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.

Pass, Cut, & Fill: Defensive Fundamentals

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

The pass, cut & fill layer provides coaches the opportunity to teach players how to defend offenses when a pass is made.  Following the rules of the Read & React creates significant off ball movement anytime the ball moves. This simultaneous movement of the ball and off ball players provides a teaching environment for any defensive strategy.  It provides a laboratory to create situations to test defensive skills and concepts. With the incorporation of the other foundational layers, coaches can teach and evaluate almost any perimeter defensive concept that does not involve a screening action.

1 pass away
What does this position look like for your defense philosophy? How do you teach it? On the line?  Off the line? How far? Up the line? Hug the player?  Always see ball or always see man?  Of course you always want to see both, but sometimes you have to choose.  Open stance?  Closed stance?

2 pass away
What does this position look like for your defense philosophy? How do you teach it? 1 foot in the lane?  2 feet in the lane?  Mid-line?  Does it depend on where the ball is?  Does it depend on the type of player you’re guarding?  Does it depend on how you defend the post player?  Does it depend on your defensive rotations?

They are one of the most important defensive concepts and skills for teams and players to master. The ability to closeout to a player in proper position is critical for defensive success. The Attack Dribble layer is a great opportunity to drill on ball closeouts.  Off ball closeouts are just important.  It is critical to always be in control of the body and be able react quickly offensive movement.  A closeout that is not aggressive enough to a position 1 pass away could lead to an open driving lane.  A closeout that is too aggressive to a position 1 pass away could lead to an easy back door cut.

Transitioning from one defensive position to another
This is related to closeouts in a way, but it’s also more than that. How do you want your players to get from on ball to 1 pass away?  What about from 1 pass away to on ball?  What about from on ball to 2 passes away or from 1 pass away to 2 passes away? Where do they go?  How do they get there?

Dealing with cutters
How do you want your players to deal with cutters? How do you defend the backdoor cut?  Do you allow face cuts?

Defensive Rotations
Defenses are inevitably going to break down. Whether on ball or off ball, somebody is going to make a mistake somewhere along the way. Defining who helps, when they help, and how they help each other completes the defensive picture for the most basic offensive actions. If your team can’t defend basic actions, they are going to have a more difficult time guarding more complicated ones.  

Pass, Cut, & Fill: Offensive Fundamentals

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Passing Actions

The offensive fundamentals in the Pass, Cut, & Fill layer are extensive. There are Passing fundamentals, Cutting fundamentals, and Filling Fundamentals. We’ll look at each subcategory.

Passing Fundamentals

  • Passing with the correct hand
    One of the more underrated fundamentals of the game is passing with the proper hand.  Some turnovers are a result of players not being able to pass with their non-dominant hand. The ability to pass with both hands makes the passer harder to defend.  Whether these are push passes, bounce passes, or lob passes, the ability to make all three of these passes with both hands is extremely valuable.
  • Fakes
    Fakes can be made with the ball or with different body parts. However, they are extremely useful in getting the defense out of position for a split second to create a passing lane. Fakes can be used to get the on ball defender out of position, but they can also force the off ball defender to commit briefly to one player and create an opening for another one.
  • Push pass
    It’s the simplest pass in the game yet many players throw this pass from their ear as opposed to their torso.  How many players actually push the ball through a passing window as opposed to throwing it and hoping it gets where it needs to go?
  • Overhead pass
    This pass is critical to being able to make an effective skip pass.  Many younger players struggle with this pass. It must be taught and practiced in order for players to be able to make this pass crisply and on target.
  • Footwork
    Stepping into a pass will provide an extra crispness and better accuracy. Yet many players pass the ball standing up and without stepping into it. Passing from a low position will prove much more effective in pressure situations.
  • Bounce Pass
    In some situations this may be the only pass that will get to a cutter. Sometimes this pass may need to be made with one hand. It is a slower pass which means players have to learn to anticipate and throw this pass earlier in order to fight it into a tight window.
  • Lob Pass
    The lob pass must be thrown differently from other passes. It must be thrown with touch over the defender and into the cutter’s hands.  This is a very useful pass in hitting a cutter late in a cut.
  • Meeting the pass
    Players must assume that the pass isn’t going to make it to them.  They must go to the ball.  They must meet the pass. This reduces the chance that a defender can step in the passing lane and deflect or intercept the pass.  This may draw an offensive player “off their spot.”  However, it’s more important that the pass be caught than a play be on their spot.
  • Catching the pass
    Going after the ball with two hands is a more safe and secure way of making sure players retain possession of the ball.  While players may have to make one handed catches, it’s always better to secure it with two hands when possible.
  • Providing a target
    When a receiver shows a passer a target, it gives the passer confidence that the receiver is ready to catch any pass that comes to them.  A receiver without a target should not be thrown the ball.  A receiver with a target gives the passer something to throw to and is ready to do something with the ball on the catch.
  • Recognizing the open cutter
    The first passer becomes the cutter and the first option as the next receiver. The second passer must be able to recognize if the cutter is open.  Many times the passer must anticipate that the cutter will be open before they actually are.  Sometimes the passer must be patient and give cutter time to get open in order to get the cutter the ball.  

Cutting & Filling Fundamentals

  • Take what the defense gives
    Many defenses are going to try to take away cuts in certain ways.  Sometimes they will jump to the ball and prevent any face cuts.  Sometimes they will jam a cutter. Whatever choice the defense makes, they are choosing to give up something else. They can’t take away everything. The offensive player must learn to how to take advantage of what the defense gives up.
  • Work for face cuts
    Cutters should try to get face cuts as much as possible.  This gives them the best chance to receive the ball on their cut. Coaches can choose to teach players to set up their cuts or to make speed cuts and try to beat the defense to the spot. Either method can be effective.  However, face cuts provide the best way for beating defenses.  They also provide the opportunity for the offensive player to post up their defender.
  • See the ball through out the cut
    Many players give up on the cut too early.  They think if they don’t receive the pass immediately, that they could never be open. Defenders may work hard to take away the initial pass, but then relax later in the cut. Cutters who see the ball through out the cut may be an option late in the cut.  More importantly, they are ready to react to other actions if they always see the ball.
  • Sprint the cut
    Every cut must be a sprint.  Jogging through the cut kills the rhythm and timing of the offensive movement. Jogging through a cut clogs up the lane.  It also makes teams easier to guard.
  • Cut to the rim
    Cutters must cut to the rim.  They must not shorten their cut or change the direction of their cut.  They should sprint on a straight line to the rim.
  • Filling out
    If the cutter choose to fill out, they should do so as quickly as possible. This helps other cutters decide where to go when they finish their cut. It also helps clarify roles on baseline drives.  

Posting Up (3 player combinations w/ Read Line)

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series 3 player Combinations

Here are some 3 player combinations that show someone posting up after a Read Line cut. Notice that in all of these diagrams the ball handler could have filled the open spot with a dribble.  This would have been the same as a Dribble-At, which was diagrammed in an earlier post.   As a result, I wanted to show something a little different.  A fourth perimeter player on the court would open up a lot more possibilities for the ball handler.  Those diagrams are coming next.  These will also be shown from a 4 out alignment, which will look a little different from the diagrams that I’ve been showing.

Again you’re probably going to notice a lot of obvious screening opportunities.  Keep in mind there are only 3 players on the court.  When the fourth and fifth players are added, there will be even more opportunities.  At this point if players want to start taking advantage of these “obvious” opportunities, that’s great.

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Draft Drive (Read Line, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

2 offensive players (Read Line, Attack Dribble)

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3 Offensive Players Overview (3 actions)

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series 3 player Combinations

The previous post discussed the advantages of 3 player building blocks. These building blocks can contain as many actions as the coach desires. In order to show what some of these combinations look like, I have drawn 3 action combinations in a few different ways. I will add more to this page over the next few days. So if this interests you, you might want to bookmark it.

These are just a few of the ways that the same three actions could look. Remember, these could look very different on the court depending on the timing of the actions as well as other variables that a coach might choose. You’ll notice this is especially evident on baseline drives. The combination of actions can look very different depending on when the baseline drive occurs.

As a coach, these diagrams should be like a James Bond movie: For Your Eyes Only. It’s not that this is top secret information. Players are just on “a need to know basis and they don’t need to know.” Thanks, Sean Connery.

They shouldn’t be asked to memorize diagrams. They just need to act and react appropriately.

Also keep in mind, this only involves the most basic layers.  We haven’t talked about any post options or screening options.  These will get much more interesting as we more forward.

3 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Pass & Cut, Dribble-At)

3 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Pass & Cut)

3 offensive players (Dribble-At, Pass & Cut, Attack Dribble)

3 offensive players (Dribble-At, Attack Dribble, Pass & Cut)

3 offensive players (Pass & Cut, Attack Dribble, Attack Dribble)

3 offensive players (Pass & Cut, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

3 offensive players (Skip Pass, Attack Dribble, Dribble-At)

3 offensive players (Dribble-At, Skip Pass, Attack Dribble)

3 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Pass & Cut, Attack Dribble)

3 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

Coming Soon…

Do you have a set of actions that you’d like to see in a diagram? Let me know and I’ll be happy to draw them out.

Leave a comment…..





3 offensive players (Dribble-At, Pass & Cut, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series 3 player Combinations

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