The One About BLOBs (HV Weekly 9/15/19)

Every coach's favorite acronym

It’s time to let you in on a little secret: when you start noticing several Hoop Vision tweets about the same topic, there’s a good chance a newsletter on that topic is on the way. That’s the case this week with baseline out of bounds (BLOB).

In this edition we will:

  • Look at the numbers to see how correlated BLOB offense is to other half court offense

  • Compare and contrast the two main genres of BLOB play design

  • Identify a common scheme between BLOB defenses that force turnovers at a high rate

  • Provide some bonus BLOB material from the Hoop Vision archive

Is BLOB scoring a distinct skill from other half court scoring?

Baseline out of bounds plays are — by nature — played in a slightly different environment than normal plays. The inbounder doesn’t have to dribble and has five seconds to make a pass without having to worry about a defender reaching in for a steal. The ball is also in a position it wouldn’t normally be along the baseline.

So while it’s possible that those conditions could slightly accentuate a particular type of offense’s skill set beyond their normal half court efficiency, the key word there is “slightly.” Just based on intuition, it seems reasonable to expect that the best overall half court offenses would also be the best BLOB offenses.

To examine this, we we went back through the past decade of teams and compared BLOB efficiency (any play that starts with a baseline out of bounds opportunity) to half court efficiency. Second-chance possessions immediately following an offensive rebound were excluded from the analysis.

Below are the top 10 BLOB efficiency teams of the decade on the left and the correlation between BLOB efficiency and half court efficiency on the right.

  • The overall average points per play on plays starting with a BLOB was 0.84

  • The overall average points per play on other half court plays was 0.85

The r-value between BLOB efficiency and other half court efficiency is 0.50. And we do see that the list of top 10 BLOB teams does include a few of the top half court offense teams in recent memory (2018 Villanova, 2015 Notre Dame, 2014 Michigan).

There are also a couple teams (I’m looking at you, 2018 Wake Forest) that appear to have performed much better than would be expected on BLOBs. The important thing to remember here is sample size. That same Wake Forest team recorded just 138 plays that started with a BLOB. Because of that small sample size, there’s a high degree of variability in a team’s BLOB PPP for a given season. And it seems reasonable to expect that Wake Forest (or any team) would regress to their half court PPP mean as sample size increases.

Who were the best BLOB programs of the decade? The top 10 (unadjusted for competition) was:

  1. Gonzaga (#1 in other half court)

  2. Belmont (#2 in other half court)

  3. William & Mary (#13 in other half court)

  4. Denver (#15 in other half court)

  5. South Dakota State (#6 in other half court)

  6. Duke (#7 in other half court)

  7. Wisconsin (#16 in other half court)

  8. Davidson (#5 in other half court)

  9. San Francisco (#84 in other half court)

  10. Wichita State (#41 in other half court)

Two different genres of BLOB play design

When it comes to BLOB play design, there are two different types of general goals.

The first one is what you might expect: action run with the goal of creating a shot opportunity directly off the inbounds pass.

Probably the most common example of this type of BLOB is any of the screen-the-screener variations. The general idea for these is to use screens and movement to cause a defensive breakdown and generate a shot.

Another BLOB favorite that fits into this first category is a lob play. There are many different variations of lob plays - and they can even include screen-the-screener action.

Coaches are by no means simply limited to just screen-the-screeners or lobs to generate shots. Here’s a particularly creative misdirection elevator play from Mike White.

The best designs of this type are ones that factor the defense’s coverage into the action. For example, a large chunk of BLOB defenses choose to “lock-and-trail” shooters. Which is how a concept like the circle lob (see below) can be so effective.

The other main genre of BLOB play design has a different goal. The inbounds pass isn’t used to directly create a shot, but to initiate subsequent action once the ball is inbounded.

The most straightforward example of this type of BLOB is a play to get the inbounder coming off a dribble handoff.

“4-Low” BLOBs are another common example run by coaches throughout the country. The play is usually initiated with a pass to the elbow, triggering one of many potential options.

Of the two genres, one is not really better than the other. And in both cases, factoring in the defense’s coverage is important to the success of the play design.

Forcing turnovers on BLOB defense

Just like how the best overall offenses were also generally the best BLOB offenses, the same is true for BLOB defenses. If a defense presses in the full court and denies in the half court, it’s safe to expect them to apply a similar philosophy on BLOBs.

Aggressive BLOB defenses are proactive instead of reactive. The example we have shown in the past is Florida State’s zone. They put length on the ball, anticipate the safety pass out to the top of the key, and trap if the ball goes to the strong side corner.

In this decade, five teams have turned their opponents over on 30% of plays that start with a BLOB in a given season.

  1. Stephen F. Austin (2015)

  2. Stephen F. Austin (2016)

  3. Denver (2012)

  4. East Tennessee State (2017)

  5. Ohio State (2011)

Stephen F. Austin in 2015 put their center on the inbounder and switched everything aggressively with the remaining four defenders. Not only did having the tallest player on the inbounder make the pass more difficult, but it also enabled SFA to have their most switchable defenders guarding off the ball.

Other high turnover BLOB teams tend to share a lot of the same characteristics as SFA. Ohio State in 2011, for example, was nearly identical. They put Jared Sullinger or Dallas Lauderdale on the ball and switched everything with Craft, Buford, Lighty, and Diebler.

More from the BLOB archive

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