San Antonio’s Influence on NBA X’s & O’s

By Gibson Pyper

The San Antonio Spurs have been the standard of success in the NBA for the last 15 years under head coach Gregg Popovich. Their Motion Offense has been so good that almost every team in the NBA has implemented and found success running parts of it. Two of the most prolific offenses in the 2014-15 NBA Season were the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors, both of which relied heavily on the actions that the Spurs Motion Offense is built upon. Mike Budenholzer, the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, is a disciple of Gregg Popovich and has implemented the Spurs Offense for them and found tremendous success in turning the Hawks into a top 5 offense. Designed to make the defense defend the entire possession, the San Antonio Spurs Offense is built around shooters and motion to continuously have counters to everything the defense adjusts to take away.

The San Antonio Spurs have two basic options for their Motion Offense, called Motion Weak and Motion Strong. Taking a look at their Motion Weak, it starts with the point guard passing to the wing and cutting through the lane to the opposite wing. The ball is reversed through the trailing big, and the weakside guard cuts into the lane to set a cross screen for the first big man down the floor. After the reversal, the point guard looks to enter the ball into the post, if the post is covered then the guard who screened across receives a down screen from the big at the top of the key.

San Antonio Spurs “Motion Weak”


San Antonio Spurs – Motion Weak





The 2015 NBA Champions Golden State Warriors relied heavily on the Spurs Motion Weak action to flow into their Horns offense and create easy chances. Instead of screen the screener action, they ran it into Horns and had sets out of that. Here is video of Golden State’s “Elbow Series:”


This has been the most popular action that teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Golden State Warriors have all incorporated into their half court offense (All of these teams were in the top 5 for offensive ratings in the 2014-15 NBA Season). This set has been very effective for the San Antonio Spurs, and multiple teams have created counters out of this action, creating easy scoring chances.


“Motion Weak Counters”


San Antonio Spurs – Motion Weak Backdoor






Memphis Grizzlies – Motion Weak Backdoor





San Antonio Spurs – Motion Weak Double




San Antonio Spurs – Motion Weak Thunder




Golden State Warriors – Motion Weak Fist





The next action of the San Antonio Spurs Motion Offense is their Motion Strong series. Instead of point guard passing to the wing, he passes to trailing big who reverses to opposite wing, on this reversal the first big man in the post follows the ball. After, both the point guard and big set a double stagger screen for the guard on opposite wing, coming to look for a shot. If no shot is there, then it flows into Horns and they have multiple options out of this, they can go into a double screen, a pindown into a dribble hand off and multiple flex options off of it. With this typically you will see the point guard coming up the floor holding up his bicep and flexing, hence the “Strong.”


San Antonio Spurs Motion Strong


San Antonio Spurs – Motion Strong





The last part of their motion offense is called “Down One” where a pindown screen is set for the point guard to come off looking for a shot, then flowing into 2-man game with bigs at the elbows. This is an action the Atlanta Hawks have really focused on with their version of this motion, emptying the wing and playing a 2-man game with the big at the elbow.


San Antonio Spurs Down One


Atlanta Hawks – Down One





The San Antonio Spurs run a very good set that is called “Loop” in which the point guard passes to a guard who cuts off a zipper screen to the top of the key. The Point Guard then runs off a triple screen while reading the defense, and can reject and turn it into a floppy set to come off either side. This year, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors ran this set very effectively, as well as many other teams who run nice counters and options off of it.


San Antonio Spurs Loop


Golden State Warriors – Loop




Phoenix Suns – Loop Flare




The San Antonio Spurs run alot of their action and sets out of a zipper cut, as well as most of the NBA. It has become almost as common as a ballscreen, with most sets involving a zipper cut, this is a great counter to it. Instead of cutting off the zipper cut and receiving the pass, the big opens up to the corner and the guard cuts backdoor for a layup.


San Antonio Spurs Zip Backdoor


San Antonio Spurs – Zip Backdoor




Looking at a couple of sets the San Antonio Spurs run, the one with the most impact has been the “Hammer Set.” This set is pretty common in today’s NBA and NCAA, as almost every team runs it either after time outs or at the end of games. There are many variations and different teams run it in different ways, but the goal is simple: to get a 3 point shot on the baseline or on the throwback when a team is not prepared for it.


San Antonio Spurs Hammer


Here is every Hammer Set from the 2014-15 NBA Season:


San Antonio Spurs – Hammer





Another set that has become popular and run by the Golden State Warriors this year is a dribble hand off into screen the screener action. The ball is reversed to the big who dribble hand offs to opposite wing, the main guard (in most cases, a good shooter) screens across for the big low and then comes off down screen from the big who handed it off to the wing.


San Antonio Spurs DHO STS


Golden State Warriors – DHO STS





A pick and roll set designed to force the defense to guard a ballscreen with good spacing and a weakside flare screen is the set “Wedge Roll.” A guard screens for the big man and clears away, the big sets a ballscreen for the point guard who looks to attack. After the guard who screens for the big clears he comes off a flare screen from the other big, looking for a 3 point shot. Alot of counters can be run out of this, including Portland running a quick shot for a big man and a slip of the ballscreen into a post up.


San Antonio Spurs Wedge Roll


San Antonio Spurs – Wedge Roll





The San Antonio Spurs sideline out of bounds set is designed to do a couple things, first is to get a quick look for a 3 and then to have a guard come off a double screen looking for a shot. The Warriors ran it this year, looking to get a shot and then into a ballscreen to attack with an empty side, and the Hawks ran it to get a shot and then set a flare screen for Kyle Korver into a ballscreen.


San Antonio Spurs SLOB 3


Golden State Warriors – SLOB 3



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Creator/Owner of & half court hoops youtube channel. I love NBA & NCAA X's & O's and look to help coaches everywhere!

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March 12, 2015 – San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker drives past the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James as Tim Duncan and Timofey Mozgov track the play in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 12, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. The Cavaliers beat the Spurs, 128-125 in overtime. (Credit Image: © Bahram Mark Sobhani/ZUMA Wire)


  1. Riley said:

    Do you know what that song is on the Down One Spurs video? Just curious. This is awesome stuff thanks man!!