The Hawk Set - Isolation Plays

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In this series - we'll explore some of the basic plays that can be initiated by the Hawk set.

Previously:

The Hawk Set - plays for shooters

The Hawk Set - Post up plays

The Hawk Set - Pick and Roll


In this series, we've explored some of the plays that can be initiated from the Hawk Set.  This is a very flexible, but easy to learn offense, with specific plays for shooters coming off of screens, post up plays, pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop and isolation plays.  Although each play has a myriad of options and wrinkles available, the basic starting positions are the same.  Since the movements are not reliant on what the defense does, but rather what the set play calls for, it's easier for the players to learn the plays.  Everyone in the offense knows where they start from, and everyone in the offense knows where they cut, screen, pass or shoot from.

For instance, if the coach calls out High-4, Nick Young, as the shooting guard, knows precisely where and when he needs to cut, where his screeners will be, who has the ball and what is happening with it -- and more importantly, when he might get the ball to shoot it or pass.  The most difficult decisions are when a guard comes off a screen - he needs to make a split second decision to continue to the basket, pull up, or pass the ball.

Please remember that I have only diagrammed a few plays, out of dozens of plays with dozens of options available in the Hawk.  Let's also remember that although the Hawk Set is part of Flip Saunders playbook, it's not the ONLY offensive set or system he uses.

After the jump, we will look at some Isolation plays that can be run out of the Hawk set.

I chose this first play because in previous articles I had not shown many plays that were specifically designed for the Small Forward.  The Wizards have a particularly skilled SF in Caron Butler, and here, I wanted to show how the Hawk Set can be used to exploit his particular skill set  (mid-range shot, passing and ball handling).

This next one is an play designed to get the Shooting Guard isolated in the corner with an option to drive to the basket, pull up for a shot, or pass to a teammate.  In watching this play, I was aware that Nick Young would NOT be my first choice as SG in this play - as it requires too many decisions.  On the other hand, it would be perfect for Mike Miller or Randy Foye.  I thought Miller in particular would be ideal in this play for several reasons:

  • He's an outside threat - therefore his defender should be more susceptible to the drive.
  • He has great court vision, and he's a very good passer
  • At 6'9", he's tall enough and strong enough to finish at the rim.

As we move through these plays, we should remember that although the standard Hawk set usually starts off with the same players in the same positions, there are variations.  In this play, the center and SF are not in a stack in the post. The SF is on the wing, and the center starts nearer the free-throw line.

As this play develops, you can see opportunities for the SG cutting to the basket.  There are also opportunities for the small forward at the wing.  However, the play is ultimately designed (if you go all the way through with the play to the end) to get the point guard into the lane with options to pass to open shooters, or take it strong to the rim.  This play looks particularly well-suited for Arenas, especially if the forwards on the floor with him can shoot the 3-pointer (Jamison, Miller, Butler).

In this next one, we are going to reverse the roles of the shooting guard (2) and the power forward (4).  The 2 will set the initial pick for 4, and the PF will make the Hawk cut.  The small forward sets a pick for the center, and the center cuts to the elbow.

The play is designed to be a two-man game with a guard and center, but with a twist.  The guards take turns cutting off the center in a rotational pattern.  I think this play would be good for any of the Wizards' guards, but particularly for Arenas and Foye, as they are both good at coming off screens and making decisions with the ball.

In conclusion

The only question I had about the Hawk Set coming into Preseason was whether the Wizards big men could set good screens, considering that picks and screens were not a huge part of the Princeton Offense that they ran for the last five years.  Those concerns and questions have been answered in the first few Preseason games - as Jamison, Blatche, Haywood and especially Fabricio Oberto have set very good screens.  No one has been called for an illegal screen and I haven't seen any poor execution yet from those players.  Nick Young, Randy Foye and Caron Butler have set some nice screens as well.

I have been impressed by Miller, Foye and Arenas coming off screens.  I am especially looking forward to seeing Arenas with the ball in his hands to start every play.  There are a ton of opportunities for the PG to score or get an assist in this offense.  Nick Young is learning to come off screens (Hamilton-like), and has looked impressive at times.  I've seen Jamison, Haywood, Blatche and Oberto get good open looks from Hawk plays during the preseason games.  Caron Butler especially looks like he'll have a good year.  His game, more than anyone else's on the team except Arenas, is tailor made for the Hawk sets.

There are also a few players that I think may struggle within this offense.  JaVale McGee has a tendency to move on his picks.  He's also a bit impatient and doesn't always hold his position long enough, instead quickly rolling to the basket hoping for a lob.  Interestingly enough, even though Dominic McGuire is usually solid in the rest of his game, he's not a very good screener.  And although he's been working on his mid-range shot, McGuire has still been a bit erratic with it during preseason.  Deshawn Stevenson does not look comfortable coming off screens and shooting the basketball, probably because (like Nick Young), he's rarely had to do it in his career.

As we've seen during this series, the Hawk Set is a very versatile offensive scheme.  Because there are so few decisions to be made, It requires a minimal learning curve.  Most of the players on the roster seem to fit well in the offense - so I'm really looking forward to watching this team execute the Hawk this year.

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