In his introductory press conference, Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes explained that his good friend—and NBA Champion—Nick Nurse had convinced him to run a 5-out motion scheme is his final year at ETSU:
One of my best friends in the business is Nick Nurse, the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. This summer we were spending a lot of time together and he convinced me that we should run 5-out motion, positionless basketball... and we ran it this year. I think it’s one of the reason’s why we were 30-4.
After hearing that, I attempted to find some examples of what the Bucs were doing on offense to get an idea of what we might expect in the coming years for Wake Forest basketball. I was only able to find 2 condensed games on YouTube of ETSU this season—a win over LSU and a win against Wofford in the SoConn championship game—but that’s better than nothing, so let’s take a look.
The 5-out offense is, shockingly, all 5 guys out on the perimeter. The goal is pretty simple: keep the lane open for drivers and cutters. As Forbes explained in the press conference, “Schematically, it opened up the court, it gave us a chance to drive the ball, to get to the basket, to drive and kick, it gave our big guys opportunities to shoot 3s...”
As you can see above, with the lane void of defenders, ETSU had no trouble driving to the basket and getting some easy layups.
One thing that really excites me about these couple of games is the amount of movement in the offense. You don’t see one guy dribbling the ball for 20 seconds while the other 4 guys just stand around and watch. When someone passes the ball, they immediately move to a different spot on the court, and another player moves to replace them. Even when guys are taking their man 1 on 1, the other 4 players are still moving to find open spots on the floor.
While the basic goal of the 5-out is to keep the lane clear, Forbes was quick to point out that it “doesn’t mean we won’t throw it in the post. That doesn’t mean you can’t go in there and post up, it just means you don’t stay in there.” In fact, in the 2 games that were available, ETSU went inside to the post quite regularly.
Again, note that when the ball goes inside, the 4 other players are moving to a different spot on the court.
That was just from 2 games, but it’s obvious that the 5-out motion worked really well for Forbes at ETSU. The Bucs finished the 2019-20 season shooting 47.5% from the floor (17th in the nation) and almost 56% from 2-point range (8th in the nation) according to Sports Reference. For comparison, in 2019-20, Wake Forest shot 43% from the field (202nd) and 47% from 2-point range (286th). The amount of ball movement and player movement in the 5-out motion is something I think will greatly improve Wake’s ability to score this year.
Forbes finished up by saying, “I can see us really evolving offensively as a team that’s going to play positionless basketball on the 5 spots on the floor.” Sounds like that is what we should expect going forward for the Deacs. What are your thoughts on going 5-out?