Working in college basketball allows me the resources and opportunities to learn the game in great detail on both the pro and college levels. We study all aspects of the game in many different arenas.
One of the most widely used actions in basketball today is “Horns”. It is prominent in almost every NBA offense and is also seen frequently on the college and high school platforms.
Most people will watch a game without even noticing it, even though it could appear as many as 20 to 30 times.
The basic setup of this action features the point guard at the top of the key, a big man at both elbows and the wing players in the corners.
The reason why “Horns” is so popular is because it allows offenses so much room to be creative. It allows for great spacing on the floor, is extremely versatile and gives the offense a number of scoring options.
It also is extremely hard to guard and gives defenses fits when they see it. If it wasn’t hard to guard, there would be absolutely no reason for coaches to use it.
For example, coaches can call for double ball screens, where both bigs rise to the three-point line to set ball screens, giving the point guard an option to go either way. This is such a tough guard because someone has to help on the rolling big man while the screener’s defender is trying to cover the point guard. This usually leaves a man open.
Out of this double ball screen play, the point guard could also hand the ball off to one of the bigs then go screen for a teammate in the corner, who can get an open shot. The point guard could also fake that screen and cut to the basket for an open lay up.
This can also turn into a double down screen if the point guard and other big screen to the opposite side of where the ball is. This may have gone completely over your head, but the point is, there are hundreds of options out of this simple formation.
This formation can result in guards setting all kinds of screens like ball screens, down screens and back screens. One of the Steph Curry’s greatest assets is his willingness to set screens, and he does a bunch of it through ‘Horns.”
The big men can also set screens for each other around the free throw line. The Los Angeles Clippers do this a lot with DeAndre Jordan setting ball screens for Blake Griffin. The Cavs also do this with LeBron and whichever big is in the game.
The best teams in the NBA, like the Spurs and Warriors, use it effectively to get into their style of motion offense, which features players constantly moving to make sure the defense never knows what’s coming next.
It is well documented how well the Spurs share the ball on offense, and “Horns” is one of the main ways they do it. Its versatility provides an exact counter to everything the defense does.
The Spurs and Warriors will call plays using “Horns” actions, but the players play mostly off of reads in their offense. Both teams have been trained to know exactly how the defense will guard them in any situation, so they easily counter those moves, which make their offenses look smooth and effortless.
The next time you watch a game, look for “Horns”. It will be there. There is much more to basketball than what happens with the ball. Paying close attention to what happens off the ball will help give you a more rounded perspective of this great game.