Throughout the 2020-2021 EuroLeague season, one of the most interesting teams to watch from a tactical perspective is Barcelona. Head Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius has brought a new approach offensively to the club, which has helped the team be at the top of the standings in the EuroLeague. The sets and actions implemented by the club allow players the freedom to make decisions and reads in order to best be able to punish the defense. We are going to examine three different facets of the Barcelona offence while providing details regarding their execution and possible ways to teach these reads and actions using guided decisions and small sided games.
Attacking the Post Front
One area that Sarunas Jasikevicius emphasizes attacking is the post front. Anytime that the post is fronted, the weak side player (regardless of position) looks to flash into the high post. The low post player who is being fronted should not fight the front, but rather seal on the inside of his man using a post pin. The high post flash is done in order to remove the weak side help defender to open up space for the post pin while creating a better passing angle.
The key teaching point to executing this automatic is for the low post player to hold space. By being low and using the outside arm and leg (closest to the defender) to “pin” the defender, the offensive player creates a larger passing window. This allows the passer to throw a leading pass to the rim, leading to higher efficiency shots for the offence. As well, it is important that the player at the 45 holds that space. If the player drifts to the corner, the defender can be in help and disrupt the pass or help at the rim.
Teaching the Concepts
A possible way to teach the details above is to script the read 3-on-3. This can be done by only allowing the defender to front the post, cueing a flash from the weak side player. Guided decisions can then be incorporated in order for players to be able to recognize what coverage the defense is using and execute the proper solution. By randomizing the situation, players will be able to improve decision making. A set of possible guided decisions could include:
A) Defender Fronts or 3’4 Denies the Post – Cues a flash from the weak side player and post pin by the post player.
B) Defender Plays Behind the Post – Hold space and open passing window on the weak side or ghost cut if defender is ball watching or above the offensive player. If the dunker spot is filled, emphasize the post reaction.
C) Defender Plays Behind the Post and Help Engages or Traps – The weak side player must open a passing window by moving so that the post player can see them.
A possible load includes adding an additional player on the weak side to make it 4-on-4. The additional player would be looking to make these reads in each of the guided decisions above:
A) Defender Fronts or 3’4 Denies the Post – Hold space at the 45 in order for his defender to stay high or to create an easier skip pass.
B) Defender Plays Behind the Post – Hold space on the weak side or ghost cut if defender is ball watching or above the offensive player.
C) Defender Plays Behind the Post and Help Engages or Traps – Punish the “take two” defender. For example, this could involve separating from the corner to stretch the “take two” defender
Further loads could include an additional cognitive load by incorporating a dynamic start. For example, a dynamic start that fits well is what Mike MacKay of Basketball Canada calls the “Korea Start.”
Empty Cross Screen Down Screen Action
An action that Sarunas Jasikevicius uses to attack through the post is Empty Cross Screen Down Screen. This action involves a 45 cut into a cross screen occurring at the same time as a drag screen. The cross screen occurring at the same time helps create a more efficient deep seal opportunity rather than post up. The player setting the cross screen then receives a pin down from the drag screener.
The first key detail is the timing of the cross screen. For the cross screen to occur simultaneously with the drag screen, the 45 cut must be before the drag screen occurs. The reason for the timing to be the same is so that the passer is able to create an angle to feed the player sealing deep.
Another key detail is for the player receiving the cross screen to be slow through the paint. By being slow moving through the paint, it will create more opportunities for a deep seal, rather than lower efficiency post up. A key teaching point is for the cutter to be wide and low while moving through the paint in order to seal the defender and to show hands to be an available receiver.
A final key detail is for the passer to be able to throw leading passes. This pass will mainly be available if the cutter’s defender gets held up on the screen. If the space is available for the cutter to catch on the move, throwing leading passes can lead to deeper catches.
Teaching the Concepts
The cross screen action initially is taught 3 on 3 using guided decisions. The initial ball handler would have a constraint that they must skate dribble in order to create an angle to make the entry pass. A possible set of guided decisions are:
A) Defender Goes Under – Cutter is slow through the paint and looks to seal deep.
B) Defender Goes Over – The cutter is faster through the paint and looks to post up at the block.
C) Defender Top Blocks – The cutter turns and seals on the first side.
A possible load is to play live 4-on-4 by including the drag screener. The emphasis is the same as above, however the ball handler must now read whether the screeners’ defender is helping on the cross screen. If the defender helps, this can create an advantage for the shooter coming off the pin down.
Learn more about Sarunas Jasikevicius Barcelona basketball offensive plays in this full edit with additional plays and concepts explained.