Basketball Game Film Breakdown

May 10, 2016
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One of our Basketball Immersion members asked how do you break down basketball game film in the off-season?

I initially started to type a response about what I do to watch video in the off-season (my thoughts with examples of how to break down basketball game film with be in Part 2 of this blog). Instead I thought it would be best to get a cross-section of coaches to provide their thoughts on the question. I contacted men’s and women’s coaches from the high school, college and pro game to get more insight on what coaches do to watch video in the off-season.

The Value of Video Analysis (1)

How do you approach watching tape in the offseason?

Bill Pangos @BillPangos Just Hoops Basketball Academy Head Coach (Retired from York Lions)

My video breakdowns don’t always have a basketball analytics take to them, but more in terms of the breakdown of actions we run and how well we execute them.

For example, I would edit clips of ball screen action from both wings, and the high rub at the top, and then review whether we are reading the defensive players (on the ball and off the ball) properly or are we predetermining our decisions. Reading early is something we emphasize with players. My players didn’t have vast amounts of experience. Also, I analyzed our draw and kick actions. Especially off ball spacing which is crucial and whether we applied the 3 P’s (Penetrate, Pass, Pass).

Key Takeaway: Evaluate your team’s reads within your offense use video.

Mike MacKay @MackaymjMichael Performance Manager, Women’s High Performance for Basketball Canada

I usually have some topic of interest that I am looking at. For example, let us say it is rebounding and safeties when a shot is taken. I would then clip the video to give me the instances I am looking for. I would then take a pen and paper and make a chart of each possession. In the columns I would start to put the variables I would be considering. Position, location of shot, location of rebound, rebound gained, run out by the offense. Usually as I watch the clips I add columns as something comes up I never thought of before. As you start to make the ticks in the boxes patterns start to emerge. This usually forms a hypothesis. I would then go and test this in other videos.

Here is a blank version of a chart Coach MacKay created:

Basketball Video Chart

Key Takeaway: Chart your video breakdown to investigate potential patterns.

Matt Driscoll @UNFBBALL Head Coach, University of North Florida

I’ll do several things in the off season with video starting with picking a team to watch that I feel has the same style of players and philosophy. For example I watched Davidson last summer because of how they push and play. I learned 2-3 things that we actually incorporated in our stuff and we showed those clips to the guys. We come up with maybe 5-7 final clips (clean and accurate) and show exactly what we are trying to do. In the case of showing ball movement or player movement then we will clip 2-3 minutes of play so that players can get a feel for the different advantages that are gained from playing that way.

I know many coaches pick a particular trend (i.e. TOs in the half-court) or watch a team that they believe does a good job at one aspect (i.e. offensive rebounding). Even more critical is that you are watching a similar type of athleticism because you can watch Baylor and say let’s play a 2-3 zone, but the biggest key is their long players across the back line. If you don’t have those players you won’t be as effective.

I’ll clip the action or concept from game to game usually 5-6 games of league opponents or non-conference teams I have a feel for. Then I’ll re-watch the clips together from all games gaining a better understanding of the why a team does something. I will also scout league opponents for advanced scouting purposes to evaluate what we have done against them, and what we can do in the future.

Key Takeaway: Watch teams and players that provide realistic ideas that you can use and apply.

Guy Molloy – Director of Coaching VIC Campus Australian College of Sport (Basketball Program) and Former National Team Head Coach

I dig deeply into 1-2 programs/coaches/philosophies. I am more interested in programs that have greater obstacles to overcome (small, fewer resources, have to teach, have to execute etc.) because that emulates my club’s situation. Last year I spent our entire winter watching Davidson and Bob McKillop tapes.

I am not looking for a complete overhaul but perhaps 3-6 transferable truths.

I took about 12-15 Davidson games and edited these like a scout opponent.  From these I created a few movies on separate parts of their offence – Transition Offense (+Counters & Specials), Half-court Offence (+counters & specials), Out of Bounds, Press Attack etc.  My offensive priorities are based around shooting, skill development, & continuity for all players.

Given that Davidson had amazing shooting and efficiency I took their 2014-15 stats and did my own basic analytics to see what my team would have to accomplish to meet their standards e.g. How many free throws as a % of total shots, how many 3’s as a % of total shots, balance of scoring, turnover % etc.  This was an excellent comparative guide.

Here is an example of one of Coach Molloy’s Davidson Breakdowns:

Key Takeaway: Edit games like you are preparing for an opponent and remember you cannot use all that you learn. 

Allison McNeill @AllisonMcNeill Former Canadian National Team Coach and University Coach for 20 years (SFU & Oregon)

We looked at things to be better as a team… reduce TO’s, decrease score backs, execute better at the end of the shot clock. I watched video in the off-season and specifically looked at our systems… sometimes charting scores off specific sets or actions in our motion.

I also liked to watch with players in the off-season so that they could see things they needed to work on.  I tried to put clips together for each player in the off-season.

With the National Team we looked at our stops-score backs (we scored and they scored on the next play) and our possessions late in the shot clock.

Here are a few slides from a presentation to the Canadian Women’s National Team prior to the Olympic Qualifier in 2012 and after the World Championships in 2011 to explain the Score Backs Concept:

Score Backs

Key Takeaway: Use detailed film and data to make points to your team about what drives success.

Zak Bosivert @ZakBoisvert @PickAndPopNet Assistant Coach, University of Maine

I was heavily encouraged by Tom Crean to spend time as a young coach watching film. Many young coaches were intimidated by film and I agree with that sentiment as I was very intimidated at first. I didn’t know what to watch, what to look for, etc.. I made a decision when I was in college to watch one hour of film every day. It’s now as much a part of my daily routine as exercise and sleep. Dick Whitmore encouraged me to start a writing notebook. I use one of those old marble “science lab notebooks” and the 16 I’ve gone through are some of my most cherished possessions.

Crean’s encouragement to watch film was simply to find film of good coaches and write down what you see. It might not make a ton of sense, but just stick with it. It’s hilarious the growth you make. Two months ago I was looking at my notes and diagrams from when I first started watching film and laughing about it. I look back at my notebooks from three years ago almost sheepishly. Just stick with it, keep watching.

I’ll pay attention to statistics and note if a team is performing very well. I’ll lean on Ken Pomeroy’s statistics for these metrics. I’m not watching every team, but if there’s a high-performing team in one of the categories, it might pique my interest and I’ll pull up their offensive clips (or defensive clips). During the season, I’m always noting a set play that I catch and will save it in my notepad on my phone. Same thing goes for if a buddy says something like “Watch Iowa’s ball screen defense.” I’ll make a note and during the off-season I’ll go through that document and start sorting it all out.

The key is chunking information. The key to knowledge that is quickly-fetched at a moment’s notice is being able to “chunk” information into simpler terms. Expert chess players don’t just memorize the pieces, they recognize common patterns within the game of chess and “chunk” that information. It’s the same thing that allows you to visualize the action when I see the “Carolina break.” I don’t need to describe how the ball is reversed or the positioning of the 1, the 2, etc, as I have chunked all the information that the label “Carolina Break” encapsulates. (Read more on Chunking – Expert Memory: What Can Memory Experts Teach Us?)

Chunking What and WhyThe key is turning this into terminology. The most frequent questions I get are questions regarding my terminology (Why is it called that? Is that what everyone calls it? Where do you get the play names?). I took that thinking about chunking and decided terminology would make it a lot easier. If I saw something enough that I felt it was a trend or something I would be seeing I would try to figure out if it had a name. If I couldn’t find a name, I made one up. Everyone is kind of mystified by this, but to be honest, I think this is the key to my ability to understand a multitude of actions (this combined with the chunking). Frankly I do not care if my term isn’t the industry term. As long as I know it, it’s all that matters (the thing will be transferring this to my program as a head coach. How intricate would I want to get with this?”) I kept on seeing the Bulls set a down screen for Derrick Rose into a handoff so I called it the “Chicago Action.”

Note: We do this with scouting as well as we don’t care what our opponent calls a play, we call it and call out what we call it when we recognize it.

Categories: I have 2 thousand plus edits. Many are dedicated to my job (scouting reports of specific teams over the years), but many are my personal. Among my categories: Gonzaga ball screens, CP3 hook passes, dribbling to elbow to post feed when sagging off, versus switching, zone sets, lob plays versus man, sideline to get in, Joe Johnson iso moves. I’m constantly breaking my stuff down into these categories.

Say I’m looking at a team’s defense. I’ll want to watch a game where they charted very well PPP, a game where they didn’t, a game against an offensive coach I really respect, etc.

I like to watch all of a given team’s offensive possessions to understand/grasp what they’re doing. I don’t like just watching “off screens” or “after timeouts” or “scores.” Although, loading the previous night’s ATO sets in the NBA onto your iPad is a great thing to do before getting on the bus.

I’m always asking people “what have you seen that’s good?” or “Who runs good BLOB in your league?” or “Who’s hardest to scout in your league?” and will take that info for my film study in the offseason.

Key Takeaway: Becoming effective at breaking down video is mainly a function of effort and practice. Create your own terminology that helps you “chunk” play actions.

Bobbie Kelsey @BobbieKelsey Former Head Coach University of Wisconsin Women’s Basketball

Watching video is always something I have personally enjoyed. I tend to watch not only my team but teams of coaches I admire and have a shared philosophy in offensive and defensive strategies.  Last season I watched every game of the Davidson men’s team.  I thought their offense would be something my kids would enjoy running and that fit our personnel.  We had good success with it.

I do not clip specific trends as I prefer to look at the whole game to see trends and nuances of the game but some coaches do track specific trends.  For the team I do clip specific video to hammer a point home and will usually show the players other teams or players successfully doing what we would like them to do.  I think it is really helpful for everyone to see what they are doing well and areas of improvement.  Hope this helps and again sorry for the delay.

I was interested in particular fundamental teachings that transferred well to Davidson’s play.  The things I really noticed were their guards’ use of a skate/slide dribble in transition, hip-to-hip rips when attacking on the first step, and their push or shoulder passing combined with pivoting.  These are all subtle skills, but in my mind the product of strong teaching.

Key Takeaway: Looking for the fundamentals that create a successful system are as important as the system itself.

Coach Gibson Pyper – Creator of @HalfCourtHoops and The Basketball Playbook

My view on watching film in the off-season is based on two variables: improving your team for the next season and improving yourself as a coach. When you work on film for your team I would suggest that you know the personnel you have coming back but maintain flexibility. So if you have a very good post player, you want to seek out teams that do a good job creating and finding ways to get the ball in the post easier. At the same time you want to be able to score in multiple ways, so learning sets with a post entry or playing out of the post can be important as well. Think of the Golden State Warriors, who often enter the ball in the post and play off it with Split Cuts. This can be used as a set, or as a great way to free up the player in the post to be able to attack without any help. I typically write down everything, no matter how insignificant it might seem. The more data I can have at my disposal the better the coach I think I can be and that involves film. Watching film allows the game to slow down for you as a coach and especially if you can find tendencies that help your team get better. I have a list of coaches, both NCAA and NBA, that I take pieces from to build my coaching philosophy. Even though I have my own philosophy, I need to be flexible enough to mold and bend what I want to do for the team I have, and that is where delving into film can help.

Here is an example of one of Coach Pyper’s Breakdowns

When you are watching film for the next season for your team here are a couple of things I look for:

1) What did you do well?

When you ran your motion did the team look to play together, did it stop and if so, where did it stop? When you ran your sets did they work? Why or Why Not? How can you ensure they work in the future, was it the set that didn’t work or was the execution of the set that caused it to fail? As a team did you execute late? Did you have to call timeouts at the end of games or did you let the team play – were you prepared either way?

2) What did you do poorly?

What did you struggle with, find tendencies and scout yourself. The best way to get better is to find out what you would do against yourself and fix it. If you know how you can be beat, then you can make the adjustments and correct some of the negatives.

3) When everything was going against you, what were the top sets/actions you ran to get momentum back?

Did you have a go to set/action you ran when you needed a basket? What did your team do when you needed a basket or to stop the run?

When you are watching film for the next season for yourself a couple of thinks I look for:

1) What are my weaknesses as a coach?

Do you struggle against a zone, trapping, or particular type of defense. Do types of sets or actions cause you to give up easy layups? Find coaches or teams who have done well, like teams attacking Syracuse’s 2-3 zone if you struggle against zone defenses. Chart what they did to score – did the ball touch the high post/short corner/# of passes to find out how teams score against zone defenses and add that to your zone motion.

2) What do I do well as a coach?

What do you do well, if you know you do great against zone, but struggle against man find out why. Why did you struggle, not enough passes? Wrong motion, not effective sets? Why did you succeed? Did you score every time you set a flare screen? Did you score more if you got the ball in the post, or did you score alot off dribble penetration. Knowing those tendencies are just as important as knowing what you did not do well.

3) How can I find 3-5 sets that will work for next season?

Finding sets that worked with multiple options are key. If you know you score off a flare screen effectively, try to find sets with flare screens in them. Knowing what you do and don’t do well is important for this, as you can avoid the actions you struggle with and build sets to your strengths.

4) How can I advance my coaching philosophy?

This is what you want to get better at. Watch things you want to look for and build into what you can add to your philosophy. If you like to press, find teams that broke the press well so you can build your defense to combat them, since other coaches will be looking to get better too. If you can see trends and ways to improve before other coaches can, you will be ahead of the game. This is really where you study what you want to know more about, deciding how to add to your coaching philosophy is key, as getting both you and your team better is vital every season.

After knowing all of this information, you can then build what you want to watch. Knowing what you can and cannot do, builds into how you approach film. In the off-season I choose 2 things to work on, one on offense and one on defense. If you can be an expert in those two areas and build them into your philosophy for next season, your team will improve. After the two major things to work on for your team, add film work to how you see fit. Improving on zone, press defense, or backdoor sets or what you choose to try and add to your coaching playbook can give you a full arsenal to attack opposing teams.

Key Takeaway: Write down everything, ask yourself honest questions about what you do and remember you can use specific actions from a play instead of adopting a play as a whole.

Check out Part 2 of this series on Basketball Game Film Breakdown discussing How to Download and Edit Basketball Games here: Part 2 Download and Edit Basketball Games

Thanks to to the generosity of all the coaches who #sharedthegame with us. Please tweet them your appreciation.

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