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Bring back this play: Jeff Hornacek’s post curl

Sneaking players around the block for buckets.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Knicks have brought in their 11th coach since the year 2000 this season in Jeff Hornacek. Coach Hornacek had a surprising ascent in his first season as a head coach with Phoenix in 2013-14, getting his rascally Suns to wrestle away 48 wins from an otherworldly Western Conference. Despite the impressive win total Phoenix missed the playoffs. It was an aggressive slalom the next two seasons with injuries, trades, miscarriages of management and on court feuds that led to uninterested play and ultimately his firing.

Much will be made of Hornacek’s need to increase the pace in New York. Phoenix played a fast pace with Hornacek, 95.8 (eighth highest) in his first season. Then 96.3 (3rd) and 98.5 (5th) last season. Conversely, the Knicks were 90.3 (28th), 91.2 (28th) and 93.4 (26th) over that same span. Certainly he will rely on drag screens in transition and some simple post ups to get some quick shots up. The question is how can he keep the team running downhill? Especially if there is a prerequisite to continue using (so m)any Triangle plays.

One play that Hornacek’s Suns ran to some solid success was a post curl that could be very easily employed with these Knicks. It resembles a pinch post decoy that New York used quite a bit. It goes a little something like this:

Basically all that attention to the strong side pulls the island defender (in this case we have Adreian Payne) above the post player (Derrick Williams) to deny the entry. As the ball swings, Williams recognizes Payne’s poor positioning and bumps him up too high to recover. Then he spins away and can catch a lob before the defense can react. If Payne had not played over the top, you have a side pick and roll, or a dribble hand off at the ready.

Now the Suns approached this concept a little more conventionally. They start by “showing” a high screen and roll with three players near the left block. The first move sends one guy up to the high post. This lets the guy in the slot (closest to the baseline) know when to curl over the low post looking for a catch and layup. If it’s not there you have a simple post up with excellent position because of all the attention drawing players deeper into the middle. That’s also where the spin and lob combo comes into play.

Have a look at this excellent video compilation showing various options and outcomes from this Hornacek set.

The Knicks should have the right pieces to make this play very tough to defend. Needless to say that would be a devastating place to set up Carmelo Anthony on an island. Joakim Noah or Kristaps Porzingis could be interchangeable as the guys making the high-post catch & entry or opposite ready to crash the glass. Of course if everything gets blown up, you can simply kick it back up to the top and run a pick and roll to the right side of the floor which should be completely open.