May 8, 2020 • OffensePlaysWinning Hoops

Integrating various types of stagger-screens into man offenses

by John Kimble, contributing writer

Off-the-ball stagger-screens are an invaluable tool for man-to-man offenses to integrate into their overall offensive package. They obviously can be used as an integral part of half-court plays/entries but also as part of the next phase of a team’s offensive attack — continuity or motion offenses.  They can be designed as part of sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays as well as parts of secondary fastbreak action.

What makes stagger-screens so important are that they obviously can greatly benefit a team’s outside scoring game, but can also greatly enhance a team’s inside game. This is done because of the threat of getting players open for perimeter shots, but also in the fact that the stagger-screen involves two screeners and the cutter/potential perimeter shooter. Only two offensive players remain with one clearly being the player with the ball.  Whether this last offensive player is a post player or an inverted perimeter player, it allows that player to be able to post up his defender places in a completely isolated situation. The location of the stagger-screen can eliminate help-side defense so much that defenses often times cannot effectively deny the ball inside by any type of fronting the isolated offensive post player.

stagger-screensIt must not be forgotten that this action also could give the ball-handler more opportunities to isolate his own defender and be able to be creative by attacking his defender off of the dribble in various ways.

With many stagger-screen cutters breaking somewhere towards the top of the key, the pass to that cutter not only gives that cutter opportunities for perimeter shots; but that pass can also serve as a reverse pass. This pass then can move the ball to the opposite side of the floor, further moving the defense and allowing the offense to look for other open shots. Therefore, the stagger-screen could be beneficial in allowing an offensive team to somewhat spread the floor to possibly take time off of the clock to help control the tempo of the game.

Play # 1 illustrates a play out of the “3-OVER” Set/Alignment.  The alignment could have 03 and 02 aligned on the opposite side of the floor, but 01 must always dribble away from their initial positioning.  This diagram has 01 dribble-scraping off of 04’s ball-screen with 02 (at the same time that 01 makes contact with 04’s top shoulder) making contact with either shoulder of 03’s as he “flex-cuts” off of 03’s screen.  04 and 05 then cut diagonally down to (stagger-)screen the (back-)screener.  This first part of this offensive action not only tries to bump off a defender with the cutter breaking to a high percentage shot opportunity but also inverts a perimeter defender (X2) into areas he must defender that he may very well be unaccustomed to being able to defend.  The stagger-screen also attacks X3 in the fact that X3 gets hurt trying to help out his defensive teammate X2 when the flex-cut is made.

This would then give 03 great opportunities for open ‘3-pt’ shots at the top of the key—a high percentage 3-pt shot location.  If defensive teams switch the stagger, the offense could have a quicker perimeter player (03 in this instance) trying to be defended with a slower defender (X5 or X4).  Keep in mind that if 01 uses 04’s ball-screen properly, after turning the corner he has that entire side of the floor to use to create his own shot.  Obviously, if 02 sees 01 driving all the way to the basket; he can shorten his cut across the lane to post up.  Therefore, shots could be quickly created for either 02, 01, or for 03.  If the desired shot does not present itself, all five players are in the “3-Out/2-In” Spot-Ups for either specific continuity offenses or motion-types offenses to smoothly begin and therefore maintain the offensive attack on the opposition’s defense.  See Diagram 01.

Kimble Staggered Screens Play 1

Play # 2 can be executed out the balanced set, called “TWINS.”   Therefore, this play could be immediately executed towards either side of the floor.  01 must dictate which side is to be the initial action side.  This diagram has the right side being called to start the attack.  02 is then the designated player to make his “L-Cut” up and out to the FT Line extended on his side of the floor.  01 makes the pass to 02 and immediately 05 makes his “Slash-Cut” diagonally across the lane to the new ball-side mid-post area.  As soon as 01 releases the ball, 01 & 05 break diagonally down to set the stagger-screen for 03 to use, looking for a ‘3 pt.’ shot at the top of the key.   This action gives 03 a great look for an open shot, but more importantly isolates X5 on the block.  X5 will have minimal help-side defense to try to keep 05 from receiving 02’s lob or bounce pass inside.  If 02 reverses the ball to 03 and 03 turns down his shot, 01 slips out to the empty wing area, while 04 settles into the now empty mid-post block area.  The “3-Out/2-In” Spot-Ups are now smoothly and instantly filled for the second wave of attack to immediately begin.  See Diagram 02.

Kimble Staggered Screens Play 2

Play # 3 can be executed out a set, called “HI-LO STAX.”   This alignment could be mirrored with the two stacks aligned in the opposite sides of the floor, but this diagram has 05 and 03 stacked high on their left side of the floor; with 04 and 02 stacked low on their side of the lane.  This play dictates that 01 always dribble towards the ‘high stack’ side of the floor.

» MORE: Check out the Winning Hoops set play library

As 01 dribbles to the free-throw line extended on the left side, 04 cuts across the lane to post up on the new ball-side mid-post block.  At the same time, 05 and 03 break down to set their (‘big-on-small’) stagger-screen for 02 to use.  Again, this stagger-screen action not only minimizes help-side defense that X4 needs, but also gives 02 an open ‘3 pt.’ shot opportunity at the top of the key.  If the inside shot for 04 and the outside shot for 02 are turned down, 01’s reverse pass to 02 at the top of the key finds the ball centered up and all five offensive players in the proper “3-Out/2-In” Spot-Ups for the next wave of attack to smoothly and fluidly continue.  See Diagram 03.

Kimble Staggered Screens Play 3

There are many other plays/entries that can be derived from countless sets/alignments that integrate the same or many other building blocks that are necessary to construct an efficient and productive offensive scheme.  These building blocks are all fundamentally sound and each individual block itself can be difficult for defenses to defend against; let alone using several of these blocks.  The more components that can be incorporated into the offensive scheme gives that team “more bullets” to attack the opposition’s defense.