Player Movement in the R&R

There are 27 questions listed at this link that coaches could ask to determine optimal player movement for their team. That, of course, is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of others. These questions are just windows into how different coaches view the game and how to coach it.

For me, the R&R answers a lot of these questions in way that is good for players and the game as a whole. Here are my short answers to those questions. If you want to expound on any of them, let me know.

  1. You can put in as much structure as you want. It’s completely customizable to your philosophies and personnel. You might even coach it well enough that players learn to do this on their own.
  2. It’s easy to teach, and in fact, it’s fun to teach. Teaching players how to play basketball and seeing them succeed is a lot of fun.
  3. Anyone can play in it.  It’s not skill specific as long as you have some sort of skill set. If you don’t have any set of offensive skills, it doesn’t really matter what offense you run.
  4. You can model your team after other teams. This gives you a framework to do so.
  5. It doesn’t matter who your best players are. They can all be successful in their way.
  6. Getting players shots won’t be a problem. Your best players will get plenty of opportunities. The question is can they take advantage of it.
  7. The hardest thing to guard is the ball combined with constant player movement. This is in the R&R’s DNA.
  8. Players are always in a position to use their strengths.
  9. You’ll have constant movement, along with random combinations of actions. Most teams aren’t used to defending that.
  10. If the player is as good as the players that you’re playing against, then it doesn’t matter. The skills of your players will determine how you play.
  11. The skills of your players will determine the most successful actions.
  12. This offense will work against any defense, man, zone, or anything else.
  13. This offense is never the same. It’s always evolving.
  14. Everyone better be moving or they are probably doing it wrong. The movements are scripted so players can be held accountable.
  15. They are giving up something else, but the offense won’t stop and you’ll find scoring opportunities.
  16. Someone should be open or have a mismatch. Can you make the play?
  17. Once they have the habits, there’s very little thinking involved.
  18. Players can hide their weaknesses in this offense.
  19. Players can use their strengths in this offense.
  20. Players aren’t worried about what defense they are facing. They just execute their trained habits.
  21. Even I never know what’s going to happen. There’s no way the opponent knows.
  22. Drivers can drive. Shooters can shoot. If you can’t do either, I hope you’re big enough to play in the post.
  23. For every action there is one reaction and we drill it every day, even in defensive breakdowns.
  24. Just make sure you teach players to put themselves in positions where they can be successful.
  25. This offense provides this opportunity to get the ball into the lane on every single touch.
  26. If you make it important that your players attack the glass, you’ll get rebounds.
  27. The defense is hardly ever standing still. If they are, they won’t be standing still for long.

Fast Break Drill #1

Here’s a Fast Break Drill. It emphasizes passing, catching, sprinting the floor, The framework is pretty basic. How can you tweak it to make it different?

Change where the lines start. Dictate the type of passes players make. Put time on the clock. Make a number of layups in a row or in that time, or even both. Dictate that the layups have to be perfect (bank swish). All passes must be perfect. Run the drill to the other side. Add another ball. Make them finish every layup off of two feet.

There are probably lots of other ways to tweak this drill to make it different. You can run the same drill every day, but you don’t have to run it the same way every day in order to help your team improve. Be creative. What different ways can you think of to run this drill so that helps make your team better?

fast break drill 1 Fast Break Drill 2Fast Break Drill 3 Fast Break Drill 4Fast Break Drill 5

Dribble 2 on 0

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

What happens when somebody dribbles? Most players know that when a teammate shoots, you’re supposed to rebound. You might rebound if your job is transition defense, but you get the idea. When a player passes, most coaches tell the players on the team where to go and what to do.  What do we tell them when a player dribbles? How is this not just as important as shooting and passing?  In fact, it’s probably more important. Many players don’t know what to do when their teammate dribbles. They become observers instead of active engaged participants in the action. They wait to see what kind of play their teammate is about to make instead of preparing themselves for what might happen.

This same drill can be used at different instances.  We used it after we taught attack dribble and circle movement. We used it after we taught dribble at. We used it to test the two concepts together. We used it to put two actions together. You can run it from an even front or an odd front. You can move the lines anywhere you want. It’s the same drill. But there are lots of things you can tweak to make the same drill completely different.

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Player Movement

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Player movement is probably the most debatable part of coaching basketball. There must be hundreds and maybe thousands of different diagrams that show different types and combinations of player movement. Coaches are constantly trying to come up with new ways to move their players to find new ways to create scoring opportunities for their team.

Of course this player movement is dependent on the first two qualities of good offense. Teams must have good spacing and ball movement first. Player movement without ball movement isn’t enough. If the ball isn’t moving, (or if the defense isn’t worried that the ball is going to move), then the off ball defenders will have a much easier time defending the player movement. Poor spacing rarely results in good offense. Coaches are constantly trying to figure out how to have good spacing with coordinated ball movement and player movement that will result in the best scoring opportunities for their teams.

Just like there are tons of different floor plans in houses across the world, coaches have different playbooks that have use different kinds of player movement. Just like bedrooms are typically similar shapes and sizes, there are some plays that a lot of different coaches run with their teams. However, most coaches have plays that are unique to them or that have their own twist.

There are tons of books, videos, and websites filled with plays. The question is how do you decide what to use with your team?

You can ask all kinds of questions to help decide how you want your players to move.

  1. How do I get the ball to certain players in certain spots?
  2. What do I know how to teach?
  3. What can my players learn, understand, and execute?
  4. Whose team is like my team and what do they do?
  5. Who are my best players?
  6. How will I get these players shots?
  7. What’s the hardest thing to guard?
  8. How can I put my players in situations where they can be successful?
  9. How can we have uncommon actions that teams aren’t used to guarding?
  10. What type of players do I have?
  11. What actions are going to help them be most successful?
  12. What types of defense will we face?
  13. What offense is fun to teach?
  14. What happens when the ball gets driven?
  15. What happens when the defense takes away a certain action?
  16. What happens when they switch a screen?
  17. How much do my players have to think and how much can they play without thinking?
  18. What weaknesses do my players have?
  19. What strengths do they possess?
  20. What offense will work against styles or types of defense?
  21. What offense is difficult to scout?
  22. What offense gives players freedom to create within their skill sets?
  23. What offense gives players structure so that there is accountability?
  24. What can we do so that everyone has to be guarded all the time?
  25. How can we get the ball into the lane via the dribble or the pass?
  26. What gives us a good chance to get offensive rebounds?
  27. What kind of offense moves the help defense?

Once these questions are answered, now the player movement has to get organized in a way to present to your team. Are you going to run a bunch of quick hits? Are they out of similar or different alignments? Are you going to run continuities? Maybe you’ve decided a motion offense is the best way to go. Maybe you like a combination of them all. Whatever you decide, player movement is important to creating good offense. This blog has lots of articles that discuss player movement in the Read & React style of offense. Every coach has to make their own decisions for their teams. The question becomes what do you think is best for yours.

“Hustle”: Top 10 Truths

This entry is part 29 of 28 in the series Leadership

My wife and I just finished reading “Hustle” by Joshua Medcalf. If you’ve never heard of him or his partner Jamie Gilbert, now you have. They have hustled to become great through their organization “Train 2B Clutch.” If you haven’t read the book, you should. If you have read it, it’s probably time to read it again. It speaks truth. If you can’t handle it, then don’t waste your time. Keep living your life in your comfort zone. If you can, you’ll be glad you did.

Mr. Medcalf asked us for the things that affected us most. It’s so hard to pick only one. So here’s our top 10.

  1. Being great is about hustle, dirty work and sacrifice. Nothing more, nothing less. What have we done?  What are we doing?
  2. We need to pray more. We need to pray harder. We need to be more in touch with God’s will.
  3. Are we putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions? Are we doing that for others? Are we helping people cut their ropes or are we only reinforcing their beliefs of inadequacy?
  4. Are we preparing in the right way for the future? Are we using our 86,400 seconds in proportion to the size of our dreams? What do we need to keep doing? What do we need to do differently?
  5. Would we invest in ourselves? Are we taking risks?  Do we hustle regardless of the outcome?
  6. “The true measure of a man is not how hard he fights back when provoked, but how much provoking he can endure, and still respond in love.”
  7. We need to become what God made us to become, but it ain’t gonna just magically happen. It’s going to take patience, perseverance, and hustle.
  8. Are we missing the back door?  Are we afraid to go through it? Are we acting outside the box?
  9. We are thankful for hardships and obstacles. They are making us better. Keep them coming. We have embraced our desert. We are thankful for closed doors. We are ready for more.
  10. We need to say “No” to chasing waterfalls, partially controllable goals, and our “problem addiction.” We need to be more picky about when we say “Yes”.

“Chop Wood, Carry Water” is next. Then we will read “Burn Your Goals.”  I’m guessing there will be more awesome truths in these books as well.

Ball Movement

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

If good spacing is the foundation of the house, the walls and roof are ball movement. Without good spacing, it’s hard to get good ball movement, but if a team has good spacing, the next most important key is ball movement.

This game is all about the ball. Without the ball, there isn’t much point in the game. The team that dictates ball movement is probably the team that’s going to win. Offenses want to control where the ball goes, who the ball goes to, the speed with which the ball moves, and how the ball moves. Defenses want to dictate the same things to their advantage. Defenses have a hard time dictating all those things, and so they pick and choose what is most important.

The three ways to move the ball are by dribbling, passing, and shooting. Ball movement is primarily related to the skills of the player who has it at any particular time. Is that player a good ball handler with either hand or are they limited to one hand?  Maybe they can’t dribble at all without a defender stealing it. Are they a good passer? Are they a threat to score relative to where they are on the court? These are all very basic questions that are evaluated in some way by every player on the court every time a player touches the ball. Offensive and defensive players make judgments on what they think the player with the ball will do every instant so that they can react accordingly. Sometimes this is an obvious decision. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Sometimes these decisions aren’t very good decisions; yet decisions are always being made.

More importantly, the player with the ball is evaluating how they will move the ball next. The player with the ball is in control of the situation. The abilities of that player to make a good decision and execute that decision properly play a major part in determining what happens next. Of course this decision is also dependent on the decisions of the other 9 players on the court, but this is what makes the game fun.

Defenses want players who are not adept at dribbling, passing, shooting, or making good decisions to handle the ball more than the better players. In general, defenses prefer the ball be kept outside the lane. Most defenses would prefer the ball to be dribbled backward or laterally as opposed to towards the basket. Most defenses would prefer that the ball be moved slowly so that they have time to remain in good defensive position.

Offenses are designed to get the ball in the basket. In some cases, this means getting the ball closer to the basket.  In other cases, this means getting open opportunities for players who might be away from the basket. Offenses are designed to keep defenses moving so that offensive players can find breakdowns in the defense. The best way to keep defenses moving is to keep the ball moving. While moving players can move some defenders, moving the ball moves all the defenders (or at least it should).

What is most important in coaching ball movement offensively? Is it important to get the ball in certain areas of the court? Is it important to have the ball in a certain player’s hands? Is it important to predicate how the ball moves or make it less ? These are just a few of the questions that coaches have to answer in determining how they will attack opposing defenses. There are lots of different answers to these questions. This blog provides a few possibilities, but there are hundreds more.

I think many times we get caught up in player movement, and we forget to consider the movement of the ball. This blog has indirectly answered many of these questions. It is difficult to answer questions about ball movement or player movement directly without knowing the specifics about the personnel on a certain team. However, it is interesting to talk philosophically about these questions in preparation to answer them when that time comes.

Good Spacing

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Spacing has been discussed multiple times on this blog.

  1. The Simplicity of the Game
  2. Skills and Abilities: Offensive Philosophy Part 2
  3. Teaching Basketball Players to Play the Game
  4. Team Mentality: Offensive Philosophy Part 3

However, it hasn’t been discussed in detail. I know it’s a pretty basic concept, yet I consistently see that players don’t understand it. They might be able to take a test and pass it, but when they play, good spacing is consistently compromised. I hope to answer three questions in this post so that we can help our teams play better offense.

  1. What is good spacing?
  2. Why is good spacing important?
  3. How can we achieve good spacing throughout a possession?


Offensive spacing is the distance between offensive teammates at any given time. Good spacing has been defined by different coaches as anywhere between 12-18 ft. I haven’t seen many coaches take a tape measure on the basketball court and measure the distance between two players. So how can we concretely define good spacing for our players in a way that is easy for them to understand and maintain throughout a possession?

We can use a few different spots on the court and the alignments that are created when players stand in these different spots. A 5 out alignment has perimeter players on each wing, each corner and the top of the key with no permanent post player. A 4 out alignment has one player in the post and 4 players around the perimeter. Coaches define their “4 out spots” differently. Some coaches have between 4 and 6 potential spots for players in a 4 out alignment. Some use the same spots that are used in a 5 out alignment. Some put two spots outside of each lane line extended, two spots on the wings, with two “optional” spots in the corners. Keep in mind, the post player can be anywhere in the post and good spacing will be maintained. It may be helpful for other reasons to dictate where the post player is located, but with regards to specifically to good spacing it really doesn’t matter. In a 3 out alignment, typically, the spots are the same as a 5 out alignment which of course means they will be spaced appropriately.

When there are two post players, their spacing might be less than 12-18 ft. Defining spacing for post players is a little different. Because post players are closer to the basket, defenders have less room for error. Defenders must play closer to their player. Their decision to help a teammate can result in a layup very easily. One slight misstep or hesitation can result in the offensive post player being open for an easy shot or getting an offensive rebound. As a result, it isn’t the end of the world to have one post player on each elbow or each block. In fact a lot of good offensive actions can occur in these situations. As long as they aren’t standing beside each other, they can still be effective.


Good spacing forces defenders to cover the full width of the court. Defenders who are forced to move laterally often are more susceptible to getting out of position.

Good spacing forces defenders to make decisions in what they defend. Poor spacing allows one defender to guard two or more players at the same time. Poor spacing keeps defenders from having to make decisions on where they are positioned.

Good spacing puts players in positions to make passes safely to one another while at the same time giving them enough space to attack the defense off the dribble without defenders being able to help easily.

A detail that is often neglected is that the more shooting range players have, the more of the length of the floor defenders have to defend. Steph Curry is hard to defend because he is a threat from very deep. Teams who can’t shoot very well provide the defense with space that does not have to be defended. If I don’t have to guard you, it just made my job easier to defend the space where I do have to guard you.

Making Good Spacing a Reality

In order to help players understand spacing, coaches have designed sets that put players in predicated spots. As long as players stand in those spots, the team will have good spacing. That is certainly one way to achieve it. How many sets does a team need? How many sets can a team remember and execute? How easy are those sets to defend? What happens when the set breaks down? Do you want to have to call a play every single possession?  What happens in transition?

Basketball is a player’s game. I believe our role as coaches is to give players the tools to be successful and let them use those tools based on their skill sets. As we teach every piece of the Read and React, we are playing from specific spots. Initially, we are very strict in holding players accountable to play from those spots. Every drill is run from “the spots.” Every time a player isn’t on the spot, we correct them .This helps them learn what good spacing looks like and feels like. As they become more advanced and more comfortable, we will give them a little more flexibility in the location of the spots. As long as they maintain good spacing, the specific spots become less important.

Spacing is critical to good offensive efficiency. As you watch basketball, I bet the better offensive teams are always spaced well.