive, 5 comes high at the corner of the free-throw area to receive and shoot, or playing high-low with 4, who after the screen, has rolled to the basket (diagr.22).
Our aim is to punish the defensive changes, trying to find the proper cutting angle, over or behind the defender (diagr. 23). On the weak side we use the same concept: if the defender turns his shoulder to the offensive player, this one goes first at the free-throw lane, and then pops out to the corner on the same side of the court. If we play with good spacings and take advantage of the defensive helps' situations, we will have more chances to get the offensive rebound, because these spaces will allow us to have a less physical contact with the defenders, thereby avoiding the block-outs.