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Spurs Playbook: Using Wembanyama in “loop” action

How the Spurs use shooters to get Wembanyama open.

San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs have been running some great plays to get Victor Wembanyama open for easy shots. On Saturday in a 131-127 win over the Washington Wizards, Gregg Popovich got creative, using his shooters to get the big man looks at the rim.

To start the fourth quarter, Popovich ran a play Spurs fans should be familiar with. It started with Cedi Osman curling off a double screen from Doug McDermott and Wembanyama. Then McDermott followed the cut, curling off of Wembanyama’s screen, catching the ball in the paint. He draws in the defense, and then tosses the ball up to Wembanyama for a lob dunk.

This is a play the Spurs call “loop” and is a variation on the “floppy” action that has become so popular around the NBA. The Spurs were notorious for running floppy during the Big 3 era. Floppy typically involves one shooter choosing to use a single or double screen from the baseline into a wing or corner three. Loop is defined by multiple cutters coming off of the same screener, as we see with Osman and McDermott on this play. This keeps the defense moving, and can create a look from the three-point line or a paint touch.

What makes this play so effective for the Spurs is the offensive gravity their movement shooters create. Osman is always moving offensively, and can finish inside – so his defender has to stay on his hip. McDermott is shooting 45% from three this season, when he comes off a screen the defender is expecting him to run to the three-point line (as Patrick Baldwin Jr. does on this play.) McDermott can curl this screen and create an easy paint touch. Now Deni Advija has a choice – stop the ball or stay home on Wembanyama? He takes a step towards McDermott and it’s an easy lob to Wemby.

This play can also be used to open up a look for McDermott, or Osman for a three. You could run Devin Vassell or Keldon Johnson off of the loop screen to create an advantage for two of the Spurs best scorers. With Wembanyama having offensive gravity of his own, it could open up some good looks for others by simply using him as a screener. Either way, it’s a good action to make the most of Wembanyama’s strengths around the rim.

The Spurs have run loop for a long time. Here is an example of them running it through Tim Duncan.

The Spurs have gotten creative to get Wembanyama paint touches. His presence around the rim is one of their more obvious offensive weapons. Popovich has used misdirection as a way to get the defense off their toes and open up a window for Wembanyama to grab a lob. Loop is a good way to use him as a screener, and leverage the Spurs shooters to create looks for the rookie.

Here is a compilation of the Spurs and other teams (mainly the Golden State Warriors) running loop over the years.