Manuel Trujillo Vargas begins his coaching career in Malaga, in the EBA league coaching the teams of El Palo, Universidad de Malaga and Unicaja. He coached youth teams until the season 2007/2008 when he became assistant coach at Clinicas Rincon, in LEB Oro, the second Spanish division. He won a Spanish University championship in 2002 and a Spanish Junior championship in 2008 with Unicaja, being selected as best coach of the tournament.
Scoring before the defense gets itself together and in place is the first goal of our team, and in order to achieve this we try to punish the defense the instant after we reach half court. If we work correctly at this time, we can score a number of points almost as easily as those made on pure fastbreaks. When I coached the junior team Unicaja Malaga that won the junior Spanish championship, my goal was to create advantages whenever possible. The threepoint line became very important to us because this constant threat kept the court open, widened the defense, and made one-on-one situations easier. Players understood that every open shot was a good shot, and that they should be ready to go in for the offensive rebound should the shot be missed.
Fastbreak, lay-up, one-on-zero, or the three-point shot with no opposition after the first pass and the offensive rebound covered (diagr. 1).
Transition driving to the basket. The player on the perimeter attacks the hoop, preferably to the baseline, attracting helps, and punishing them by passing the ball to the opposite corner for an easy three-point shot with a clear option of getting the offensive rebound (diagr. 2). Against good defenses, I realize that it’s extremely difficult to pass the ball in the lane after a penetration. Instead, the pass for a three-point shot becomes a real option and allows a shot to be taken with the feet on the ground, which increases shooting percentages. By focusing on the three-point shot, it lessens the possibility of a turnover that could come if a player tries to force a pass inside.
Ball in the low post. In this case we will change our play according to the player who goes to the post.
GUARD IN THE LOW POST
We use these options with 1 and 2 only if they have an advantage with their direct opponent, while 3 is always considered as a real option. 5 occupies the spot at the high post (free-throw line) and 4 the spot on the perimeter.
When the ball enters the low post, there are no cuts, but rotations of spaces on the weak side, always maintaining the positions at the three-point line. 5 goes to the opposite low post, in diagonal, taking the baseline to punish any possible help for his defender (diagr. 3).
If the ball does not enter the low post, our player on the perimeter opens in the corner and 5 takes his spot with the intention of getting the ball. If there’s not a possibility for a pass, we change the ball side and play a flex screen between 5 and the player on the perimeter (diagr. 4).
We were not able to use the flex screen very often, because the ball entered the area earlier or the players used a direct screen in transition.
4 IN LOW POST
5 occupies the high post, while 1, 2 and 3 stay open (only on the side with 4).
If the ball enters the low post, the passer cuts aggressively on the baseline. If 4 is in the mid post with the ball (diagr. 5) or around the high point of the free-throw lane if 4 is under the mid post. After the passer’s cut, 5 will cut looking to the opposite low post and spot up near the baseline (diagr 6). This play between big men is usually very effective.
If the ball does not go directly to the low post because of a good defense, we play a direct screen between the man with ball and 5. We continue with 5 rolling to the hoop after the screen, with 4 going from the low post to the three-point line, punishing the defense of inside players, who are not used to defending on the perimeter (diagr. 7). If the defense closes on 5, we will still have a good open three-point shot with the possibility of an offensive rebound.
5 IN LOW POST
5 gains the spot, 4 in the key-point (in the middle), while 1, 2 and 3 stay open. If the ball goes to 5, we use the same rules we previously used with 4. That is to say, the passer cuts and 4 goes to the opposite low post, near the three-point line. If there’s not a direct pass, because of a three-quarters defense or there is a strong defense against the post, we triangle with 4 who will make a lob pass to 5 (diagr. 8).
If we can’t change the ball side because of good defense, we play a direct screen with 4 at the three-point line, while 5 will take a strong position inside the area (diagr. 9). We try to create a situation where we have a side one-on-one with a lot of space for 4. He will then have the option to make an easy shot from the three-point line or create a definitive advantage (diagr. 10).
DETAILS ON PLAYING WITH SCREENS AGAINST VARIOUS DEFENSES
5 makes the direct screen in central position: I consider this one the most difficult situations to defend, because the defensive helps are not well defined and the defense is uncertain.
I will now describe the most common defensive options for these screens and will propose solutions.
In front of an aggressive defense that jumps on the ball, the man with the ball will do a step back and then play with 4, who comes out. 4 will have extra room, since his defender will be recovering after the help on 5, or will have space because the two defenders have decided to switch (diagr. 11 and 12).
Facing a passive defense, we repeat the screen, while 4 changes his position on the baseline so he can create space for the possible penetration of the man with the ball (diagr. 13 and 14).
4 makes a direct screen: in this case, we make a side screen, looking for a different solution. We want a three-point shot or else a one-on-one with the ball on the free side.
4 needs space to play in isolation, so if there is a guard on this side, he will have to move to the other side the moment that the screen is set. In the same way, 5 will go to the opposite low post in order to have more space. We can punish the possible first help of his defender. Thus, if 4 creates an advantage at the core of the area, 5 will gain the baseline. On the other hand, if 4 changes sides by running on the baseline, 5 will gain the core of the area. For this situation, diagrams 15 and 16 show the option with an aggressive defense.
In front of a passive defense, in a situation of pick-and-pop, we’ll try to attack the big man with the point guard. 4 opens out (pop) and 1 kicks off the ball to him, so his defender is further away and his recovery will take longer (diagr. 17).