Steve Kerr and his Warriors playbook has always been creative, innovative, and perfect in designing plays for each roster he has. Whether it is designing lob sets for his best athletes or taking advantage of the attention Steph draws in the ball screens for easy layups, Kerr and his staff always find ways to tweak actions to benefit them.
One of the more deceptive actions that look random is the Golden State Warriors “Thumb Out” set which starts off with a ballscreen for Steph as decoy action and flows into a quick 2-man game.
Thumb Out Playcall
You can learn a good amount from watching the broadcast when they cut to coaching staffs on the sideline – here we can see Kerr call out “Thumb Out.” In the first clip against the Suns, he calls “Thumb Out 2” which just signals the player he wants in the action.
The main action starts off with a spread ballscreen which means it is difficult at times for us to glean whether they are running this specific action or just running a simple ballscreen for Steph. Obviously, this means the defense will also have a hard time decoding what’s going on unless they see a specific playcall from the bench.
Regardless of the coverage on the ballscreen (most of the time they are switches), Steph then throws it to the opposite wing then sprints right back off for a hand back or handoff. When teams switch out their big like Wood here it makes the coverage more difficult since if they are going to switch again the roller can be open and bigs tend to have a trickier time executing the next coverage after switching.
The Warriors had just run the play above for a Steph Curry 3 that he got fouled on but he noticed something as the play developed. On defense, the coverage was hesitant to switch and was staying higher on Steph, and Porter Jr rolled to the rim with a late recovery. So the next time the Warriors set up to run this play he tells Gary Payton II to fake the hand off and keeps it to attack.
In the next possession after the free throws Payton II fakes the handoff to Steph and the late switch leaves the Rockets defense out of position for him to drive and turn the corner for the layup.
There has not been a lot of games that the Warriors have needed late-game scores, but the most prominent one down 2 to the Hornets they went to this Thumb Out action. Knowing that the Hornets were going to switch and then trap Curry to take away his 3 point shooting, Draymond fakes the handoff beautifully and walks into a dunk.
The Warriors have not hit this option as much as I anticipated but when teams are trapping Steph the roll man then becomes more important. They have mixed up setting screens with both Looney and Payton II but firing the ball to the opposite wing quickly does allow this option to become more open and something the Warriors will go to if teams play more aggressively on Steph.
Thank you so much for reading this breakdown, I hope it sheds more light on one of my favorite Warriors sets. If you do enjoy this then please share, subscribe and support in any way you can!