Video Breakdown: What is an Iverson Cut?

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Last time we broke down a piece of the NBA lexicon in our glossary series we covered just what in the heck “Pistol” action meant. Like today’s breakdown, that was a simple part of a larger sphere of offensive actions that can get plays going quickly. Today we continue in that realm to talk about a move that Hall of Famer Allen Iverson made so ubiquitous that NBA coaches just started calling the action “The Iverson Cut”.

You may or may not have heard the term Iverson Cut before but it’s likely you’ve seen it about a million times over the course of your basketball-watching career. It’s sometimes referred to as a shallow cut, and plays can be labeled simply with “AI”.

Watch the full video explanation above, or continue on below to start by drawing it up on the chalkboard first to show you the basic action before we see it in practice.

The Diagram

An Iverson Cut typically starts out in a flat play or in HORNs, with a point guard at the top, two posts at the elbows, and guards either at the wings or down in the corners. The player making the Iverson cut is labeled here with a star and ball is at the top of the arc.

The basic idea is that the star guard is going to get two screens across the top of the key, right at the free throw line. He will move up and across the formation, trying to rub his defender off of him as he moves to the opposite side of the arc.

After the cut is made, there’s a lot of options including a quick shot, a backdoor cut to the rim after the second post screen, isolation, post up plays, or a swing back to the other side of the floor to star the rest of the play.

On the floor

For example, this set by the Warriors is actually a setup for Kevin Durant on the other side of the floor from where he starts out.

Klay Thompson is on the right part of the arc, standing flat next to Zaza Pachulia ready for the first screen. Thompson runs AI simply to clear space for Durant, who the Warriors want to get a jumper from at the elbow.

Here for the Brooklyn Nets, it’s Bojan Bogdanovic running the Iverson cut from the far side of the formation. This is just a quick action to start another simple play.

Bogdanovic gets a screen from Brook Lopez at the right elbow, then runs across to the opposite 3-point line. At that point, Jeremy Lin sets a screen for Lopez, who cuts diagonally to the left block in order to get the inlet pass to the post from Bogdanovic.

Just a simple post play!

Finally here for the Blazers, it’s a modified type of Iverson cut for Gerald Henderson. The twist is that Henderson stops to dummy a screen on CJ McCollum before continuing on to his second screen as he runs to the arc.

That’s the basics on the Iverson Cut.

It’s something simple that a lot of teams run for their guards to get them open on the arc. It’s a great way to create negative space on offense to either start a play or get a quick bucket for one of your top scorers.

If you want to see more on the Iverson Cut, I’m going to recommend set of videos I did on the Blazers last year that covers their Thumb Series. Portland runs a lot of modified screens based on the Iverson cut they run to get their guards going horizontally across the formation. It should give you a good idea about how offensive plays can be built around that initial Iverson cut.