FastModel Friday: Top 5 NBA Sets

By Gibson Pyper

The NBA has reached the All-Star break and there has been a ton of great sets in the “first half” of the season. Looking through and finding the top five was extremely hard, mostly because I wanted all of them to be from Brad Stevens. The Boston Celtics head coach is one of my favorite coaches in the NBA, every aspect of the game he coaches well and is extremely good in special situations. A couple other coaches who have been outstanding this year have been Rick Carlisle of the Mavericks and Terry Stotts of the Trail Blazers. If you are studing the NBA, those should be the first teams you seek out and figure out what they are doing in their X’s & O’s.

#5 Boston Celtics – Zipper Horns Chicago

The first set we are going to look at is an end of half set the Celtics run to get Isaiah Thomas a shot going to his left hand. Isaiah Thomas brings the ball up and passes to 2 who zipper cuts lane line extended, then receives the pass and hits the elbow man opposite him. He then cuts over top as the opposite big screens away for Isaiah Thomas going to his left (helpful because he is left handed), and the big with the ball hands off to Isaiah Thomas for a quick shot.


#4 Dallas Mavericks – Flip Baseline Exit

Dallas runs a great set for some of their stretch 4’s and Chandler Parsons when they go small out of flip action. Flip action is the action in which a player receives the pass and then flips it right back to the player who passes it to him. After this initial action, the player who flipped it back receives a backscreen to the rim which is just decoy action. The big who sets the backscreen then receives the pass and hands it off to a guard on the wing cutting. The big then screens down for the stretch 4 who is under the rim to receive an open look coming off the baseline down screen.


#3 Washington Wizards – Slice Stagger Spain

One of my favorite actions is “Spain” action, which is my term for a backscreen for the player who just set a ballscreen. Randy Wittman has run about 6 different variations out of this concept, but we will look at the main one I think alot of teams could employ. Nearly every college team runs “Slice Stagger” action into a high ballscreen, and to add this wrinkle would be very effective as it has been for the Wizards this year.


# 2 Boston Celtics – Zipper Short Hand Off

The only reason this isn’t my number one set is because it is not as effective as the number one set, and it is not run as often. This is a great variation off of the “Fist Up Short” set the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash ran against teams that hard hedge. Instead of looking for the big on the roll, the “Short” man receives the pass and then hands it off to a guard. The best part is the guards are going to their strong hand attacking the rim, Isaiah Thomas to his left & Marcus Smart to his right.


#1 Los Angeles Clippers – 5 High Split

Pick & Roll set from the Los Angeles Clippers, very similar to stack action, the has been extremely effective at the end of games or when they need a score. JJ Redick stands at the free throw line, and is facing the point guard as DeAndre Jordan runs a circle around him and sets a high ballscreen for Chris Paul. Chris Paul attacks off the ballscreen as DeAndre rolls to the rim. The key here is JJ cuts up to the 3 point line and the guard who is the same side as DeAndre Jordan stays high to prevent his defender from helping, this results in a lot of layups and lobs for easy scores.


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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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  1. Mike B said:

    Is the Chicago moniker on #5 a reference to an action within the play or just who you saw the Celts use the play against?

    • Gibson Pyper said:

      “Chicago” action is just my term for a pindown into a dribble hand off. I learned it from a coaching associate that he termed after the Bulls and it stuck with me.