Playbook: The Orlando Magic's 4-Out/1-In Offensive Scheme | Magic Basketball

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Aug 17

Playbook: The Orlando Magic’s 4-Out/1-In Offensive Scheme

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The 4-out/1-in offensive scheme.

For three years and counting, head coach Stan Van Gundy has used an alignment (which features Dwight Howard in the post surrounded by four shooters on the perimeter) on offense that has vaulted the Orlando Magic to the elite in the NBA.

The system works, as best exemplified by a regular season winning percentage of .691 (170-76), a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009, three consecutive Southeast Division championships, back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances (one conference title), and more.

Yes, the Magic are still in pursuit of the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the 4-out/1-in schemes have come under fire after the Boston Celtics shut them down in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals but it is what it is. The playoffs are about matchups and things can go either way. For example, even though the Miami Heat have the potential to be a very good team this season, their personnel might be vulnerable to Orlando’s philosophy on offense. It happens.

Some people may be asking, what does the 4-out/1-in scheme look like?

There’s an answer to that question.

When the Magic run 4-out/1-in offensive sets, there’s not a lot of rocket science involved. An entry pass is made to Howard in the post, then he goes to work and either puts up a shot or kicks the basketball out to the perimeter. Depending on how the defense reacts, Howard can get the ball back or it could be swung around the horn to an open shooter (if he’s double-teamed). It’s that simple. One of the key things to note is that Orlando’s spacing on offense is always excellent.

There’s many variations of the play, but let’s take a look at a few examples.

Click here to view the video.

Example 1:

Vince Carter makes an entry pass to Howard on the low block, while Josh Smith and Al Horford decide to double-team him. Defensively, the Atlanta Hawks are doomed at this point. Matt Barnes cuts to the basket and even though he doesn’t receive the basketball, there are many instances when he does get it for either a layup or a kick out to the perimeter. Because the Hawks make the decision to send an extra defender on Howard, the Magic have many ways to score.

Another thing to notice is that Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis are wide open.

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Click here to view the video.

Example 2:

Sometimes when the pass is made to Howard in the post, the player that initiates the play makes a diagonal cut into the lane and goes to the opposite side of the floor as the other players for Orlando shift their spots along the perimeter to maintain spacing and force the defense to react accordingly.

Once in a while, the defender that trails Nelson on this play ends up cheating on the play and tries doubling the big fella. When that happens, some quick passes can net an open shot for Nelson or whoever else it might be. More often than not, at least.

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Click here to view the video.

Example 3:

Same as Example 1, but notice the interchangeability of the personnel.

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Click here to view the video.

Example 4:

As has been stated before, the Magic value their spacing and this play is just another example of that. The beauty of the possession is the movement off the ball by Barnes and Lewis. Barnes cuts to the basket and spots up in the corner, as Lewis shifts to the spot that’s vacated. Then Lewis cuts to the basket, too. While all that’s happening, Howard kicks the basketball out to the perimeter and things get chaotic for the Hawks on defense as they try to make sense of the situation.

That sequence shows when Orlando is at their best — quick passes, off-ball movement, etc.

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Click here to view the video.

Example 5:

Same as Examples 1 and 3, however Mickael Pietrus stays on the perimeter.

13 comments
Mark
Mark

Gortat has a decent close jump shot. He brings both D and O. He's hard to cover for most teams, a short 10-15 minute tandom of Dwight and Marcin could stop an offensive run. I think he should come in at the 4 at times.

I like SVG but he fails to stop teams running on us. SVG is slow to go to the bench, and hates to use a time out when we are getting spanked.

From my seat watching the playoffs, the Celtic starters ran on our starters. The games we won, SVG went to the bench early and stopped the clobbering. The bench responded. The games we lost, SVG stayed with the same lineup too long and we couldn't climb out of the hole.

Gortat at the 4, yeah I like it. Every game? No. For a long length of time? No Should we practice it? Yes, Dwight 5, Gortat 4, Lewis 3 (it is a bigger line-up but still has offense) I think everyone underestimates Gortat, he is talented and getting better. Yes, still getting better.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Greg

Spot-on comment.

I agree that tweaks and adjustments need to be made to the system, but an overhaul in philosophy is unnecessary.

Greg
Greg

Great article! It's awesome how you find relevant and really interesting material to write about in the offseason when the sentinel staff manages to give us less...substantial stuff.

I, for one, do not believe at all that the 4 out 1 in offense had anything to do with our not winning the championships over the last two years. People tend to focus only on the teams we lost too, and also seem to forget that we weren't destroyed in any of those series. In fact, against the Lakers the losses had so little to do with the system and so much more to do with who made the bigger plays at the end of the game. That is to say, we essentially played the Lakers to a draw in every game but they made (or didn't miss the big shots at the end of the game).

I agree with everyone that the Celtics match up well against the 4/1, but thats because they not only had Perkins who could match up 1 on 1 with Dwight, but also a PF who was capable of defending all the way out to the perimeter, and lock down PG. Considering that, it boggles my mind that people think all we need to do is run a traditional offense against that team last year to win. Please, people!

Just because SVG found a match up where he got Shard isolated on Pierce in the post to get us some points doesn't mean we dump the system that got us back to back 59 win seasons and repeat appearances to the ECF...

With the personel we have SVG should make it a point to have his team ready to switch to a scheme with Shard at the 3, but that should be a wrinkle and not the revamped team system.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@JP

Right, I'm just agreeing with you. Hah.

JP
JP

"@JP

Playing Gortat at power forward ISN’T the answer."

I agree. Thats what I said. :)

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Jack Foust

Thing is, Howard had his way with Perkins (and Rasheed Wallace) in Games 4 - 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Did Howard command consistent double-teams? No, but he was starting to really make his mark on offense. Even then, the Magic went away from the 1/5 pick and rolls that were really successful in Games 4 and 5. That's one of the reasons why Orlando lost the series, because they didn't continue to run the plays that brought them success.

An offense with Howard and Gortat wouldn't work. End of story. The Magic don't need the boost on defense -- that's the last thing they need.

And lastly, Howard is never going to develop a jumpshot.

@Brad

No, the scheme wouldn't work better with Arenas.

@JP

Playing Gortat at power forward ISN'T the answer.

@hulKK

I agree that, ultimately, the Magic's success falls on Howard's ability to continue and evolve on offense. That's why I've repeatedly said that this season is going to be a make-or-break year for Howard. Given Howard's growth against the Celtics in the playoffs, I strongly believe he's going to emerge offensively like we've never seen before. Howard is so close to putting it all together on offense.

@MagicMark

Ignore him.

@islander

The point was to show how the offense looks when Howard is the focal point.

Jack Foust
Jack Foust

@JP

Put Dwight at the 4, not Gortat. Gortat doesn't have the ability to do what Dwight can away from the basket on defense. However, against a team like the Heat, Dwight could definitely operate like a FS, as I have a feeling their Big Three will be prone to trying to create their own shot (at least for the first game of the season). The rotation problem with Glen Davis like you said is kind of why I'd prefer Dwight at the 4; he has the size, the speed, and the defense prowess to be able to stop an undersized PF like Big Baby. Maybe even someone "a little softer" like Carlos Boozer.

It would also help if Rashard Lewis could meet the team halfway with Dwight getting an offense farther away from the basket, and Lewis developing his attacking the basket.

Like everyone says here, it's all predicated upon Dwight Howard commanding a double-team. If he doesn't do that, the scheme is going to have problems. The bright side? How many teams can actually keep up a 1-on-1 defense against the Magic for the entire 48 minutes--especially considering our bench? Seems like the only threat would be Boston to keep their defensive tenacity.

@hulKK

At the risk of sounding like a total homer, Dwight has the capability of getting a jump shot. Last year we've witnessed Dwight make a few jumpers, and has commented before in the media that he is trying to develop a mid-range shot. It's not much, but it's something to hope for.

Granted, he's no Olajuwon (not really meaning to compare him to the skills of Olajuwon, but when you cite the same scheme as the Rockets, I guess he has to be compared to Olajuwon to a certain degree), but at least The Dream is taking the time to mentor Dwight for that's worth. Nothing until the season starts, I suppose.

islander
islander

The only thing I don't like about this selection is that in an effort to demonstrate the variability of the Magic's offense, you show 5 videos where Howard decides to make the basket by himself, even though it isn't the best decision every time (actually I think the only example where he has a clear advantage is number 4), in the end he still makes the baskets, and gets the fouls, because he's such a great player.

MagicMark
MagicMark

@Josh

Traveling is a myth in the NBA. It is called probably ~20% of the time it actually happens anyways.

hulKK
hulKK

@Jack Foust

I like the scheme also but I don't think its going to win a championship if Dwight can't demand the double team he needs. This scheme is all on Dwight's offensive threat in the post. Not bashing Dwight but he's def. not an Hakeem Olajuwon. Also I think for that twin tower situation to be significantly effective, Dwight or Gortat are going to have to develop somewhat of a short range jump shot.

Dwight has to be more efficient in the post on offense or the "4 out/1 in" offense is going to sputter and fade in the playoffs again. I hope Stan realizes this and has a back-up plan or some kind of trick up his sleeve.

So the "4 out/1 in" offense is effective and can win you a lot of games plus championships (94, 95 Rockets) but does the key man in this offense (Dwight) have what it takes to make this offense extremely efficient in the playoffs? I personally don't think so. Dwight is a great player and the BEST center in the league right now but like I said he's no Olajuwon. And I don't see him developing into a GREAT offensive player any time soon. I hope Stan and Otis can see this also. Dwight has to get significantly better on offensively or I think the Magic will continue to fall short.

JP
JP

Eddy,

Thanks for the clips. One other thing I would add is that a number of these examples actually "start" after the Magic have attempted a simple pick n roll (usually with Dwight.) The good thing being that the simple 1in 4 out set doesnt require the pick n roll to be initiated, it just provides another option for the team.

By the way, I dont know if its just me, but the first clip will only the first couple of seconds.

Jack Foust,

The Rockets team that won the titles in the mid 90's were actually a better passing team then the current Orlando one but werent quite as good at shooting (though both teams are/were obviously very capable at both.) The point being there are multiple ways to get the job done and usually actually require multiple ways. The Celtics defense on us in the ECF was exceptional. I dont think playing Gortat at the 4 is the particular answer here (especially as Dwights "free safety status" on D wouldnt have done much to help us - The Celtics didnt run up the score on us and got too many easy points off us being too slow to rotate on the likes of Big Baby.) But I accept the need for a more reliable plan B.

Brad
Brad

The scheme would work a lot better with Arenas instead of Carter, and Paul instead of Nelson.

Jack Foust
Jack Foust

I've always liked the "4 out/1 in" philosophy ever since Hakeem Olajuwon's Rockets in the 90s had success with a very similar scheme. However, come playoff time we [Magic] have had problems when teams have a post presence that is able to defend (contain) Dwight Howard, namely Kendrick Perkins, without the aid of a double-team at all times. Couple the 1-on-1 defensive scheme with a more aggressive guard (Rajon Rondo, potentially Dwyane Wade), going for steals, we might be in trouble.

A more typical 4 could help us, but it's not necessary. What would be more interesting is learning how to organize our team offense with Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat as something of a "Twin Towers" a la Sampson/Olajuwon, Duncan/Robinson. While Gortat remains fixed to the low post, theoretically Dwight should have more freedom on both ends of the ball to make plays.

Finding the balance between Gortat clogging the lane (sort of like Shaq with Cleveland) for Dwight on the offensive side would ultimately be the biggest hurdle, but could you imagine Dwight if he had more room to roam on defense? He would be the closest thing to a free safety in the NBA. Gortat could also take some load off of Dwight with respect to fouls, as teams--especially the Heat--will be prone to attacking the rim in hopes of fouling Dwight.