ATO Specials: Burn Cuts

Old timers, like myself, would tell you, “You don’t need a play call to back door somebody. When your defender turns his head or overplays the passing lane, back cut.” Even in today’s game, that’s a read every player should be taught to make. However, with many teams today moving away from denial, in-the-passing-lane defensive systems and to gap systems, it can be harder to get “back door” opportunities in the natural flow of your offense… which is why you’re seeing teams use set plays to create burn cuts (i.e., “back doors”).

Most set-ups for a burn cut are going to involve at least one of two actions, both designed for the same purpose. The first is simply to pull every defender away from the paint right before the burn cut. A perfect example is this fake pinch post action from Villanova.

Basketball Play - Villanova Wildcats - Lift Burn

With the 5 moving out towards the 3-point line, the 4 moves up the lane line toward the pinch post. On the catch by 5, the 2 moves towards the ball for a dribble handoff from 5. When x2 jumps the line to take away the DHO, 2 back cuts for a look at the rim with no help defenders.

The second strategy is to involve help defenders opposite of where you want the burn cut to happen. So while it looks like the offense is about to run a shooter off a pin down screen or a stagger screen, it’s really just a decoy to occupy the help defenders and set up the burn cut.

Basketball Play - Creighton Bluejays - Stagger Burn

Creighton starts in a Horns alignment. After entering the ball to the side they want the burn cut, the 1 and the 5 move to set a stagger screen for their shooter. On the catch, the 3 moves up the line towards the ball, then burn cuts.

Looking for some more ways to incorporate back door actions into your offense? Check out the FastModel playbank for HC sets, BLOBs, and SLOBs involving burn cuts.


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