The San Antonio Spurs have long been known for their offensive innovation. Ok, they’ve long been known for being sort of boring, inspiring a public desire to disprove the belief that the Spurs are boring. But the focus here is not on the counter-culture insistence recently developed in the basketball community on disproving non-existent, or at least unimportant, narratives. Instead, let us appreciate the offensive machine that is the San Antonio Spurs.
In addition to their motion offense, the Spurs often run variations of the “Loop” set. The Loop is focused on a player starting from one wing, running across a series of screens, and curling back up towards the other side. This action often flows directly into a pick and roll or pin down type play, but can lead to many different offensive opportunities.
By adjusting the position and timing of the initial and final screens, San Antonio can set up curls into the lane and post up opportunities. Like most things consistently broadcasted on national television, the Loop is no secret. San Antonio relies on a series of read and react counters to take advantage of defenses overplaying an expected action, as displayed here (0:33 in the video above).
San Antonio has used the Loop set to take advantage of Miami’s aggressive trapping style on pick and rolls. LeBron James is forced to pick up Tim Duncan as Chris Bosh traps the screen for Tony Parker. Wade then picks up LeBron’s man, leaving Mike Miller to defend both Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, eventually resulting in a wide-open corner three.
The New Orleans Pelicans hope to compete for a playoff spot next season. Last season, the then-Hornets, admittedly hampered by Eric Gordon injuries, scored 105.7 points per 100 possessions, 16th in the league. While the more significant issue was the 28th ranked defense, New Orleans should look to improve its offensive execution, especially in the half-court, to maximize the chances of a playoff appearance.
The Loop set is definitely not a singular answer to any of the Pelican’s offensive troubles. Any barely decent offense has variation, and the team personnel may not fit this San Antonio set. However, New Orleans should use San Antonio’s commitment to putting players in position to succeed while limiting the exposure of their weaknesses as a model of organizational excellence, and aspire to create an offensive system that is equally conducive to success.