10 Man Ride: Where (and How) to Initiate Offense

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Sep 29, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. We’re discussing where offenses should initiate from, how offenses should initiate, some Celtics-Heat correlations to lacrosse, and more. Let’s go!

1. Where should offenses initiate from?

At PLL Stats, we split all six-on-six initiations into four zones: up top, the righty wing, the lefty wing, and X.

Every six-on-six shot is born from some action – a dodge or a two-man game – in those areas. Where the shot was attempted from is separate (and a topic for a different day). Right now, we’re talking about where the offense initiated from. Let’s use three metrics to measure the success of different dodges (all stats in this segment are from six-on-six shots during the 2019-20 PLL seasons combined):

  • Assist rate (the percent of shots that are assisted)
  • Stick-to-the-middle rate (the percent of shots taken from a shooter’s strong side)
  • Shooting percentage

Assisted shots are higher percentage shots (29.5%) than unassisted shots (21.6%). Creating more time-and-room stepdowns and minimizing heroball chucks generally leads to healthier offense. Assist rates are highest on the lefty wing (47.1%) and righty wing (43.8%), followed by X (41.5%), and initiations from up top (34.3%).

Strong-side (i.e. stick-to-the-middle) shots are higher percentage shots (26.0%) than wrong-side (i.e. stick-to-the-outside) shots (19.9%). Box lacrosse players don’t dare to cross the invisible prime meridian, yet over a fifth of settled shots in field lacrosse are from the shooter’s wrong side. Stick-to-the-middle rates are high from the righty wing (89.5%), X (85.1%), and lefty wing (83.6%) – but very, very low from up top (66.6%).

Notice how assist rate and stick-to-the-middle rate impact shooting percentage. The best shots come from the righty wing (29.6%), followed by the lefty wing (27.2%), X (26.0%), and then up top (20.8%). 

The wings – which accounted for only 28.7% of all six-on-six initiations during the Championship Series – are underutilized. Only the Archers’ twins set and the Chaos’ “some lacrosse” scheme attack from those angles.

2. Alley dodge allergies

This is why I say I’m allergic to alley dodges. It’s tough to attack the heart of the defense from up top. Downhill dodgers delete shooting angles as they sprint by defenders. Sure, you have a two-way go – but those two options are typically a wrong-sided right-hand shot or a wrong-sided left-hand shot. 

Over 65% of all dodges from up top lead to unassisted shots, and those shots seek twine at a 17.0% clip. I believe those two numbers – unassisted shooting percentage and assist rate – go hand-in-hand. When you win one-on-one matchups, you draw slides. When you draw slides, you create stepdown shots for teammates. On the other hand – it’s tough to find open teammates when you don’t demand double teams.

3. How should offenses initiate?

We also divvy up every initiation into either a dodge or a two-man game. Most shots (74.3%) are set up by a dodge. But the best shots are set up by two-man games.

The reason why might not be what you think. Picks can create a step for the ball carrier, but unassisted shooting off picks (22.9%) is not much higher than off isolations (21.2%). 

The real benefit of the two-man game is pulling a defender out of the slide package.

This forces the defense to split four shooters with three defenders (instead of splitting five with four). Assisted shots off two-man games are better looks (32.2%) than assisted shots off dodges (28.3%). Defenses struggle with sending help to those actions. 

Are we switching? Fighting through? Sending a third? Picks force defenses to communicate – and, often, miscommunicate.

4. Bam, feeding a baseline 3-on-2

You can see similar spacing benefits on the basketball court. The Celtics trap this pick-and-roll then send a third defender to the roll man, Bam Adebayo.

Pause it when Bam catches the ball. There’s a three-on-two along the baseline with a sharpshooter in either corner and Andre Iguodala in the dunker spot. The three-on-two turns into a two-on-one between Iguodala and Goran Dragic, and eventually a wide open triple for Dragic.

5. Switchability

One more Celtics-Heat note: Per The BBall Index, Jaylen Brown spends 16.0% of defensive possession on point guards, 8.9% on centers, and the rest evenly split among wing players. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in the league.

My question for you: Who would you wager is the most switchable PLL defender?

Dominique Alexander gets my vote. I can’t think of anyone else who spends as much time on X attackmen, downhill dodgers, and wing slashers. Like Jaylen does for the Celtics, Dominique enables the Archers to play a “switch everything” scheme that allows for easier decisions and impromptu double teams.

6. Steps for the lacrosse community to fight racism

Eli Vega, a Harlem Lacrosse alum now playing at Haverford College, outlined his steps for the lacrosse community to fight racism on IL this week:

  1. Listen to your Black teammates/peers
  2. Hold yourself accountable
  3. Participate in programs that diversify lacrosse
  4. Remember that lacrosse is the medicine game
  5. Research and stay connected to thought leaders and intellectuals doing anti-racist work

Read his full story on IL.

7. Connor Buczek on Phi-Lacrosse-ophy 

Atlas LC midfielder and Cornell men’s lacrosse head coach Connor Buczek joined Jamie Munro on the Phi-Lacrosse-ophy podcast to talk about his practice plans (hint: lots of shooting) and how he balances ball movement while still encouraging re-dodging.

Listen to the episode on Spotify.

8. If NFL players were in the PLL

It’s football season. So Mike Diggs found some old highlights from PLL players’ glory days. Tune into the Weekly Watch for a 58-yard Joel Tinney punt, dual-threat quarterback Bryan Costabile, and Sergio Perkovic mossing defensive backs downfield.

9. Crease Collapse of the Week

2019 All-Film Team and 2020 All-Tournament Team defenseman Jack Rowlett’s highlight tape is out. It’s full of V-holds, reverse V-holds, over-the-head checks, aggressive slides, what Jamie Munro calls “bump-and-run” coverage, and this Crease Collapse of the Week.

Check out Rowlett’s full tape here.

10. We’ll be back…

This will be the last 10 Man Ride for a little while. We have a big project on the way -- a project that I’m very excited about and I believe you’ll love. I’ll be focusing on that top secret project for the next couple months, and I’ll see you back here when that’s done and ready to share. 

Thanks for reading!

Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs)!

Share This With Friends