clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Blazers "Thumb Up" Playbook Breakdown

One of Portland's most familiar sets gets the video breakdown treatment from Dane Carbaugh.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting back to basics this week by covering a play the Portland Trail Blazers run multiple times per-game that you're sure to recognize.

It's called the "Thumb" series, and we're focusing on one option the Blazers use to get 3-pointers for the likes of Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum.

"Thumb Up" (sometimes called Thumb 3) is a set in Horns that focuses on a handoff play and a flare screen across the free-throw line to catch the defense sleeping.

Watch this video or read the breakdown below.

The Pindown

The part of the set is for one of the wings, who are both in the corners. We're concentrating on the 3, or small forward, who is the yellow star in this drawing.

The first action is one post setting a pin down for 3 in the corner. When he runs up from the screen, 3 receives a pass from the point.

The Handoff

At this point, 3 has received the ball from the point at the elbow on his own side. He then quickly flips the ball back to 1.

Once the ball is returned to 1, 3 sprints across the free-throw line.

The Screen

As 3 continues to move across the free-throw line, 5 is ready to set a pick for him at the opposite elbow to delay his defender.

Meanwhile, 2 is cutting down the baseline from the opposite corner to re-balance the set and to clear space.

The Shot

From this position we see that 3 is now on the opposite wing from the corner he started in.

In the example we're talking about today, this typically results in a quick 3-point look for the Blazers.

These shots come in a few different flavors:

First, if a defender is going high while trailing his man, 3 will get what’s called a flare screen or side to side screen from 5 (above).

If the defender decides to cut under 5 and jump the play to the corner, 3 will do what’s called a V cut, where he stunts in, then fades back as 5 sets a down pick (above).

Finally, if the defender plays it completely wrong you’ll see a rotation directly to the bucket for a drive or sometimes a lob (above).

This is just the first action of this set, and it flows into other options including "Thumb Fist" and "Thumb Punch." I’ll hit those in videos in the coming weeks, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

If there’s something you want me to cover, let me know in the comment section.

Blazer's Edge Night

We've already donated over 1400 tickets so underprivileged children and youth can see the Portland Trail Blazers face the Sacramento Kings on March 28th. We're trying to get that number to 2000. We give them directly to schools, coaches, counselors, and others who work with kids in need. It makes a huge difference! Can you help out with a ticket or two?

Donating is easy. Just click here and use the promo code:


Ticket Costs range from $7-13 (There is a $5 processing fee per order.)

You can also call our ticket rep, Lisa Swan, directly at 503-963-3966. You will need to indicate to her that you are donating the tickets you order to Blazer's Edge Night.

You can send 2 kids for less than $20. You can send 10 kids for $100. The investment pays more dividends than you can dream of.