With 2:14 left in the first quarter Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol subbed in for Dewayne Dedmon. Gasol joined a lineup of Patty Mills at the 1, Manu Ginobili at the 2, Jonathon Simmons at the 3, Davis Bertans at the 4, and Gasol at the 5. With this lineup, the Spurs had a lineup that had shooting at four positions, while Simmons has the ability to create off the dribble.
On their first possession with this lineup, the Spurs used dribble drive action to get the Hornets’ defense moving, and after all five Spurs players had a role in moving either with or without the basketball, the defense eventually cracked and what took place was this open thrown down dunk by Bertans.
While the end result of the play became a highlight of Bertans’ career high 21-point game, when you really analyze what took place, you can see how many layers the play had underneath it to get Bertans to that point with an open dunk opportunity. After going back and analyzing the play, here’s a diagram I created to show how much action took place from the Spurs.
Because Gasol is a versatile big who can play both inside and outside, he can almost play like a wing on this play, as all five Spurs players spread out the offense and no one is in the paint. Roy Hibbert, the Hornets’ center, plays like a traditional center. For Hibbert to have to chase Gasol then keep an eye on all the cutting and dribble hand-off action, it becomes difficult, as he’s late on the play when Bertans is making his drive attempt for the dunk.
This motion based dribble drive attack on offense doesn’t allow for any stagnation from the Spurs’ offense, as three passes are made during the set, while all five players have a role in getting to different areas of the floor, while being responsible for some screening action off the ball.
On the next offensive possession for San Antonio, they continued to use the dribble drive action, but this time, after all five players touched the ball and four passes were made, it was Mills who was the recipient of an open shot when Charlotte’s defense cracked, as he nailed the mid-range jumper.
The play diagram below shows how the play was developed.
Again, this a possession that is made effective by San Antonio because of Gasol’s versatility to almost play like a wing from the outside. The Spurs start with a five-out set, so no defensive big is waiting in the paint. When you re-watch the tape, you’ll see that Gasol rolled after handing off to Mills. There might have been a chance Mills could have passed to Gasol for a layup or dunk, since Hibbert was late scrambling to recover back onto Gasol.
While these were just two plays that worked for San Antonio against Charlotte, they do show the Spurs’ versatility they can use with different personnel on the floor. If Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are in the game, maybe San Antonio looks for more pick-and-roll/pop action. If it’s LaMarcus Aldridge, maybe the Spurs seek the post-up. But, when all three are off the floor and the Spurs have a spread out attack like they did late in the first quarter Saturday, they can go to the dribble drive offense to try to produce effective results.