Video Breakdown: What is “Pistol” action?

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Last year I did a video on defensive terminology as part of one big glossary. This season, I thought it would be fun to do some videos on specific offensive or defensive basketball terms that you may have heard, whether from NBA Twitter heads or simply from your more studious friends.

There’s so much terminology out there, and a lot of duplicate terms for the same thing, so let’s take it slow this week and start out easy with something on offense.

Today we’re talking about “Pistol Action” something that’s also referred to in passing as “Pistol”.

Pistol is actually really easy once you know what it is, and it’ll be fun to recognize it as you’ll see it over and over again since just about every team in the NBA runs it.

Read the breakdown below, or watch the full video breakdown at the top of this page.

What is Pistol?

pistol triangle

The setup is simple. Pistol is an action early in the offense with a guard handling the ball, a wing in the corner, and either another post or a wing settled at the elbow or 3-point line. They are set up in a loose triangle and it is always run toward the sideline.

Pistol action is when a guard dribbles up the floor quickly toward a wing in the corner, while a post stands nearby at the elbow or 3-point line to assist on screening for one or both players.

There are only two main Pistol options to start a play: One is a dribble handoff, and the other is a pick and roll. It’s that easy.

Pistol Dribble Handoff

As James Harden dribbles toward the sideline in the play above, Patrick Beverley comes up from the far wing. Harden then flips the ball to Beverley, who now gets a screen from the post player.

This is the end of the action we would typically refer to as “Pistol”.

As Pistol is simply the early portion of most offensive sets, it’s a reference to an action you can pick out of an entire play.

Pistol Pick-and-Roll

The pick-and-roll in the Pistol starts when the wing comes up from the corner to set a pick for the ball handler. At this point, a ball-handler will typically run around a second screen by the big man who is part of the triangle.

In the example above, we’re looking at the Portland Trail Blazers run C.J. McCollumn on a slip screen — a screen where instead of making firm contact with a defender, light or no contact is had and McCollum is trying to “slip” free after setting a quick screen.

Portland adds another wrinkle with this one as Mason Plumlee slips HIS screen to dive to the lane, which gives Lillard an open pass and a made basket.

Review

Simply put, Pistol is a quick sideline play with three players that involves a dribble handoff or a pick and roll.

There are infinite options, but if you hear someone say “Pistol” or “Pistol Action” you’ll know they’re referring to that setup on the sideline and that initial exchange between point guard, wing, and big man in that triangle.

Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry

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After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.

Except from the Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.

The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).

Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.

But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.

There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.

Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.

League buzz: Kings will take Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Luka Doncic gone at three

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It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.

The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.

After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.

At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.

If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.

How is it going to shake out?

That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges

The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.