During the fourth quarter of the game against the Rockets, the Wizards broke out a new look to get the ball to Bradley Beal. The set looks a bit like their commonly used horns set, but there are a couple differences. Let’s take a look at how the play is set up and how it benefits the Wizards.
This play differs from horns in a few ways. First, Beal and one of the bigs change places. Beal sets up at the free throw line, and a big man moves to the corner. The other difference is that the small forward positions himself on the wing instead of the corner; we’ll talk about that a bit.
After John Wall makes the entry pass to Beal, the big man at the free throw line sets a ball screen for Beal. A screen at this spot on the floor is particularly difficult to defend because it’s so close to the basket. It’s almost impossible for the defense to treat it like a normal perimeter pick-and-roll because there’s not enough time to wait for Beal’s man to fight through the screen and recover to the ball. Therefore, this screen should usually force a switch.
In the plays below, you can see what happens when the Rockets don’t switch on the screen. The big man gets a free roll to the basket, and Beal (despite some fumbling) is able to get him the ball for a layup. In these instances, the help defenders choose not to leave their assignments.
On this next play, the perimeter help defender (Chandler Parsons) chooses to drop down to prevent the big man’s roll to the hoop. Even though he bricks the shot, putting Trevor Ariza on the wing opens up the offense on this play.
If Ariza was in the corner, Parsons could drop down to help and still be a threat in Beal’s passing lane. Since the defender comes from the wing, Beal has an easier passing angle and the rolling big man can serve as a screener to stop any closeout attempt. For an inexperienced ball-handler like Beal, it’s important to simplify his decisions.
Finally, we can see how the Wizards handle a switching defense. Since the switch is occurring between a guard and a big man, there should be two mismatches on the floor: Beal driving against a slower defender and Nene/Okafor posting up a smaller defender. In this first play, the Wizards get their mismatch, but can’t get the ball into the post quickly enough to keep the mismatch. In the second clip, Beal overdribbles a bit, but doesn’t force the issue. After some impromptu screening by Nene, Beal ends up with an open three.
Although Beal looked a bit hesitant at times, the Wizards scored on four out of five possessions with him in the high post. With more experience, Beal will make quicker decisions and crisper passes and this play will look even better.