Much to my surprise, the Sixers are actually implementing one of the more popular plays in the NBA. Well, it seems to be becoming more popular to me, its just an intriguing play.
The whole concept is to get a shooter a wide-open shot from deep. It’s a lot easier than regular screens, because it always the shooter to run straight to the line and turn around without having someone right in their face. There is no fight over or under the “Elevator Doors”, you either get smacked by them or stop before you run into them. This typically gives the shooter a wide open look.
The first team I saw use this play was the Warriors, which you can see below. The set will usually use the power forward and center to position themselves near each other. At first, there is a gap for the shooter to get through. As soon as the shooter gets through the gap, the two will step together and “shut the doors” if you will. Leaving the defender no room to get through. If he decides to try to get around the doors, the shot is usually away by the time he arrives anywhere near the defender.
As you see in the first play in the video, the “doors” are shut by Richard Jefferson and Jermaine O’Neal. After freeing Steph Curry up for a three at the top of the key, Jefferson’s man (Kawhi Leonard) actually attempts to plow through the screen, which ends up in the referee calling a foul. This leads to a four-point play for the Warriors, because, of course Curry made the shot. Actually, when looking at it several times, it seems that Kawhi Leonard was so focused on keeping Curry with him that he didn’t even realize that the “Elevator Doors” were being shut and tried to go right through them. When you have a lethal shooter like Curry, you will see this happen quite often.
In the second clip by the Warriors, it’s the same setup as the first play. However, David Lee and Andrew Bogut don’t really close the doors, still leaving a huge gap for the defender to get through. Of course, Curry still nailed the shot.
Watching this video, you can just see how effective this scheme can be. When you have sharpshooters like Klay Thompson and Steph Curry being left wide open because of this play, you know it’s effective.
With that being said, the Sixers decided to put this in their offensive playbook this season. Specifically, for James Anderson. However, I think it would be funny to see this play be ran for Spencer Hawes or Thaddeus Young, who are both shooting over 40 percent from deep this season.
On this first attempt for the Sixers, we see Brandon Davies and Daniel Orton close the doors for James Anderson. Brett Brown wisely uses Orton, who is a massive body, to help close the doors. The one difference between the Sixers and the Warriors is that the Warriors tend to close the doors at the top of the key. For the Sixers, it looks like they prefer to close the doors near the corner, if you will. I get it. The corner three is the shortest shot from beyond and when you don’t have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson banging three’s from Antarctica, you have to give your players the best shot at making it. Below, I’ll breakdown the one “Elevator Doors” scheme that the Sixers actually made.
At the beginning, Wroten gives the ball up to Hollis Thompson and we see Wroten running to the other side of the floor. Notice that Wroten has his hand raised the entire time, acting like he’s going to get the ball right back.
With Wroten moving to the other side of the floor. Anderson begins his path to the corner three-point line. As we see in this shot, Wroten’s aggressive movement distracted Anderson’s man for a split second (notice the separation). Brandon Davies and Daniel Orton are in position to close the doors, as soon as Anderson gets through them.
Finally, we see Davies and Orton “close the doors,” leaving Anderson with a wide open three-pointer. A defender doesn’t get over to Anderson until the shot is already released and it swishes through the net.
Typically, the Sixers will run the main ball-handler aggressively to the other side of the court, after he gives the ball to someone at the top of the key. The defense tends to focus on this ball-handler, whether it be Wroten or Carter-Williams , while the shooter runs from the other side of the floor. The shooter is usually in the middle of the paint and as Wroten or Carter-Williams runs to the other side, the defender gets distracted for a quick second as Anderson will run through the doors. This creates just enough separation for Anderson to get through the doors before they close.
Obviously, this would work out a lot better with a more premier three-point shooter, but it’s encouraging to see the Sixers starting to put this type of stuff in the playbook. This is definitely something to watch out for the next time you watch the Sixers play.