Five Possessions: Washington Mystics SLOBs

By Randy Sherman

#FivePossessions – Five curated possessions from the Washington Mystics’ sideline out of bounds package featuring Elena Della Donne.

Washington Mystics forward Elena Della Donne just became the WNBA’s first ever 50/40/90 player. This elite club is comprised of players who shot at or above 50% total from the field, 40% from three and 90% from the free throw line for the season.

Stephen Curry, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are among the NBA members of this club. Until this season, no WNBA player had accomplished the feat.

With a scorer like Della Donne on the roster, it’s no wonder the Mystics make her the focal point of their sideline out of bounds package. The Mystics view these “set pieces” as an opportunity to get Della Donne a shot. The video below features five possessions in which Della Donne scores from sideline out of bounds (SLOB).

In the most prominent example from their SLOB package, the Mystics use “zipper” action to inbound then set a down screen for Della Donne. The first three possessions in the video above show Della Donne adjusting her cut to counter the defense in Box Zipper.

Della Donne would be Player 4 in the diagram above. After the zipper entry, Player 2 down screens for Della Donne who reads the defender and makes the corresponding cut as depicted in the first three possessions of the video above. Upon receiving the down screen, Della Donne:

  • straight cuts when her defender is taken out by the screen
  • out cuts when her defender goes under the screen
  • curls when her defender trails her cut

Della Donne’s ability to read the screen is what makes this simple down screen effective. This all plays a part in the 50/40/90 formula.

The Mystics are pursuing a WNBA title as the top seed. As of post time of this article, they hold a 1-0 semifinal series lead over the Las Vegas Aces after a narrow 97-95 victory in Game One. They are built to play uptempo basketball with a roster of  multi-dimensional players like Della Donne.

With opponents’ game plans geared to stop Della Donne, situational basketball (like sideline out of bounds) in close contests may prove to be the difference in fulfilling championship dreams or falling short of the regular season promise.

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
August 26, 2018 – Atlanta, GA, U.S. – ATLANTA, GA Ð AUGUST 26: Washington’s Elena Delle Donne (11) looks to pass the ball while defended by Atlanta’s Jessica Breland (51) during the WNBA semi-final playoff game between Atlanta and Washington on August 26th, 2018 at Hank McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, GA. The Washington Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream by a score of 87 Ð 84. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Rich Von Biberstein/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

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