32 Split Low

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

32 Split Low is the next call that we will explore.

“32” specifies a 3 out 2 in alignment.

“Split” specifies that the post players must be opposite of one another at all times.

“Low” specifies that the ball side post player should be in the low post.

***Side note: Remember the post spots are the Short Corner, Mid Post and Elbow. While the short corner is “lower” than the mid post, I’m referring to the mid post.

Remember these diagrams are not actions that are set in stone.  These are just possibilities. Your players will come up with more if you let them. I had fun with this one. I would like to see what other people come up with.


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The point passes to the wing. Boring right? You’re right it is, but I had to start somewhere. The screen for 2 from 4 is optional because 2 can just fill, but while 4 is there, they can make themselves useful. This could turn into a back screen or fade screen as well. For now we will keep it simple and have 2 fill the top spot while 1 fills out to the opposite side. Later, you’ll see what happens when this player fills to the ball side.








Page 637Of course, 5 is posting up and looking for the ball. If 1’s defender stops in help, like they are probably taught, 5 may not be open. That’s ok, because 1’s defender just set themselves up to get screened. If 1’s defender follows them out of the lane then 5 should be open for a post entry.  Of course if 4’s defender is helping off on the post then they should be open in the high post.

In this situation, let’s just say 1’s defender is in help side on 5. 4 can pin in 1’s defender. 1 lines up with 4 and 3 throws the skip pass. 2 cuts because they were skipped. In this case, they fill to the ball side. Since 5 is now opposite the ball, they fill the high post while 4 fills the low post.

4 may not be able to receive a pass off of a seal from the pin screen, but 4’s defender is going to have to make a choice.  Little do they know that behind them the other post player is moving to the high post and taking away help side defense.  3 is filling the top spot which brings the last help side defender 1 pass away. If 4’s defender plays behind, we should be able to get 4 the ball. If not, the lob should be available.



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If you’re Phil Jackson, this might look familiar. There’s a strong side triangle on the left side of the floor. We could have had this alignment on the first pass if 1 had cut to the ball side corner. Of course there are dozens of actions in the triangle that start from this alignment.

For the sake of continuing the offense, let’s say 4’s defender plays behind and we’re able to get the ball to 4.  1’s responsibility is to Laker Cut. Now they could Laker Cut and screen for 2, 3, or 5, but for now we’ll say they just fill out. Notice how turning the Laker Cut into an X-cut or into a back screen as a NBA would make things interesting.

Again 1’s defender should stay in help, which sets them up for a nice little pin screen from 5. 2 fills up from the corner. Of course 5 may be open on a dive to the basket, but that probably turns into a lay-up so let’s keep going.



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Notice if 4 puts the ball on the floor to the baseline side, 1 would fill the corner spot following the Baseline Drive principles.  If 4 drove middle, everyone would circle move. The question might be what about 5. I would encourage them to circle move to the right and be available around the low post/short corner.

However, 4 doesn’t feel comfortable trying to score or put the ball on the floor so they decide to kick it out to 2. They could kick it to 1 or 3 as well. The best option is the open option, and for now we’re going to say 2 is the open player.

4 could repost.  They could sprint into a ball screen, but in this diagram they screen away for the other post player. 5 knows their job is to go low since they are on the ball side.  4 has to stay high.  Notice we look a lot like we did in the second diagram.



Page 640This time instead of a skip pass, 2 passes to the top to 3 and cuts to the basket.  5 steps up and back screens 2’s defender on the cut. As 2 exits the lane, 4 back screens 1’s defender as 1 cuts to the basket.  Then 5 sets the second screen for 1 to either flare to the wing or curl to the lane. You might be thinking, there’s no way I could get my players to do all this.

I say, why not? Let’s keep moving. I will address that in a minute.










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1 and 2 have basically switched sides of the court. However, these actions were not predicated. Who knows what kind of match-ups we have right now. It’s quite possible that the defenders have switched at some point along the way or that a defender has gotten themselves out of position.  However, let’s say they’ve played great defense on actions that they couldn’t foresee, because our own players aren’t following a prescribed set of actions.

Now 3 decides to dribble-at 1 for a dribble handoff. 2 fills just as they would if it were a dribble-at.  4 and 5 wait patiently and prepare for the next action.






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As 1 turns the corner, 2 circle moves while 4 and 5 slide away from the penetrator to either open up the lane or open up themselves.








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Now 1 has a decision to make. Does the action have to stop on this penetration?  Of course not. 1 might dribble back to the top of the key and pass to a wing.  They might kick out to 2 who makes an entry pass to 4 and Laker Cuts.  The action could continue as long as the clock is running and the offense doesn’t give up possession of the ball by either shooting it or turning it over.

The point here is that this is just one combination of actions that are based on this one alignment.  Yet, the action could look very different at any number of points along the way. In each frame of the action, the ball handler could have chosen any number of different actions to take with the ball. Then as a cutter, what they do when they cut changes things. Even which side of the court a player decides to fill makes things different as well.





This may seem complicated. Remember all the players are doing is executing one simple action and then reacting accordingly. They don’t need to know what action to execute next. They just need to focus on executing the next one correctly. The action of the post players is not predicated either. Remember they have two rules to follow in this case.  The first is that when the ball is driven towards the basket to move out of the way.  The second is based on the call that we made at the beginning, “32 Split Low”.

You might wonder how post players know when to set these screens. You’re right, there are no rules, but they can be taught. These screens aren’t being set by them going way out of their way.  All of them “make sense” based on their location and the cutter’s movement. All they really need to do is see the cutter coming prepare for the contact. The cutter just needs to use the post players as they cut off of them.

The good news is that the offense doesn’t break if someone forgets to set a screen. Maybe a post player is busy posting up instead of screening.  Well this can be just as effective. Maybe they decide to set another kind of screen somewhere along the line. That’s good too. This single possibility has a number of others built into it. The way I see it there are no wrong answers as long as players remain spaced, move themselves with a purpose, and move the ball with a purpose, including attacking the lane off the dribble.

Keeping Things Simple

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

A recent opponent played a true matchup zone against us. These defenses can give teams problems. Zone offenses tend to be less effective because the defenders aren’t assigned to a certain area. Man to man offenses tend to not work as well because defenders aren’t assigned to certain players either.

Here’s a simple set of actions that we used for a few consecutive possessions in the second half which helped us create a number of good scoring opportunities.  Of course players had to make plays, but as coaches we have to put them in position to do so.

We drew up the first three frames in a time out. The fourth frame was not part of what we did, but it would be one way to simultaneously create two 3 point shots on either side of the court.

The lesson learned here is that sometimes simple is better.  The trick is not the complication of the action.  The trick is putting players in places where they can be successful while creating ball movement and player movement with good spacing. These actions were created based specifically on the skills of the personnel on the floor.

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There are a few interesting things to notice.  The alignment changes in a very simple way from 4 out to 3 out with an even front. Notice how the defense defends the same action differently all three times.

The tandem alignment is designed to take away the middle of the floor.  By starting in a 4 out alignment, it brings out the middle person of the tandem.  This along with the denial of the low post player opens up the high post and causes the defense problems.  The entry to the high post causes confusion.  Now it just takes one attack dribble to hold the low wing defender to create the open 3 point shot.


In the second clip, the person in the middle of the zone is worried about that weak side post player.  She remembers in the previous possession how that player flashed to the high post and compromised their defense.  That little bit of attention draws her away from the cutting post player.  A good post entry and a good individual play lead to a layup.  Notice also in this clip how the weak side post player could have sealed the backside defensive player to prevent their rotation to help.  It worked out anyway, but posting on the weakside can be a huge benefit to the team even if they don’t receive the ball.

This is just a tough individual play.  But notice after scoring the first time how the defense reacts.  They decide to double team that player which obviously opens up other players who react well to the openings it creates.

After this they started fouling and we didn’t run the action again.  We didn’t have to.  It’s amazing how such simple actions can lead to productive offense.

2 offensive players (Laker Cut, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations


A player on the wing passes to a post player and makes a Laker cut.  That player then fills out to the perimeter.  What happens if 5 faces the basket and drives baseline? It’s no different from a perimeter player driving baseline. We have to fill our windows.

The cutter must be aware of the action of the ball.  If the help defender stops around the lane as the cutter fills out, there’s a good chance that this cutter will be open in the corner. A post player with the ball is going to get lots of attention.  They can be taught to find the player in the corner as well as other perimeter players who might be open.
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Post Pass – Points of Emphasis

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Post Play

There are a number of points of emphasis for Post Pass Layer.  The passer and post player must work in tandem to execute this layer.  Both players have certain responsibilities they must execute to successfully get the ball in this position for this layer.

The 8 C’s of Post Play discuss some of these general details.  I don’t want to take time getting into the specific fundamentals.  There are numerous ways to teach players how to be successful in the post.  I may touch on these later. These 8 qualities are critical for a post player to be able to successfully execute their half of the action associated with this layer.

Again, the perimeter players are the real key.  Can the guard get the ball to post player?  This is a skill that does not come naturally to most players.  Some players don’t see the post player because they only see the defender in front of them.  Some players don’t feel comfortable getting it to the post player, so they do something else.  Some players try and fail. I watch guards all the time who can’t hit the biggest targets in the post.  Yes, we have to teach them that too.

Ball Fakes

  • Ball fakes are probably the most under utilized skill in the game of basketball.  Whether it’s a shot fake or a pass fake, a good ball fake can get on-ball and off-ball defenders out of position for just long enough to get the ball into a post player.  

Location and Angle

  • The location of the players on the court is important to getting the ball inside.  Ball handlers must have an angle to be able to get the ball into the post player.  They must be aware of help side defenders who may be anticipating any entry passes.  They must understand the distance between them and the post player is  important.  If they are too close, the post won’t have space to operate.  If they are too far away, defenders may have a chance to deflect or steal the pass.  

Catchable Passes

  • Guards have to understand their post players.  They have to understand that they may be holding off a defender while trying to secure the catch at the same time. Passing to a post player is different from passing to a perimeter player.  Passes must be catchable.  Of course a post player with great hands increases this room for error.  But guards still have to understand how to deliver a good pass that is away from the defense yet catchable by their teammate.


  • The Laker Cut is not a difficult cut to make, but it must be made with good pace and spacing.  The cutter must maintain separation between themselves and the post player.  This forces the defender to make a decision and makes the post player’s decision easier.  It also makes the double team on the post player more difficult.  If the cutter doesn’t cut to space, the post player can be put in a pretty precarious situation in trying to protect the ball.

Hitting the Cutter

  • Of course we want to hit the cutter if they are open.  This is a very advantageous position for the offense.  Conventional passes probably won’t be available here.  Post players will learn how to deliver the ball in close quarters, over, under, and around defenders.  They must understand that bullets are going to be tough to catch in these close quarters. Cutters must always be ready.  The opportunity for a pass to a cutter may be slim.  Cutters must always expect the pass.  



Pass, Cut, & Fill: Implementation Plan (Whole)

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Passing Actions

5 offensive players and 5 defenders
We can really show the WHOLE picture at this point.  We can review defensive positioning based on the ball and the player. We can review the defensive concepts what we’ve covered so far. We can also show how we will defend cutters and provide help on cutters. Remember cutters are closely related to post players. So we can mention post defense even though we might not really spend a lot of time talking about it. We don’t spend a lot of time here. However, seeing the whole puzzle picture helps the smaller pieces make sense. Again, it doesn’t matter what defensive philosophy you employ.

5 offensive players
This may be a good time to review everything that has been covered so far.   What happens when someone attacks off the dribble?  What happens when someone dribble’s-at a player?  What happens when a player drives baseline?  What happens when a player drives with a player in or around the lane?  

Your choice to review is optional. I’m going to let you know that many players are going to default to this passing layer, because it’s comfortable to them. They think “because coach is in the gym, I have to pass the ball.” They might think “I don’t want to dribble because I know my teammates aren’t completely comfortable with those reactions yet and I don’t want to make them look bad.”  They might think “I would only drive when my defender is out of position and since there is no defense it doesn’t make sense to drive.”

I think it’s important to keep these actions in their minds.  They must continue to practice the habits.  They must not forget that dribbling is important just because they can pass now.  I want players to learn to use the dribble to create and execute offense, and score but not just score.  I want players to be comfortable with reacting to the dribble.  I want players to learn to visualize defense when it isn’t there.  I know this is the Pass, Cut, & Fill layer.  It just drives me crazy to watch teams “run the play” when there is a clear scoring opportunity and the players are being robots instead of basketball players.

Back on task….

5 offensive players 1 action
Players will start at the 5 perimeter spots.  The ball can start with any player.  Players pass, cut, and fill without defense.  Place emphasis on straight hard cuts to the rim.  Players without the ball must fill one pass away spots aggressively.  Passers must ball fake the cutter before the next perimeter pass is made.  This is used to show the whole layer.  Significant time does not need to be spent on this building block.

You can show this layer from any of the 3 main alignments.  It is up to the coach and the personnel.  Regardless, the rules stay the same. When a shot is taken, players rebound.  When a player drives right, everyone rotates right.  When a player drives left, everyone rotates left.  When someone dribble’s at another player, that player cuts back door. When a player drives baseline, 4 windows must be filled. When a player pass, that player cuts. It’s pretty straight forward.  It all sounds pretty simple.  Some players may struggle with it all initially.  But they will learn it.  And when they do, they will be very hard to guard.

Pass, Cut, & Fill: Points of Emphasis

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Passing Actions

I debated with myself about whether to include all of the sub-layers in this post. I figured that even though this single post might be longer, it would be better than having posts that repeated a lot of the same information. So these points of emphasis refer to all three of the sub-layers of this Pass, Cut, & Fill layer.

Initiator (Cutter) Receiver (Passer)
Hard cuts Ready to hit open cutter
Cut with a purpose Read cutter’s defender early and late
Just Cut, Don’t Dance Knees bent
Always see the ball Hands ready
Path of least resistance Attack behind cutter
Fill spots from baseline up Catch and land on two feet when possible
Hands ready No Dancing
Pass away from the defense Just Cut, Don’t Dance
Instant Reaction

Initiator (Cutter)

  • Hard Cuts
    Cutting hard makes the offense harder to guard, because it increases the tempo at with which we play. The harder we cut, the less time defense has to adjust. This gives us more chances to catch them out of position. The harder we cut, the more opportunities we have to be open. Just like with the Dribble-At, the cut starts with good footwork. No false movement. Plant and go.
  • Cut with a Purpose
    It’s not always enough to just cut hard. Cutters must also cut with a purpose. In other offensive styles and systems, the cutter is told exactly what they should do, or they are given options to do one thing or another. Cutters are to cut to the rim without exception. They are a scoring option. We want cutters to want the ball. Can you beat your defender on a face cut? Can you beat them back door? We want cutters to get themselves open going to the basket.
  • Just Cut, Don’t Dance
    We don’t want to fight the defense on a cut. We just want to cut. There are too many options when we cut to fight the defense. Tempo is important. Spacing is important. There’s no need to fight the cut.
  • Always see the ball
    If they are open, they might get the ball. Primarily, cutters must always see the ball because they must always be ready to react to dribble penetration. If a teammate drives during the course of their cut, cutters must react correctly to dribble penetration. Failure to react to dribble penetration could result in the loss of an easy scoring opportunity.
  • Path of least resistance
    Cutters must learn to make a quick read of their defender. We don’t want to fight the defense for a certain position. We want to take advantage of whatever position the defense gives up. Defenders can’t take away everything. If they take one thing away, they give up something else. We want cutters to get to the rim as quickly as possible. If they can cut their defender’s face, then great. If not, get to the rim and we’ll go from there.
  • Fill spots from baseline up
    After players finish their cut, they have options. The first option that we will teach is that they must fill out to the open spot. This is the most basic option. When players fill, they must fill open spots from the baseline up. Depending on the alignment and the location of the ball, players may not have to fill the open spot. Players must fill spots that are 1 pass away from the ball. In a 5 out alignment all perimeter spots will always be filled. In a 3 out alignment, cutters will always have to fill up to the next open spot. In a 4 out alignment, cutters will have more options. As a result, players are only required to fill the open spot if they are one pass away. There are advantages to filling up to the next spot, just as there are advantages to not filling up. These will be discussed in a future post.
  • Ready hands
    Just as with any of the other layers, cutters must have their hands ready to receive a pass. You never know when a pass might come zipping your way. (see Nov 3, 2012 #HOTD) You also never know when a shot is going to go up and you’re going to need to rebound.
  • Pass away from the defense
    Most of the focus of the previous points has assumed that the cutter was able to complete the initial pass. I guess we better teach the player how to pass. If the passer will throw the ball away from the defender, they will be successful more often than not. The offensive player should be the only player who has a chance to touch the ball.

Receiver (Passer)

  • Ready to shoot
    The receiver must be ready to shoot. This readiness occurs before they catch the ball. However, their first option must be to score. If they are not a threat to score, they have just become much easier to defend. You may determine that this shot is a bad shot for some or all of your players. I agree that not all shots from all players are good shots. However, it must be understood that you have just made your team easier to defend. Granted, this may be a very small and insignificant sacrifice. We must consider though how many times we limit the shots our players are allowed to take.
    Every time we limit a shot opportunity, we limit our offense. It’s true, we want to take the best shots every possession. At what point do are we taking away good shots from our players and as a result are forced to take bad ones? In games where a shot clock is present, this becomes a very interesting question. In games without a shot clock, it is more a question of shots vs. ball security. If you can trust your players to take care of the ball, then you can be much more selective about the shots you take.
  • Ready to drive
    If your players may not shoot (i.e. they aren’t allowed to), they better be able to drive. If they cannot shoot (because they don’t have the ability or the defense won’t let them), they better be able to do something besides pass. Otherwise they aren’t going to be much of a perimeter threat. The receiver is the next available attacker. As soon as they receive the pass (actually before they receive the pass), they must be ready to attack. There is a small window between the time they receive the ball and the next player fills where a driving lane is likely available. This “Draft Drive” is a very effective way to create scoring opportunities. However, players must be ready to take advantage of it. They have to know it’s going to be there before receive the pass. If they wait too long, the driving lane will be closed down by the rotating defenders, and an opportunity to attack will have been lost
  • Ready to hit cutter
    OK! OK! I get it. You want to get some ball movement. You want to get the best shot. You want your team to attack with the pass too. I get that. Why have a cutter if they aren’t a threat to receive the ball? Yeah I understand that too, sort of. I think a couple previous bullet points touched on the importance of the player cutting. They are a rebounder as well as a snow plow. They clear the way for the ball handler to drive. However, the cutter is a scoring option as well. The passers should look for the cutter. There aren’t many more plays in basketball more basic than the Give & Go. Many times an easy Give & Go turns into an easy lay up.
  • Catch on two feet when possible
    Catching the ball on two feet is so valuable to maximizing options as an offensive player. Being able to go left or right with either foot as a pivot makes the ball handler very difficult to defend.
  • Just Cut, Don’t Dance
    We don’t teach players to get open. Either you’re open or you’re not. We don’t want you trying to get open. If your player is over the Read Line, you should be going back door.

Post Pass – Laker Cut

The Post Pass – Laker Cut Layer is the second true interaction between perimeter players and post players.  The first was the incorporation of Post Slides. The post slides applied to cutters in the previous sections.  They apply to permanent post players as well.

The Post Passing layer applies to both cutters and permanent posts.  However, we introduce it now for two reasons.  Usually a pass to a cutter is probably going to end up in a shot attempt.  While it’s still important for the passer to react, the importance has more to do with rebounding than it does for offensive continuity.  

The Post Passing layer falls right in line with the other passing actions.  Passing into the post is no different from passing to a player on the perimeter.  Just like with passing actions, when a player passes to the post, they must cut to the basket.  The only difference in passing to a post player is that the player may not be able to cut directly to the basket.  The player who catches the ball in the post could very easily be on the line from the passer to the basket.  In any case, the player who passed to the player in the post must cut away from the player with the ball and to the basket.  If the post receiver is high, the passer should cut low and visa versa.  If the post receiver is in the mid post, the offensive player can cut either way.

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Simply speaking, they should cut where they feel they have the best chance at being open.  If they do not receive the ball, they just fill out to the perimeter.  The other players around them fill the open spots. The player with the ball can make a move to the basket or kick out to the perimeter.