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Five Things You Need to Know about the High-Low Offense

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"Five" is a series of five things, players, thoughts or whatever I think will fill a post.

While in law school at Tulsa I happened to be there when current Kansas head coach Bill Self and Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie were there, Self the head coach and Gillispie an assistant. I've seen quite a bit of Self's high-low offense and when it works, it's really good. I think that Gillispie has always had a bit of a tighter grip on the offense and seemingly hasn't had the scoring teams that Self has had, but Gillispie has also had to pick up down-trodden programs and the quickest way to do that is to play lock-down defense and limit your opponents' possessions. Aside from that, the high-low offense is something that Gillispie has picked up and we need to know more about it if we're going to watch it for any period of time. Luckily for me and for you, I found this paper from Self on the High-Low Offense (it's just the first two pages, but you get the idea).

1. Can Be Benefit Post Players Who Aren't Skilled Scorers | One of my biggest complaints about how the offense ran last year and one of my biggest concerns going into next season is that other than Jordan Tolbert, I don't know what to expect from any of the post players. There is now going to be legitimate size across the front line with Dejan Kravic, Rodrigo Silva, and Kader Tapsoba all at 6-10 or taller. The problem is that I think that Kravic is pretty skilled for a post player, but I don't know if he's a skilled post player with his back to the basket. Thankfully, Self gives me some solace:

The 3-out 2-in high/low motion is good for shooters, and for post players who aren't great scorers, they are sealers. The biggest negative is that if a really creative player has the ball, there is always a post player who has to get out of his way, so they spend a lot of time working on emptying the post.

Of course the first part of Self's description of the high-low offense is that there must be great shooters and Texas Tech didn't have any of that last year, which most likely creates issues for the post players who can't get free. In any event, the good thing is that the offense isn't designed for post players that are necessarily skilled, which is a commodity that is tough to find. If you watch any Kansas basketball, then you know that if the post players are skilled then this makes the offense even that much better. The key for the post players, and I don't know if Robert Lewandowski was doing this on purpose last year, which is that he would force the pass to the block and regularly throw the ball away. I don't know if Lew was essentially told that because the perimeter players couldn't shoot, he has to get the ball inside with the first option. It was ugly, but maybe Gillispie didn't feel like he could give the offense many more options.

2. Perimeter Players Must Be Able to Create and Shoot | So I'm cheating a bit and taking a little from the quote from above, but if you spent any time watching the team last year, you know that this team lacked any shooters that required any attention and the guards were incapable of driving and creating shots for other players. The one thing that you take away from watching last year's offense is that spacing is important and at almost any time, there is a triangle between the point, a wing player and a post player to post. Assuming that the post player can get the ball and post, there should be backside options for the other wing player if the double-team comes from the weakside. I cannot recall that Texas Tech was able to make teams pay from a consistent basis with that type of outside shooting. Additionally, a player that receives the ball on the swing can then drive to the basket and if another defender has to cover and stop the drive then the offensive player can continue to drive or pass it out. Last year, I cannot recall an offensive player that had the ability to truly dribble, drive and create his own shot or find another open player. That has to change.

3. The Small Forward Must Be Versatile | If you look at any of the diagrams from the link, you know that the small forward (3) is on the permieter the entire time. If you ever see me waiver between a player being an outside player or an inside player, mostly as I try to think if a player is more of a small forward or a big forward because big forwards will always play in the paint and perimeter players really won't see any time inside the paint. This is why I'm confused a bit about where players like Jaye Crockett and Wannah Bail will fit next year. One of the reasons why I think that Crockett didn't get as much time as he could have is that maybe Gillispie thought that Crockett isn't a good enough shooter to play the small forward spot and not really big enough to play the post spot. I tend to think the same thing about Bail in that he supposedly a fantastic athlete, but his outside game is a bit lacking. Again, to play the small forward the player must be able to either shoot and create off the dribble. This is the reason why you might see a three-guard offense if Crockett and Bail can't figure it out from the small forward spots.

More after the jump.

4. Post Players Need to Take What the Defense Gives | I thought that this was really interesting:

Bigs post directly between the ball and the basket, making their defender decide how to play them, and opening up backdoor angles when the ball is at the top. You aren't going to score on the first side, so post strong, but don't fight it, let the defender go where he wants.

I don't think that I had really thought about it, but the thing that is stuck in my mind from last year is that the post players did force the issue. I cannot count how many times that Lew tried to throw the ball down from the high post to Tolbert in the low post and Tolbert just wasn't open. If a post defender is going to cover over the top, then the offensive player has to open his body up to receive the ball when he gets to the block. If the defender is going to play behind the offensive player then he has to make himself big to get the ball in the middle of the paint and be able to score or pass out to the perimeter. We just didn't see enough of that last year, taking what the defense gives them, and that alone could go a long ways to making this team better.

5. Post Players Must be Adept Inside the Paint | One of the things that I've somewhat thought might be an issue is whether or not a guy like Aaron Ross is going to be able to do what he does best, which is handle the ball from the outside and take advantage of bigger opponents that try to guard him outside. If the perimeter players are able to shoot the ball and keep defenses honest, then this could really be a boon for a guy like Ross who is adept at handling the ball and taking his man off the dribble at the high post. Again, when I think about these players I try to think about them in the concept of how the offense works and I had questions about how Ross would contribute. The reality is that any post player that plays with guards that cannot create or cannot shoot is going to have a tough go at it and if the guards can keep teams honest, then this will go a long ways to the post players having more room to operate.