There are many different reasons why a mismatch in offense can be of benefit to a team. A mismatch is simply put, a desired scenario where the offensive player has an advantage over the defensive player. Most of the time people tend to talk about a mismatch being exclusively focused on a player’s size, but there are many more options that could and should be explored.
The first step to being able to find a mismatch is to have information about your opposition. This means often scouting a team and breaking the analysis down to the individual player level. By scouting the individual player, you will be able to identify possible mismatches between your players and the opposition. This will allow a coach to start a game with different strategies in mind to exploit the weaknesses of their opposition.
A common misconception about exploiting a mismatch is that it is something special and outside the normal offense of the team. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most mismatches can occur during the game just by using the team’s regular offense but with a specific purpose in mind. For instance players might be rotated in their starting positions to allow the mismatch to occur during the normal flow of the team’s offenses. This is done rather than running a new offense to accommodate for the mismatch. In this example, the Shooting Guard might switch positions with the Small Forward to allow for a different rotation within the offense and a possible mismatch.
A mismatch can be instigated through a number of different strategies. Some of these include:
On-Ball Screen; probably the most used tactic in attempting to create a mismatch situation. The on-ball screen tactic is often performed by a Forward and a Guard. The aim is to force the forward’s defender to switch onto the dribbler (Guard). Not only with the guard have a speed advantage usually over the forward now guarding them, but the screen will also be often defended by a physically smaller guard.
Hand-off: a very similar tactic to that of the on-ball screen, a hand-off looks to exchange the ball between a forward and a guard. The hand-off’s focus again is in forcing the defender guarding the Forward to switch onto the dribbler (Guard).
Screen the Screener: another common method of creating a mismatch is to use a screen the screener action. This movement sees a second screen set for the first screener in the attempt to create a switch between the two offensive player’s defensive match-ups.
Any screening situation if performed well will either result is a switch between the defensive players or a scoring opportunity by an unguarded player. This should be a point of note when breaking down any offense that a screen is meant to be performed with the aim of creating a switch between players as the only suitable defensive strategy. Once a defensive team starts this strategy when defending a screening action, a mismatch will be created and then counter moves can be incorporated into the offense to take advantage of this situation.
A mismatch does not have to be focused around a player’s position as a Centre, Forward or Guard. Other opportunities may be exploited like a defensive player who struggles to defend on the right side of the floor. Another defensive player might struggle in transition or defend poorly when playing against a forward who likes to face-up to the basket. All of these scenarios are examples of where a possible mismatch can be exploited.
In conclusion, there are many different ways to create a mismatch within your offense. Remember not to just be one dimensional in choosing what weaknesses to exploit and consider other opportunities other than just player positions.