Looking to change the course of the franchise, the Phoenix Suns hired long-time NBA assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, believing he has what it takes to bring Phoenix back to the glory days of the early 2000s. Kokoskov brings a wealth of experience, serving as a high-level assistant for 18 years, and as a head coach on the international level. Most recently, Kokoskov lead Slovenia to the Eurobasket 2017 title in impressive fashion going undefeated in tournament play.
Kokoskov’s creativity impressed Phoenix Suns General Manager Ryan McDounough who said in a statement, “Igor’s teams have always had a player development focus, a creative style of play and a track record of success.”
Many lessons can be learned from how Kokoskov was able to use his star guards Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic. This article is the first part of a series of articles studying the offense that propelled Slovenia to its first European Championship.
Value Center of the Floor
With multiple guards that break down the defense, Kokoskov incorporated different actions that allowed his guards to attack in space from the center of the floor. The first set is one of their most common sets, ‘Chin’.
The four clips illustrate the primary action in the ‘Chin’ series. It’s a basic action where the lead guard hands-off, cuts to the weak side corner, and it flows into 5-out PnR.
In this clip Doncic signals his ‘Chin’ but they run good Pistol action up top before the 5-out PnR.
One characteristic that separates coaches at the NBA level is secondary options built into the offense, allowing for better ball-movement, flow, and spacing. This is a good secondary option to the ‘Chin’ set where they run Randolph on a pindown to get a touch from the center of the floor.
This is a different set but a similar variation of ‘Chin’ action with hand-off and guard cutting over to the weak-side, but this time he receives the ball into a double ball-screen giving him space to attack from the center of the floor.
This is one of my favorite actions Kokoskov ran for Slovenia at Eurobasket, where they set up a guard as the first screener, big as the second, and the big sets a pindown for the first guard screener.
The beauty of this action is the multiple options it can create, the first and last clips illustrate the good HI LO action that resulted as a secondary option.
The Suns did run a similar action this past season with good results, this is a clip of Booker getting free for an open three after setting up as the first screener.
The difference I love with Kokoskov is running misdirection out of Horns before getting into the action, in general it is an element that separates the top tacticians at the NBA level.
This is another example where they run misdirection action out of Horns before getting into the action.
Another good action Kokoskov ran from the center of the floor is screen the screener action into Spain PnR (guard sets back-screen on opposing big), a common action many NBA teams have recently adopted, including the Suns.
You can see in the first clip Kokoskov giving the ‘Chin’ sign along with the right shirt signal, however, the sign changed from game to game along with different variations of the action.
A lot of times the action would be stagnant or have poor spacing as the back-screen was set with the defense in position. Slovenia had more success with the set when they ran an action before getting into the back-screen.
This is better action where they run Prepelic on a Zipper cut before getting into Spain PnR as oppose to having the guard set up.
Same idea again with this set where they run Prepelic off the curl before getting into the action, leads to better spacing, a better shot.
This another example where Prepelic has better spacing to drive, running the curl action before.
The Suns have run Spain PnR the last two seasons. It goes back to having an action before getting into the back-screen. In this case Beverely reads the action from the beginning.
Kokoskov ran Spain PnR in similar fashion at times.
Floppy is a universal action all teams run at all levels of basketball. Kokoskov used floppy action before getting into the 5-out PnR from the center of the floor.
I have written in the past on running a good action before the action, along with the synergistic triangle concept, the Warriors have mastered the art of both.
This is one of their Floppy sets where they run a pindown before the synergistic triangle passing that is the caused by trapping the ball-handler.
The Suns have multiple ball-handlers that can play the role Dragic played in this set. It should be interesting to see how Kokoskov puts the pieces to the puzzle together.
A common action most NBA teams run as their primary side-out play is running a guard on a Zipper cut into a ball-screen at the center of the floor. Kokoskov also used this as his primary SOB set during Eurobasket.
The Suns have effectively used TJ Warren in this set the last two season, isolating him from the center of the floor with his mid-range game, I would expect Kokoskov to do the same.
Other Actions into 5-out PnR
These are some other actions I liked that Kokoskov ran before getting into 5-out PnR. The first is a flare screen into a ball-screen, a common action in Europe, something the Suns have also ran the last two seasons.
Kokoskov runs Pistol action in early-offense with a flare-screen into PnR.
Early in the season the Suns ran similar Pistol action with a flare screen with little success.
This is another variation without the Pistol action up top running Booker off a wide pindown.
Another good element Kokoskov ran is mixing up misdirection action on the left side.
One of the best actions that Kokoskov ran before 5-out PnR is wedge split action in early-offense.
Initial action creates good spacing for the guards to attack from the center of the floor.
The underlying theme is the focus Kokoskov had with running different actions to give his guards space to attack from the floor. I think the Suns have the right personnel to run many of the same actions. I also believe a quick guard with a lethal mid-range game such as Tyler Ulis can reap the most benefit.
Next part of the series will go in-depth into more of the common NBA actions Kokoskov ran including, Motion Weak, Pistol series, Pitch series, and his ‘15’ set.