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The Art of the Scout (written report)

A good individual scouting report should outline a concise set of instructions for your players, that if they execute, will lead to them winning the match up and upcoming game. The main component of the scout discussed in this article is the written individual scouting report.

The individual scout

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The top line outlines the player's expected role in the upcoming game, for example, are they the starting centre, or do they come off the bench. It then gives their identifiers - jersey number and name - their details, such as the positions they play, with their primary position listed first, and their height. Next their primary opening match-up is given, although players have to be prepared to mark different players due to defensive transition cross matches and/or switches. The player's shooting range is given. Typically err on the side of being generous here - if the player has a 15 foot jumper you may want to ensure this is well covered by listing his range at 17 feet. Finally the player is told how we want to close-out to this player, with "Long (force inside 3)" being at one end of the continuum and "Super Gap" (basically defend the charge circle) being at the other end of the continuum. 

Below this is a set of instructions on how to defend and attack this player. This section may include some statistics to highlight a point, for example what percentage of a player's field goal attempts are 3s. It's important not to have too many numbers. You may need to build your player's understanding as the season progresses of what certain statistics mean. Generally the players will understand and are interested to know.

If there is something extremely important it may come first. For example a big may be an outstanding offensive rebounder and you want to draw attention to how important it is that he is physically boxed out so you list this instruction first.

Otherwise there’s a chronological order to the scout -

Defensive transition is first. Do they leak out? Do we need to establish back hip position to force any possible catch back towards the baseline? If they're particularly good pushing the ball in transition then we need to emphasise how important it is that we build walls. 

Once play enters the front court, how dangerous is this player as a shooter. Does he need to be identified early so that he doesn't dribble into or get passed the ball for a rhythm transition 3? How close does the defender need to be to prevent the catch and shoot 3? This will be determined by the players willingness to shoot, their range, their speed of release and their accuracy. Are their other threats on the floor that are greater and therefore it is more imperative that their is strong help side defence? On the pass, how hard does the defender need to close out? Is this player someone who shoots well versus 'hand down, man down' and therefore having active hands that disrupts the shooting pocket or chamber becomes important?

Can he shoot off the dribble - can the defender establish a gap on the bounce? Once he’s closed out is their a drive preference: right or left? Does he have any moves that he likes to go to: for example, up fake drive left?

Discuss "Go" moves first, for example, jab right and drive left. Then discuss "Stop" moves. For example, a step back jumper. James Harden is an excellent practitioner of "Stop" moves. 

If the player gets to the Free Throw line it can be mentioned here and any notes about how to avoid this.

If the player runs ball screens a reminder what coverage are we using (this will be outlined under the heading of the overall scouting report). Any additional notes regarding on ball screens is included here. 

Next off ball screens and dribble hand-offs (DHOs) are covered - what coverages will we employ in defending these actions? Any additional notes regarding off ball screens and DHOs may be included here.

If this player posts up we will discuss his back to the basket game. How do we want to defend him in the post pre-catch, for example ¾ front. Does this player have a preferred shoulder to turn over when he is back to the basket? If he does we likely will want to shade his preferred shoulder and encourage and/or force him to turn the other way. How pronounced this preference is is important and should be conveyed to your players as it ascertains to what extent can they take liberties defending the post up. Are there any differences left side facing versus right side facing? Many players favourite moves or preferred shoulder are different depending what side of the floor they're on. If you plan to double team you would stipulate this here and remind the players of the double team rules you're employing.

Next is rebounding. Is there anything noteworthy? It is important to emphasise the importance of box outs. 

If they are a poor defender (especially relative to the other players on the team) it is mentioned here and the players are given instructions on how exactly we want to exploit this weakness. For example, if they're poor containing the ball we may want to emphasis attacking them in transition or early offence, or we may have a play or more that we wish to run to isolate this player on the perimeter. We don't wish to create doubt in our player's minds so generally good defence will not be mentioned unless it relates to forcing turnovers. Your players need to know if their opponent plays passing lanes or reaches, and therefore their leads, passes, immediate face ups, rip throughs and the like need to be on point. Often if you tell your players that their opponent's defence is poor they'll attack their shoulders aggressively, get dribble penetration and your scout will prove to be correct. You have to find the balance and not bait them into going into an isolation frenzy versus someone who’s lockdown and end up with empty possessions.

The statistics generally outline their averages for the current season (if it is early statistics from a previous season may be used to give a more comprehensive reflection of their ability) and their statistics from any prior games against us.

The Art of the Scout (Video)

Increasing Time on Task (ToT) at practice