The Toronto Raptors use their "Flex" series to settle down their offense into a continuous, free-flowing unit. Using diagrams and film, we'll see a step-by-step breakdown of how they do it.
After compiling film for an entire season on the Toronto Raptors’ offense, I have been making posts that break down sets that I find particularly interesting, or at least noteworthy. From “Ram Stagger” to “Bench Flow” and “Chin Pick and Roll”, a fair bit has been covered. Now we are going to look at a fairly common set/series that is used within all levels of basketball, the “Flex” series.
In most cases, teams run “Flex” because it allows for continuous ball and player movement movement while players interchange positions, eventually forcing the opposition to bend and break as a defensive unit. The Raptors like to use this series for that very reason, and in most cases, do so to settle down their half-court offense and get back into something simple, yet effective when done correctly.
In most cases, the Raptors will initiate their “Flex” series by aligning in “Horns” formation. As you can see, this consists of a ball handler (for simplicity’s sake, they’ll be referred to as a 1 or a point guard, though, the 2/shooting guard is interchangeable in most instances) standing above the three point arc, with two big men standing at the elbows and the remaining wing players spaced out in each corner.
The point guard will pass the ball to one of the two big men (in the opening example, the 5) and proceed to cut through the middle of the court and set a “Cross Screen” for one of the two wing players (the 3) who resides on the same side of the court as the big man (5) who was initially passed to. The wing player (3) will make a “Flex Cut” and exit to the other side of the paint while the point guard receives a screen from the same-side big man (5) who has just passed the ball to the opposite big (4). After coming off that down screen, the point guard is now in the first true decision making role, where he can shoot, drive or pass.
In cases where the ball handler comes off the down screen after setting the “Cross Screen” for the wing player and then decides not to end the possession with a shot or a drive, the continuation of the play carries on. The wing player (3) who exited from the strong side of the court to the weak side through the paint after making a “Flex Cut”, will now find himself setting a screen in one of two ways for the opposite wing player (2).
The first being that they (3) can continue the “Flex” series by setting a “Cross Screen” themselves and then receive a down screen. In most cases they will then make the decision of the play and shoot, drive or pass-to-shoot. Some variations of this play have the ball going away from the second down screen and instead the pass is made to the 2-guard coming off the second cross screen of the possession.
The other way the wing player (3) can set a screen to influence the play is by setting the first half of a staggered screen for the opposite wing player (2) instead of setting a cross screen. This would allow the 2-guard to come off a stagger screen and end the possession with a shot or a drive.
The Flex offense’s pattern can be difficult to fully wrap your head around at a cursory glance, but hopefully the diagrams and video compilation helped with that. The Flex offense that is generally run in the NBA isn’t really the “textbook” Flex offense that was originally used, as the dribble entries and other aspects have been simplified and removed to be more practical for a shorter shot clock.