Brad Stevens, the Young Jedi Master

How can you tell a good basketball coach from a great one? The best coaches can draw up plays during timeouts and create scoring opportunities for their team. These After TimeOut (ATO) plays can be the difference between winning and losing. Coaches like Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, and Doc Rivers are the modern day Jedi Masters when it comes to these plays.

There are three different components that go into a great ATO play.

  • First, there is more than one option. A good defense take away the first option, which is why great ATOs have a second and third option.
  • Second, it has misdirection or uses a decoy. An action that sets up a defense with a cut or screen that requires them to react leaving them vulnerable elsewhere.
  • Third, it’s a play that can be run over and over again with getting different shots within it.

A new coach, a young Jedi, Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics has awakened the Force. In his 3rd year in the NBA, Stevens is beginning to look like the next Jedi Master. He guided the Celtics to a playoff berth and 40 wins in just his second year in the NBA. Stevens’ Celtics often come out of timeouts with a play to be run that hits all the components of a great ATO. It was very evident in a recent game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Out of a timeout he drew up a play and got two good looks from it.

The play begins with Evan Turner handing the ball off to Jonas Jerebko and cutting to the hoop for a lob after getting a back screen from Kelly Olynyk. It is such a good screen, Olynyk’s defender has to go with Turner for a second. Even the weakside defender has to at least take a step towards Turner. Jae Crowder remains lifted up the strong side free throw line extended to take his defender out of the low help position. As all of this attention is being paid to the cutter, Olynyk is looking to set a screen for rookie sharp shooter RJ Hunter. No one is within 3 feet of Hunter when he comes off the pindown screen, it’s an automatic 2 points.

The very next Celtic offensive possession, they run it again with a twist.

The play is exactly the same; handoff to Jerebko, Turner cuts off the back screen, this time the Bucks defenders are aware Turner is the decoy and this play is for Hunter. The defender trails Hunter coming off the screen, and Olynyk’s defender steps up to make sure to get a hand in his face. As soon as Hunter comes off the screen, Olynyk slips out to the three-point line. Hunter makes a quick read and passes without hesitation. Olynyk has an open shot if he wants, but in this clip he chooses to pump fake and drive for a jumper on the baseline.

This play has all the components of a great ATO.

  • Multiple options, its first option is a lob for Turner that leads right into the second and third option.
  • Misdirection/Decoy, the first option also serves as the misdirection for the second option and in the second example, the second option serves as a decoy for the third option.
  • They were able to run this two times in a row to get two open shots from different parts of the floor.

One play in two possessions leads to four points, and this is a sample of what Stevens’ has in his arsenal. This play proves that the Force is strong in Brad Stevens.

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