“Double Drag”

Term: Double Drag

Definition: Two consecutive ball-screens set in transition or semi-transition by trailers who run into the screen from an angle perpendicular to the ball-handler.

Synonyms: 77

Explanation: A double drag is two drags set consecutively for a ball-handler. Guarding one ball-screen in the chaos of transition is hard enough, so it stands to reason that guarding two is even harder.

All of the same techniques that apply to the drag also apply to the double drag: Screeners can either stop, set their feet and make contact, or slow down through the screen and merely get in the way.

How To Set A Double Drag

Double drags add the extra component of distances between the screens. Similar to the principles of a stagger, screeners in a double drag must maintain an appropriate distance from each other. If they are two close together, they function as one screener. This negates the advantage of hitting the man guarding the ball-handler twice, and it brings a third defender (an additional man guarding a second screener) into the fold. This type of close quarters combat usually favors the defense, as it guards many players with fewer defenders by clogging up spacing.

Set the screens too far apart, and the man guarding the ball-handler can find the best path in and out of the screens. Some teams prefer to guard double drags by having the ball-handler’s defender darting over the first and under the second, or vice versa. Either way, setting the screens at a considerable distance means the defender’s choice at the point of the first screen is demeed irreelvant: He has time to adjust his route given the second screen’s distance from the first.

When a double drag is set properly, the ball-handler’s defender must chose his entire route at the point of the first screen: If he goes over, he’s going over both. If he goes under, he’s going under both. To further drive home this point, better teams set their two screens at a downhill angle — the second screener is a half-step to a step below the screener, allowing the ball-handler to shift his path from an east-west orientation to north-south.

In a traditional double drag, the screening follows a 5–4 pattern, meaning the 5 sets the first screen and the 4 the second screen. The 5 rolls, the 4 pops. In practical terms, whether or not the 5 or 4 sets the first screen is irrelevant. The only time when screening order matters is when a team sticks a guard or wing into the action as a screener. Just as with the stagger, it’s important that the player with the biggest size difference as compared to the ball-handler sets the second screen. This way, if the defense switches the action at its tail end, they are at least punished with a mismatch.

How To Run A Double Drag

The best plays in basketball attack pressure points — forcing one defender to guard two things at once. The double drag does this with its roll-pop concept, in which one screener rolls to the rim and the other pops to the perimeter. When this dilemma presents itself, one defender invariably gets caught between these two choices.

Let’s work our way through an example to understand how this defensive pressure is created by a double drag. Below, Jon Leuer and Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons set a double drag for teammate Reggie Jackson. Although Leuer and Drummond set their screens a bit too close to each other (mostly because Leuer forgets to run the double drag until Drummond signals him), it achieves the purpose of pushing Sacramento Kings defender Darren Collison over the top of both screens. So, far, however, the Kings are aligned properly with their assignments: Kosta Koufos is on Leuer, the first screener, and DeMarcus Cousins is on Drummond, the second screener.

What happens next is where it gets tricky. There are several ways to defend a double drag, but any non-switch defense is subject to the confusion created via the movement of the three offensive players. Here, Leuer pops and Drummond rolls. It is at this point that the Kings reveal themselves defensively: Koufos slides over to the left side of the floor to mirror the ball, while Cousins stays on his (Drummond).

As Collison continues to play catch-up with Jackson, Drummond drives Cousins into the paint. In so doing, Drummond drags Cousins farther away from Leuer, who now stands by himself on the three-point line. In his decision to stick with Drummond, Cousins completely abandonds Leuer. This is the double drag dilemma: Who does Cousins guard?

If he were to stick with Leuer, Drummond would have a free roll to the rim and a potential dunk opportunity. Maybe Garrett Temple in the corner could stunt out toward Leuer should Jackson throw it back to him, but that is an extremely long stunt. He’s expecting his closer teammate to handle it. Once Cousins makes his choice, it’s on Jackson to identify the right pass and find his open teammate. He does, and Leuer bangs an open three-pointer.

The double drag has the added benefit of throwing a big into a situtiation with which he is unfamiliar. Cousins is the “tagger” here — ball-screen lingo for a defender who must bump into a roller while also staying cognizant of his original assignment. Guards are used to this dilemma and more practiced at it. Cousins, however, is usually where Koufos stands: Hanging back and manning the paint. His inability to manage this tagging dilemma gives Detroit three points.

Double Drag Counters

There are a variety of double drag counters that NBA teams run, but one of the most popular is a quick pindown for a shooter who initially sets up as a screener. In this situation, it is of vital importance that the screener are intially aligned in the following order: Shooter, screener. Instead of the guard coming off the double drag looking to attack, he takes an extra dribble away from the screening action after getting through it. Meanwhile, the shooter, who is the double drag’s first screener, pretends to a roll. A moment later, the second screener darts toward him and cleans him up with a pindown.

For teams with a deadly shooting big, this can be an easy action to generate a quick three-point shot. Take a look at the video below of Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls, who sets the first screen of a double drag for teammate Jerian Grant. Kevin Love, who is guarding Markkanen, is none the wiser to what’s going on. He thinks it’s a regular double drag, something he’s seen one thousand times. But it’s not. As soon as Grant clears the second screen from Robin Lopez, Lopez hammers down on Love and Markkanen pops free on the three-point line.

Another popular counter is the double drag stagger, in which the two screeners from the double drag simply flow into a stagger toward the corner they are facing. The defenders in this situation are prepping for a double drag, only to change course and cover a pindown. The momentary lapse created by the shifting defensive requirement often creates an open shot. Here, Kyle Korver of the Cleveland Cavalier hits a big three-pointer in overtime against the Atlanta Hawks.


Film Study: “Double Drag”

Below is a video compilation of various examples of teams running double drags. Note the different ways in which defenses try to guard it and the confusion that often ensues. Sometimes it’s clear the team is running it as a set; other times it comes together haphazardly. Either way, look for the roll-pop concept every time.

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