“Winner” (Brad Stevens set)

Term: “Winner” (Brad Stevens set)

Definition: a late-game SLOB (sideline out of bounds) play that culminates in a flare screen for a 3-point opportunity near the weakside wing

How It Works:

Brad Stevens’s “Winner” set typically starts in a Box alignment, with a player at each box and Elbow, but no matter where the players begin, the play has two main components:

  1. a cross screen for a player (usually a big) to cut from the strongside box to the weakside box or midpost area, where he receives the in-bounds pass
  2. a flare screen for the player at the near Elbow to cut to the far wing, where he receives a pass for a 3

The beauty of the play is that it exploits defenders’ natural instinct to watch the ball — especially the defenders who are guarding the player setting the flare screen and the player using the flare screen. The risky nature of the in-bounds pass is precisely why the play works; if the help defenders can steal that pass, the play is dead in its tracks. However, watching that pass skip over their heads compromises their defense on the subsequent flare screen.

As a result, the timing of that flare screen is key. That screen should be set while the in-bounds pass is still in the air. Many defenses at all levels tell their defenders to switch every screen in late-game situations like this one. If the flare screen is preoccupied with the ball, he cannot switch onto the eventual shooter:

This example of “Winner” from the Minnesota Timberwolves uses screen-the-screener action to get Karl-Anthony Towns the in-bounds pass (and help disguise the play, which has become very common in the NBA and college). He sets a zipper/down screen for Anthony Edwards (green) and then receives a cross screen (light blue):

However, Edwards gets over eager and starts making his flare cut too early; he’s ahead of Towns, not behind him:

However, Edwards recognizes his mistake and slows down to fake a cut backwards and set up the flare screen, which gets him a decent look for a 3:

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