NBA offenses can’t stand still. Game film piles up, and eventually opposing defenses start to adapt. That adaptation forces coaches to work in new wrinkles, which Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts has slowly done during his six seasons in Rip City.
One of my favorite additions to Stotts’ Flow offense has been the usage of split cuts.
Split cuts became well known in modern NBA offenses thanks in part to the Golden State Warriors, who use them to counteract defenders playing too high on screens for shooters.
Stotts added split cuts into Portland’s offense a couple of years ago, and they allow the Blazers guards to get easy baskets at the rim and create gravity to open up the 3-point arc.
The basic idea of a split cut is pretty simple. It involves having a screener cut to the basket quickly after setting a screen on an opposing player, usually a shooter. They look very similar to backdoor cuts, because that’s essentially what they are.
At their core, split cuts are dummy screens for 3-point shots. A player moves toward a teammate to give him a screen, presumably to get that player a shot at the arc. If the defense jumps high to defend that 3-point shot, the screener then cuts toward the basket just a touch early and usually has an open look at the rim.
Split cuts aren’t the most common movement in Portland’s offense, but they are interesting in that they are an effective counter to teams overplaying the Blazers at the 3-point line because of their shooting.
If Stotts can get the team to become a 3-point juggernaut this season, I’ll be interested to see how he works split cuts into the offense as teams start to gather film and create gameplans to force Portland off the arc.
Watch the full video above to see how split cuts work in action, and look for new adaptations of this theory as the season goes on in Portland.
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