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Portland Trail Blazers Playbook Video: Iverson Cuts

See how Portland uses Iverson cuts to help create space for Seth Curry.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Iverson cuts have been used consistently across the NBA to get teams’ best scorers open. Usually, this particular cut, named for Allen Iverson in the early 2000s, constitutes a player cutting from one wing to the other behind a pair of screens from his big men at the elbows. It’s an unmistakable component of nearly every team’s offense at times but is largely reserved for players who are multi-faceted attackers with the ball in their hands, as there are many options for the player once he catches the ball on the move. For just one example, you can see the Iverson cut in the San Antonio Spurs’ offense as a way to use DeMar DeRozan’s unique skill set to its full capacity. Like Iverson, DeRozan is a mid-range assassin who can also finish at the basket at a high level, making him the dual threat that makes this concept so dangerous.

In recent years, coaches have been unleashing a third option in these spots. Rather than the cutter looping into the mid-range on one side of the floor, he’s now being instructed to continue his cut all the way through to the opposite wing. If he’s open on the catch at that range, he can transform that mid-range jumper into a three-pointer.

Seth Curry has been a big beneficiary of these Iverson sets this season, despite the fact that nobody would confuse his game with Allen Iverson’s or DeMar DeRozan’s. The added threat of Curry’s three-point shot helps to open up the floor for him to attack the basket if the defense is too perimeter-oriented.

One of those screeners can also chase Curry into a quick pick-and-roll:

Notice how the floor is spaced as Curry works the side pick-and-roll with Zach Collins. Moe Harkless, the first screener in the Iverson action, exits to the left corner, while Nik Stauskas lifts up from the corner to the wing on that side of the floor. Evan Turner, who was handling the ball on the left wing before throwing it across to Curry, spaces himself to the top of the key; and although he doesn’t represent a massive threat from beyond the arc, he can attack off the catch or cut to the rim if the defense is too liberal helping off him to the Trail Blazers’ shooters.

As he tends to do, Terry Stotts puts his own twist on this traditional NBA tactical idea. In particular, Stotts will have his big men set the pair of screens closer to one side of the floor, presenting additional options for his guards using these screens to get open to the point that it almost looks like their patented Circle Flare sets they’ve been running for years.

In the above clip, you can see Curry pause for a moment at the top of the key, as if he’s going to set a ball screen for Damian Lillard before continuing on to the right wing to complete his cut.

The blend between a traditional Iverson cut and flare screens is another Stotts special, a unique play in an ever-increasing copycat league. Portland has long been a hotbed for interesting and non-traditional tactical concepts under Stotts as he constantly looks to improve on the same old plays everybody else runs to fit them to his personnel and put his stamp on how his team runs their offense. The results have been positive – the Trail Blazers have been an above-average offensive outfit every year he’s been in charge of the team. Look for his latest creation in the team’s next game, especially when Curry is on the floor with the second unit.