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The Dallas Palace of Analysis: Winitiating the Offense, Part 2

This one will hit you right on the Chin

New York Knicks v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the Dallas Palace of Analysis. Please take off your shoes.

If you haven’t already, check out yesterday’s lesson on the Pistol. Now, let’s get to today’s focus...

Knicks Chin:

Chin diagram, courtesy of

The central action in a Chin set starts with the point guard swinging the ball (represented by the dotted lines emanating from 1 in the diagram) and then making a UCLA cut to the hoop (screen set by 5, cut represented by solid arrow originating from 1). From there, the offense has an enormous number of options.

Let’s take a look at the film:

Knicks Chin Swing:

Here’s an example of a Chin set, exactly as depicted in the diagram above.

Knicks Chin Drive:

While most teams enter Chin by swinging the ball around the perimeter (as shown in the diagram and clip above), the Knicks rarely do. As you’ll recall, two issues the Knicks had had early in the season were: (1) Julius Randle wasn’t getting the ball going downhill and (2) they weren’t creating enough early offense. Miller created Chin Drive as a way to solve both of those problems. Here’s how it works...

In this variation, rather than having the ball handler come up the wing and swing the ball to the middle, the ball handler sprints up the middle of the floor and the 4 trails them to one side. Once the ball handler reaches the top of the key, they turn and toss the ball to the trailing big who crosses over to the other side (so, if the big was trailing on the right, he catches the toss and runs past the ball handler on the left). As a result, the ball handler essentially becomes a legal moving screener for the big, and this allows the big — typically Randle — to attack the paint at full speed while their defender has to fight around a “screen” and the screener’s defender. Only at that point does the ball handler make the typical UCLA cut that initiates the chin offense.

The big also has the option to pop and shoot the three rather than driving (we’ve seen this most frequently with Portis). As noted, the Knicks frequently use this toss action to create quick hitters, even when they don’t get into Chin. Here are a couple examples:

Knicks Chin Cross Screen:

When that initial quick-hitting action fails, the big should look for the point guard on the UCLA cut. However, against NBA defenses, that cut is rarely open. If (when) that fails, the offense has multiple options. One option is for the point guard to set a cross screen for the 3 (the man who was on the left wing).

In this next example, keep your eyes on Payton. After the UCLA cut, he continues towards the wing and sets the cross screen for Knox, which creates an easy look at the hoop (when was the last time you saw the Knicks create a look like this?):

If the cross screen doesn’t create a good look or an easy post up, then the 1 will typically come back to the top of the key off a pin down screen and run a PnR. Keep your eyes on Frank in the next two clips:

Yet another option in this series is to refuse the cross screen. In this case, the wing fakes like they’re going to accept the cross screen, but instead uses a pin down to get to the top of the key, where they can shoot or use a ball screen.

Knicks Chin Reverse:

In this variation, the point guard — instead of setting a cross screen — turns and runs to the near corner or wing. And the wing that initially filled that corner sprints to the top of the key to run a ball screen action.

Knicks Chin Stagger:

We haven’t seen the Knicks use this particular option very frequently, but I’m excited to keep an eye out for it. In this option the point guard takes the screen for the UCLA cut, but, instead of making the UCLA cut, sprints to the corner to set a pin down screen for the wing. The big — after setting the screen for the UCLA cut — flips his hips and follows the point guard to set a second pin down right behind him; effectively transposing this Chin set into a stagger set for the shooter on the wing. Unfortunately, the only example I could find of this action failed. But it’s a really cool counter.

Summing up:

The Chin sets the Knicks have been using are well-designed. They have quick-hitters built into them that accentuate the strengths of the the Knicks players — nothing but good can come from getting Randle going downhill, or creating an open three for Portis or Morris early in the shot clock. If these early options (along with the UCLA cut and cross screen actions) aren’t successful, the offense naturally ends up in a ball screen. Who ends up running it depends on which variation the Knicks use.

And thus, we get to the same point we ended up at when discussing the Knicks’ Pistol sets last time. Miller has installed an offense that emphasizes ball screens, but the ways the Knicks get to them are various, and the players who run them are various too. This helps to accentuate the team’s strengths — their excellent finishers (Robinson and Randle) — without overtaxing their ball handlers or slipping into predictability.

Dal’s Meme Corner:

It wouldn’t be a DPA without a horrendous meme from the deep dark corners of my brain:

Be well friends, and — for the love of god — put your shoes back on! You’re stinking up the place.