Let’s take a quick look at one example of how teaching players to play this way is so powerful. We’re going to look at a traditional 3 out 2 in alignment. I don’t care how they get open. They can come off screens from the post players. They can V-cut. They can post up. Getting open or being open is not irrelevant, but I’m going to assume that they are. 1 passes to 2. Fancy huh?
It’s pretty simple and straight forward right? When 1 passes to 2, 1 cuts to the basket. That’s the rule right? There’s nothing to dispute or discuss. 1 must make a basket cut. We can talk about how they make that cut. We can talk about faking one way and going the opposite way. We can talk about sprinting without a jab. We can talk about cutting in front of the defender or behind the defender. Again for this discussion, that’s irrelevant. 1 is cutting to the rim. 3 must fill because there is a spot open that’s one pass away.
Here’s where the fun begins though. 1 now gets to make a decision. As a coach, you can give the player the freedom to make the decision or you can tell them where to go and what to do. Let’s look at some different scenarios.
What happens next? I don’t know. It depends on what the ball handler does. Maybe they throw it to the post player and Laker Cut. Maybe they throw it to the corner and the post sets a back screen and then a ball screen. Maybe 4 flashes and 3 pinches the post with 4. Maybe 5 back screens for 3 or cross screens for 4. Maybe 2 drives it and hits 4 on a post slide in the short corner. There are other more complicated options.
Let’s say 1 cuts out to the weak side corner. Remember they don’t have to fill up because they are more than 1 pass away. Talk about an easy and obvious pin screen. 4 doesn’t really even have to do anything. 2 could still drive either way. They can still throw it to 5. 4 can still flash to the high post. There are still lots of different screening options. Can we teach our players to do try different things? Do we have to require them to do the same thing all the time? Can we teach them to find ways to score on their own?
Let’s say 1 decides they want to screen. As the next four diagrams show, they really have 3 screening options. The only one that probably is not a good idea is the screen on the ball. Though theoretically it would not be “against the rules”, we would not want our players to play that way.
1 screens for 4. This could turn into a high low look. It could be a stagger with 5. It could be a screen the screener if 3 decided to make a Read Line cut and saw that 1’s defender is vulnerable to be screened. 4 could sprint into a ball screen. 4 could flash high and get re-screened on a back screen from 1. There are numerous other options.
This one may look a little weird, but 1 could screen for 5. I’m pretty sure the defense wouldn’t switch. Would this be an easy way for 1 to get good post up position? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have a feeling not many teams cover how to defend this kind of screen. Maybe you don’t want your 1 in this position, but 1 could very easily be any other player on the court.
Maybe 1 decides to back screen for 3. You might say well the lane is so full, 3 will never be open. Maybe. Maybe not. At the worst, 3 is not in a position to make a decision that the defense cannot anticipate. Maybe 4 or 5 steps up with 1 and sets a double or staggered screen for 3. Maybe 1 wants to try to get an open look at a 3. Maybe 1 doesn’t trust 2 to handle the ball and wants to get it back ASAP. Again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know there are a lot of possibilities.
Or 1 could take the boring way out and just fill out to the wing. Useless huh? Or maybe vanilla is exactly what is needed right now.
The point is that a different decision by 1 player changes everything. It provides endless possibilities. Just one decision. This doesn’t include the decisions that the other players could be making at the same time. Is it too much for players?
I don’t think so. I think we can teach players how to play and then let them play. One decision can make a huge difference. Just consider how big of a difference the variety of two or three decisions could make to how your offense looks. Just think about the scoring opportunities that could be created with this unpredictable variety. We just need to teach the game better.