Offensive Actions Breakdown: Stagger Split

By Matt Wheeler

A great way to expand an offensive playbook is by focusing on the actions that make up specific plays. By breaking plays down to their individual components, players will become more proficient in executing the actions. This also gives the option of utilizing those actions in a variety of ways without players having to learn a completely new play. When players understand the basic action, executing it in a new situation will comes easier to them.

The stagger split action is a common action that NBA teams are using. It can be run as the entire play, or can be added in an initial action that sets it up. Here we will explore the different ways that NBA teams are using this action.

Click on the play name or diagram for a link to download it and view play video.

Stagger Split Action & Roles

In the stagger split action the player positions don’t matter as much as putting players with the right skill set in those positions. The play goes as follows: 1 and 4 set the stagger screen for 3; 3 curls around the screen from 1 and cuts to the basket; 1 then cuts off the down screen from 4 to receive the pass from 2.

  • 1 must be a shooter or playmaker. S/he will most likely get the ball to create a shot for her/himself or others.
  • 2 needs to be a good passer. S/he has to make the read and deliver the ball to the correct person.
  • 3 has to be an offensive threat, which forces the defense to have to provide help when cutting to the basket.
  • 4 is should be the best screener and must get 1 open on the down screen.
  • 5 needs to be put in a position where s/he create good floor spacing.


5 out Stagger Split

This is an example of the stagger split action being used as the entire play.  The Boston Celtics were in a 5 out formation and went to this action in an end of game situation in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals.


Pinch Post Stagger Split

The Golden State Warriors start this play with a pass to the 5 in the pinch post area. 1 follows the pass looking for a handoff. If that isn’t available 5 makes the read off of the stagger split action. This is especially effective for the Warriors when they put a great passer like Draymond Green at the 5 position.


PNP Stagger Split

This play is very similar to the previous one in that it sets up the passer to have the ball in the same area. The Utah Jazz started with a pick and pop to get the ball to 4 up top. He then looks to make a pass to the 2 (Gordon Hayward) where he can make a play.


Elbow Stagger Split

The Indiana Pacers summer league squad ran this play out of the elbow set designed to get 1 the ball off of a down screen. They started with an entry to 4 popping out from the elbow. 1 then cut to set the stagger split screen with 5.


Post Entry Stagger Split

The Golden State Warriors often utilize the stagger split action after making a post entry. It’s a great play to get the defense to guard multiple actions and get the ball back in your point guard’s hands for a shot. The double drag at the beginning of the play was a decoy action to get the ball into the post. After the post entry 1 & 5 set a staggered split screen for 2, who cut to the basket off of 1. 1 was getting overplayed on the screen from 5 and rejected the screen to go backdoor for a layup.



BLOB Stagger Split

The Boston Celtics are among multiple teams that use the stagger split action as a baseline out of bounds play. The play starts with a staggered screen with 1 & 5 screening for 2 at the free throw line. 2 curls around the first screen from 1 and cuts to the rim. 1 then turns around and cuts off of the screen from 5. 3 looks to pass to 2 at the rim, then 1 off of the screen. If those options aren’t available, 5 pops up top for a safety option. 4 stays in the corner for spacing.


View videos and download all diagrams from this article at the FastModel Sports PlayBank.

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Matt Wheeler

Matt Wheeler is currently an assistant coach for the women's basketball program at Daytona State College. Some of his primary responsibilities there include film breakdown and scouting. For the last 4 seasons he has helped to build a new program at Windermere High School, where they were able to reach the state final four in the school's second year of existence. Before that Coach Wheeler served 6 seasons at Olympia High School where he spent time as assistant boys varsity coach, head girls varsity coach, and head boys varsity coach. During his tenure there he saw 5 players reach the Division 1 level and 16 players receive basketball scholarships. Previously, Coach Wheeler was an assistant coach at Montverde Academy under then head coach Kevin Sutton. While at Montverde Academy he assisted with player development, conditioning programs and created team playbooks & scouting reports. Coach Wheeler's experience also includes winning the 2008 3A Girls Basketball Florida State Championship as an assistant at Bishop Moore Catholic High School. Coach Wheeler was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He got his coaching start at Cascade College where he was the student assistant for the women’s basketball program while also participating on the men’s JV basketball team. Coach Wheeler resides in Orlando, Florida with his wife Kiana and his baby girl Noa.

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One Comment;

  1. Rory Bell said:

    Great article very informative 🙂 i write about self-improvement and basketball over at- eep up the good work!