This Sixers’ SOB keeps Defenses guessing

The Philadelphia 76ers run one of the best Side Out of Bounds (SOBs) plays in the NBA. It is generally run out of the same formation with several different options built in and they are able to tweak it depending on the situation. Teams run different SOBs plays with different goals, some just want to get the ball inbounded to get into one of their normal sets, others use it as an opportunity to score.

The Sixers are ranked in fourth in Points Per Possession (PPP) on SOBs at 0.973 behind the Celtics (0.976), Bucks (0.996), and Cavaliers (1.067). They are well above the league average of PPP on SOBs 0.897. The Sixers SOB generally starts out the same each time but gives the defense a different look each time. The diagram below illustrated how they start out and it should be noted with the way the NBA is played now and with how versatile the Sixers are, the players are very interchangeable.

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The play starts with a hawk cut off of the screen from the big man with a pindown on the weakside to take away the help defense. They consistently get either a basket or foul on this first option whether the guard cuts towards the inside like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot does here or when Jerryd Bayless cuts on the towards the outside. It is a simple cut that seems to catch the defense off-guard and works because the big does not want to leave Joel Embiid so if a solid screen is set it’s an open look. In addition, if the guard’s defender tries to cheat the screen early like when Russell Westbrook does in the last example. Robert Covington makes a great read and pops back to get a wide-open look off the inbound pass.

If they are not able to get the first option out of the SOB, the big pops out after setting the hawk screen to get the ball, in this case, Embiid, and will swing the ball to the guard coming off the pindown on the weak side. Then he’ll go set a screen for the other big; Dario Saric, and position himself on the elbow. Saric is coming off the screen to set another one for the inbounder on the weakside while Ben Simmons hits Embiid on the elbow and follows it up with a cut either for a handoff while he cuts to the basket.

If the defense takes that option away, Embiid immediately goes into a dribble handoff with the in-bounder; usually JJ Redick; for a shot.

This is how the Sixers normally run their SOB and get a lot of open looks but they are not done there. They are able to modify this set to get specific looks, like a post up for Embiid. After the initial hawk cut, the ball gets inbounded to Simmons coming off the pindown on the weak side. Redick gets the ball after he runs across a double staggered screen (an Iverson Cut) while Covington who came off the hawk cut sets a back pick that brings Embiid to the strong side block.

They also adjust the play here to get an isolation play for Simmons on the post. Again, it starts with the hawk cut this time it is Bayless who then empties out to the weakside wing, the ball gets inbounded to Simmons with Luwawu-Cabarrot clearing out to the weakside corner. The Amir Johnson sets a screen for Saric who comes strong side for the ball. Then Johnson sets a UCLA screen for Simmons who gets the ball from Saric for the iso.

The last example, the Sixers changed the play up to get an open look for a three at the end of the game. The change here is subtle, after the hawk cut, Redick who is coming off the weak side pindown to set a screen on Saric’s man for him to pop out for three after setting the hawk screen.

These are just a few examples of the Sixers SOBs play that has a combination of different actions from hawk cuts, UCLA cuts, Iverson action, back picks, pindowns to dribble handoffs. Being able to execute several different options and wrinkles within the same side out bounds play construct constantly has defenses on their heels and gives the advantage to the Sixers.

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