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Cleveland Cavaliers playbook: “Double Away to Step” brings out the best in Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson may be asked to carry the offense with LeBron sits and this play will help him do so.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When LeBron James sits, or the Cavaliers merely want to give him a possession off, they will sometimes rely upon Jordan Clarkson’s ability to create his own shot, especially against second-unit defenders. Cleveland will run different set plays for Clarkson than they do when they run their normal first-unit offense, including “Double Away to Step”, in which the Cavaliers leverage Clarkson’s chemistry with Larry Nance Jr. by running Clarkson off multiple screens and then into a pick-and-roll with Nance.

The play starts with the ball at the top of the key, a wing on the right block, Clarkson in the left corner, and Nance and another wing on the left side of the floor setting staggered down screens for Clarkson. Clarkson comes off the double screen as if he’s going to get a catch-and-shoot or curl into the lane, but instead exits out to the right wing, where he’s met by Nance, who receives a cross screen from the wing on the right block and steps into a ball screen for Clarkson:

After tracking Clarkson through both down screens, Denver’s Devin Harris is immediately hit with a ball screen, leaving him even further behind the play. Given Clarkson’s ability to pull up off the dribble, a strong screen from Nance is all he needs to hit the three. Nance’s defender lags behind the play due to a cross screen from Kyle Korver, giving Clarkson an even larger opening to pull up for the jumper.

To fully realize the value of Nance’s screen, the timing has to be perfect, but things go well for the Cavaliers even if Nance gets held up and Clarkson has to wait a beat or two before the ball screen arrives:

In the above clip, the Nets do a good job mucking up the cross screen for Nance, throwing off the timing and allowing D’Angelo Russell to get back into defensive position. However, just because Russell is in position doesn’t mean that Dante Cunningham, Nance’s defender, is in adequate position to help Russell when the Nance screen does arrive. Russell ducks under and Clarkson is able to pull up for the three, leaving both Russell and Cunningham too close to the basket to really contest him.

The Cavaliers will also run this play out of sidelines out-of-bounds:

The action remains the same, but instead of James bringing the ball down the center of the court, Cedi Osman inbounds to him and then the Cavaliers get into the play. Ante Zizic plays Nance’s role in the above clip. Zizic gets through cleanly and the step-up screen and Clarkson is able to take advantage of the recovering Dillon Brooks to get the jumper along the baseline.

The Cavaliers won’t need a lot out of Clarkson in the playoffs; I’ve even speculated that he won’t be a part of their playoff rotation, but if they’re going to give him bench minutes when James sits, plays like “Double Away to Step” will help juice the Cavaliers enough on the offensive end to carry them through those stretches.