For years, the San Antonio Spurs have been running a loop play for Tony Parker to take full advantage of his quickness and create easy shots for himself and his teammates. Mike Budenholzer, a long-time assistant for the Spurs before becoming the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, utilizes the play, too. Until recently, the Spurs and Hawks were just about the only teams utilizing the set on a regular basis.
Once other teams, the Grizzlies included, realized that the Spurs are pretty good at this thing called basketball, they began implementing the Spurs' crisp plays into their own playbook. The Grizzlies have run loop sets at least several times a game this season, typically for Mike Conley or Courtney Lee.
Against the Orlando Magic, the Grizzlies executed a loop play designed for Mike Conley to perfection. Let's check it out.
The beginning of the loop set is triggered as the ref hands the ball to Conley on the sideline. Zach Randolph sets a down screen for Lee at the right elbow, and Lee utilizes it to execute a zipper cut up the middle of the floor to receive the ball from Conley at the top of the key.
Once Lee receives the ball, three consecutive screens are set by Randolph, Jeff Green, and Marc Gasol. Conley sprints around all three screens, looping to the opposite wing where Lee would ideally deliver the ball back to Conley, opening up myriad options.
As Conley reaches the opposite wing after running off three consecutive screens, it's clear that Elfrid Payton did a tremendous job fighting through the screens to stick with Conley. However, he's overplayed Conley on the wing by cutting off the direct pass from Lee. Recognizing that the pass to Conley isn't there, Gasol flashes to the elbow to receive the pass. Conley, a cerebral player and an excellent mover off the ball, sees the natural progression of the play and executes a perfectly-timed backdoor cut.
It is now too late for the Magic to recover. Payton is completely trailing Conley at this point, and Nikola Vucevic is out of position to cut off Conley's direct path to the rim for a layup. Vucevic scrambles to contest at the rim the best he can, but he's too late. Conley flips in the layup.
Now watch the full play develop.
As with any good play, the loop has multiple options and variations. If Payton was a lesser defender, it's likely that he would have gotten stuck on one of the three screens, which would have left Conley with a wide-open three on the wing. Even if Payton is merely a step behind Conley, Conley can catch the pass from Lee and curl into the lane, enabling him to finish the play himself in the lane, kick the ball out to a shooter in the weakside corner, or kick the ball back to Gasol for an open mid-range jumper if Gasol's man keys on Conley's curl. The play has infinite progressions and options, making it almost impossible to stop dead in its tracks.
This is one of the many beautiful plays head coach Dave Joerger has called in a SLOB situation (sideline out of bounds) this season. His offensive playbook has expanded so much in his year and a half tenure, and he's showing a higher comfort level calling the shots with each passing game. Implementing some Spurs-ian magic, like the loop, into the offense doesn't hurt.