The Golden State Warriors’ offense is a problem leaguewide. For as much as they threaten defenses with their superior long-range antics, the Warriors are also decimating defenses from deep – inside the paint.

As Steph Curry sits out with an ankle injury, the Warriors are without nearly seven assists per game, and, on Monday night against the Portland Trailblazers, were lacking another seven from jack-of-all-trades Draymond Green, who sat with shoulder soreness.

Although Golden State prides itself its roster flexibility, playing without a pair of offensive facilitators and perimeter scorers is noticeable. The Blazers had to recognize the offensive games of David West Nick Young and Andre Iguodala, who compensated for Green and Curry’s absence.

Shooting from beyond-the-arc at a good clip last night (10-for-20), the Warriors also brandished yet another tool in their offensive toolkit: the shovel pass in the lane.

How It Works

Amateur basketball coaches are sure to squirm nationwide, but the Warriors usage of passes in the lane is a viable mix-up as teams prepare for their transition and perimeter games. Despite the conventional teaching of making interior passes from the foul line extended, the Warriors call out a defensive vulnerability by slipping passes behind defenders who collapse in the paint.

When a Warrior, say, Kevin Durant, makes a play towards the basket, defenders are often concerned with one of two things: a dexterous basket assault or a kickout to one of Golden State’s myriad shooters. Instead, the Warriors have unlocked another option by keeping shooters moving towards the hoop when a scoring threat like Durant penetrates the paint. In one motion, Durant heads down the lane as a wing player, maybe Omri Casspi or Klay Thompson, sneaks behind the defense who inevitably collapse on the Durant. One bounce pass later and the defense is on its heels, playing behind the Warriors who secured a clean layup.

Klay Thompson's Shovel Pass to Omri Casspi

A post shared by Brandon Johnson (@bjtripleot) on

Important to the success of a sly shovel pass is its application as more of a bailout than a calculated play. Superior ball movement is the name of the game for the Warriors, having wing players continue to head downhill to the basket, where most offense stagnates, positions Golden State to increase their opportunities for high percentage looks.

As a bailout play, the Warriors aren’t crushing teams by sending players to crash the boards; they currently rank 24th in offensive rebounds with 8.4 per game. Rather, keeping players in motion overwhelms defensive rotations, who become susceptible to collapsing on an offensive drive while ignoring the backdoor.

Instrumental use of the deep-lane shovel pass is surely useful across the league. However, the Warriors have made the accompanying off-ball player movement a sight to behold, as role players continue to expand their offensive abilities when some of Golden State’s stars sit out.

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