Monday, May 18, 2009

Rerun: Mechanical cutting

Mackey occasionally cites an old article of mine, so I thought I would get in the rerun business. I will begin to repost old articles, with addenda as necessary.

I noticed that it took me 50 or 60 posts to write something technical. Was I afraid of cannibalizing sales? Did it just not occur to me? Should "decision-making" count? Anyway, on June 14, 2005, three months into the blog (when I was making posts almost daily), I wrote Mechanical Cutting, reprinted below.
Mechanical cutting
I noticed that some of the tryouts this weekend cut very mechanically. They might fake, but then their actions do not depend at all on what their defender does. They don't even appear to be watching the defender at all.

Idris talked about this in his Oh you had 'em blog entry. Players just don't seem to realize when they're open. I commented there, "Bad players either plan too many fakes or else they get so caught up in trying to read the defender that they misread him. Instead, do a simple fake, expect that it's going to work, but be ready to do something else after 2 or 3 steps if you see that it hasn't worked."

Maybe the way to drill this is to have them watch real cutters and defenders and attempt to identify the exact moment at which the cutter simply needs to move in a straight line to get open. Anything a cutter does after that is at best inefficient and at worst the first part of a miscommunication turnover.

We sometimes say that a cutter has several seconds and several options before he has to clear, but that includes the setup time, which should occur before the disc is live.
1. The setup. As the disc is in the air to the new thrower, the cutter moves into position and might do a little bit of juking, but is basically trying to force the defender into a repositioning error.
2. The cut. Make a final sell and then go hard in one direction, making a commitment. THEN you evaluate whether you'll be open. When you get good, you'll know as you're making that hard move whether or not you're successful. If not,
3. The 2nd cut. Turn 90 or 180 degrees and go hard that way. If that's not open, clear. The only exception is when you're in an iso situation with a lot of field and the defender overcommits to the 2nd cut, and you are 100% guaranteed to be open in a good place if you return to your original direction.

I guess basketball players work on their fakes by themselves, repeating until they've internalized the sequences, but they will still need the feedback of whether their defenders are going to buy the fakes.

Addendum: in the ho stack, as was pointed out to me the other day, the thrower might want to give the lane cutter an extra cut before turning away, since there is still room for a 20+ yarder after a deep cut without poaching or clogging. I guess that is just the "exception" mentioned in point #3.

Also, what about when a defender really studies and learns an offensive player's moves? As mentioned in the post that spurred this idea, this can happen after only one or two instances, but what if a defender really learns the tendencies and internalizes them? (I mean, beyond just a simple bait.)


Mackey said...

For me as a (downfield) cutter, when somebody gets a read on me my game tends to shift away from the finesse of cutting to more of a brute-force, run-'em-ragged (or until they slip up) approach. Or vice-versa, if I've been running more than cutting. Or shifting from actively cutting to staying in the stack/around the disc more looking for opportunity cuts. Certainly you have to show something new, perhaps change your role slightly, to continue getting results.

KJ said...

I think too many offensive players try to learn by watching good players get open (good thing) but they dont fully understand why they are getting open (obviously a bad thing). They think if you cut hard 'this' far, plant and turn in 'this' direction you'll be fine. What they are missing is that good cutters are aware of their defenders hips, and often that plant and turn is timed precisely with the defenders hips flipping to change direction.
For me, its all about managing my defenders hips, turning them around and making them change direction.
Once people learn this, getting open is relatively easy. The hard part is doing it such that you're timing coincides with the rest of the team's offense.