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Knicks Ram Weave:
A ram screen is a common NBA action where one player — represented by the 5 in the diagram — sets a screen for another player — the 2 — who then sets a ball screen. This action has a number of benefits. Here are two main ones: (1) it causes the defense to make an extra decision before they have to defend a pick-and-roll (switch, hedge, etc.) and (2) it typically causes the traditional drop defender to be out of position when the ball screen is set (they’re busy dealing with the first pick). Pick-and-rolls are already very difficult to contain for defenses that are set up and expecting the action. Making it more difficult for the defense to get in position can be a nightmare for defenses.
Here’s an example of the Knicks using a Ram action to create a lob for Mitchell Robinson (Portis sets the initial screen for Mitch, who then sets a ball screen).
While Ram actions can be devastating on their own, the Knicks have primarily been using them as a way to exit their Weave sets, and they’ve been doing so to devastating effect. A Weave set is a relatively common way to initiate an offense, and it is all about space, space, SPACE. The Knicks set it up like this:
Here, the two orange-ish dots represent the 2 and 3, the yellow dot is the ball handler, and the grey and blue are bigs.
In a weave, the guards run a series of dribble hand offs (DHOs) like this:
You can essentially run a Weave for as long as you want. And teams usually have a number of options for exiting the Weave. Where the Knicks get tricky is using a Ram action to get out of the Weave.
In the diagram above, the first screen in the ram action would be set for the grey dot by the blue dot. The grey dot sprints to the top of the key and sets a ball screen for the orange dot. Exactly like we saw in the very first clip, just prefaced by a Weave.
That might be a little bit confusing, so let’s take a look at some film. Here’s a couple clips of the basic Ram Weave set:
A common counter to Ram sets is to trap the PnR. The Blazers try this here, but notice all the space the Knicks have to work with? Three shooters and a vertical threat on the floor at the same time really stretches the defense, and the Weave set results in close to optimal spacing. Thus, as soon as the trap comes, Reggie Bullock has a number of excellent options.
As I noted when discussing Chin sets in my previous piece, Miller has emphasized early offense. Not surprisingly, there are early options built into Weave sets as well. When you have shooters as gifted as Reggie Bullock or Wayne Ellington, those early DHOs often create good looks on their own. Here’s an example:
The theme of this series has been non-traditional ball-screens. Mike Miller has the Knicks running a ball screen-heavy offense, but the ways they get into those ball screens (Pistol, Chin, Weave/Ram) are varied and packed with quick-hitting options and designed to put the Knicks in advantageous situations.
Nonetheless, they haven’t totally abandoned traditional spread PnRs. And with Bullock getting healthy, I expect that we’ll start seeing more of these in the future. Here’s an example of a Five-out PnR they ran against the Blazers, which may well be the first Five-out PnR the Knicks have run since Jason Kidd ran the offense (okay, it’s probably not been that long. But you get get the picture! It’s a rarity).
So, that concludes this three-part series on the Knicks offense. This isn’t all there is to the Knicks’ offense. But, (a) these are three of the most common sets the Knicks use, and (b) I had to go back to work Monday, and don’t have any more time to write.
As you watch the next couple of Knicks games, keep an eye out for these sets! And give me a shout out on Twitter if you spot a cool variation or counter. Thanks for joining me on this journey of words and film, be well my friends!
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