Attack Dribble: Circle Movement (Part)

This entry is part 8 of 24 in the series Dribbling Actions

This will break the Attack Dribble Layer down starting with 2 player actions and including defense build up to 5 on 5.  Individual skill development is critical but will not be covered in this blog.  I will save that for another place and time.

One big question that some might ask: “What do I tell players when they pass?”  For now, I’m not going to tell them anything, because we haven’t covered what to do when you pass.  For some building blocks, I’m going to tell them to step off the court, but I’m not going to tell them what they should do….yet. If they ask, I might tell them.  I just don’t want them to worry about that right now.  I want them to focus on the Attack Dribble Layer. This becomes an important detail in being able to practice back to back actions.

So for now, for any drill designed through any building block for this layer, the rule is if you make a pass, you (and your defender if one exists) step off the floor once you pass. When other layers are added, they will have “something to do.”

A. 2 offensive players 1 action

This building block is the most basic component for teaching this layer. Everything else will build off of this. Coaches will still want to conduct individual skill development drills first to teach the different fundamentals that make up the building block. However, this is the first place where players really learn how to play team offense.

Players start at two designated spots. The player with the ball performs an attack dribble. The player without the ball rotates aggressively in the appropriate direction to the next spot. Is it really that simple?  Sure it is; except it’s not. I’ll discuss the different things that can go wrong shortly. Let’s finish the building block first.

The attacking player must make a decision on when the defense has committed to help on their attack.  If they have their defender beaten and help doesn’t come, they should keep going.  If the defense steps over to help, this means their teammate should be open and they should look to pass them the ball.

In designing the drill from the building block, coaches should consider some of the following details:

  1. Which spots are we using?  There are plenty of combinations.  Coaches should make sure players are comfortable from all spots. Players should be adjacent to each other initially but as they become more comfortable, the two players can be located on any two spots. Just remember, NO BASELINE DRIVES….yet.
  2. The ball handler can finish with a layup or a jump shot. The other player rebounds after they rotate. They must practice an aggressive rotation even if they aren’t going to get the ball.
  3. The ball handler takes 1 or 2 dribbles and kicks it out to the receiver who has rotated properly. The receiver shoots or attacks the basket. The initial ball handler is now out of the drill.
  4. Initially predetermine the direction of the penetration. This is important for youth players who are new to the action.  Eventually though all ball handlers must be given the freedom to choose the direction of the drive.
  5. Ball handlers attack off the dribble as opposed to off the catch. The question then becomes when do the receivers rotate.  Once the ball handler enters a scoring area?  After the ball handler crosses the 3 point line?

So what can go wrong?

  1. Ball handler travels on the attack.
  2. Ball handler dribbles with the wrong hand (e.g. going left with their right hand)
  3. Ball handler dribbles too deep before they kick it out
  4. Ball handler stares down their receiver instead of selling the attack.
  5. Ball handler doesn’t attack the lane.
  6. Ball handler passes with the wrong hand.
  7. Ball handler makes a bad pass.
  8. Ball handler reverse pivots incorrectly.
  9. Receiver rotates the wrong way or doesn’t rotate at all.
  10. Receiver’s reaction is early because they anticipate the drive.
  11. Receiver’s reaction is late.
  12. Receiver isn’t aggressive in their rotation.
  13. Receiver’s knees aren’t bent or their feet aren’t ready.
  14. Receiver doesn’t stay wide.
  15. Receiver shoots a shot with a foot on the 3 point line. (PET PEEVE!!!)
  16. Receiver travels when they try to attack the basket.
I could go on, but I figured that would get the point across. There’s a lot that can go wrong in this simple 2 player building block. This also means that there is a lot you can teach out of this simple building block. Granted, a lot of these are fundamental skill issues that may show up in other places as well. In any case, this is a great chance to teach, reinforce, and emphasize those skills in addition to learning the circle movement.

This is just the first block, but it’s such an important one. It is a great tool to drill all the offensive fundamentals associated with this layer well as the team concept. The inability for players to execute the basic offensive fundamentals that make up this layer will lead to turnovers. However, continuous repetition of this building block for the sole purpose of improving offensive execution is ineffective since reactors are able to anticipate the initiator’s action.  This is especially true at higher levels, but even youth teams will eventually need to be challenged further for the purpose of offensive execution.  There are a number of different drills that can be created from this building block. I’m compiling and will post them eventually…..hopefully….

B. 2 offensive players 1 defender 1 action

The only difference between this building block and the previous one is the addition of a defender. However, this one defender changes the dynamic of the drill.

The defender starts guarding the attacker. This can be live or not, but the receiver must still react. If the defender is a dummy defender, it is up to the coach to specify what happens.  If it’s live, the attacker should look to score first, but they must take good shots.  This is a good way to teach shot selection.

The receiver must always rotate appropriately, even if they don’t receive a pass. The ball handler must be limited in the number of dribbles and/or space that they have to score. This might as well be called 1 on 1 with an outlet. However, there are a lot of offensive and defensive concepts that can be taught in this building block, not to mention the many different ways that the 1 on 1 situation can be created.  Either way, why have players standing on the baseline watching two people play 1 on 1.  Have them in spots on the court, practicing their reaction. Every repetition helps. This building block can be used to teach 1 on 1 defense in a variety of ways as well as closeouts.  Again, when the drill section is complete…..

The defender should now guard the receiver. Again it is up to the coach what defensive technique is used.  The defender can be dummy or live.  Regardless, they will pretend that the ball handler beat the on-ball defender, and they have to help.  The attacker must make this read and deliver the pass to the receiver who has rotated to create a passing lane for the passer.

The intensity of the defense should start at a low level and increase as the players improve. As the players become more comfortable with the execution of Circle Movement, the drill can be used to teach defensive concepts.

This building block provides an opportunity to drill the defender on their 1 on 1 defense in a more game like situation. This helps the passer learn when to pass. It helps the receiver gauge the amount of time they have to evaluate their next action. In addition, it drills the defender on help and recovery techniques as well as proper closeouts and rebounding. At the same time, the offensive players are continuing to build their offensive habits that were covered in the previous drill as well as the reactions required to run the offense.

You guessed it, there are a lot of different ways to create a drill with this building block.

C.  2 offensive players 2 defenders 1 action

In this building block, the ball handler must attack their defender with a good 1 on 1 move.  The player without the ball must react appropriately.  Defenders must defend one action from the initial ball handler.  The ball handler can pass after 1 attacking action.  The receiver is now playing 1 on 1.  The other offensive and defensive player are no longer involved in the building block (follow the rule as stated in the beginning of this section.)

D.  3 offensive players 1 action or 2 actions

This next step is the same as the 2 on 0 block except there is a 3rd offensive player.  Previously, the attacker only had one receiver as an option.  Depending on the direction of their penetration, the attacker had either the natural pitch or safety as options for receivers. This is the first time that the attacker will have more than one receiver.  The attacker must have awareness on every drive where receivers will be located.  The attacker must make a clearly defined attack while the receivers learn to  react habitually by rotating in the appropriate direction. Both receivers must be ready to receive a pass.

This is the first opportunity to execute a second action with a second reaction.  After the first receiver catches the pass, the initial ball handler steps off the floor. In this case, player 2 fills in. At some point during this filling action, player 3 attacks again.  Player 3 can attack immediately or they can wait. It’s important for player 2 to react immediately.  This is a good way to repeat the Circle Movement reaction.


The same coaching considerations listed above apply here. Receivers must know that they are always an option for an attacker and must be in the proper position on every drive whether they receive the pass or not. Even though, only one layer and at most two actions are being taught at this time, players must be in proper position in order to be able maintain proper spacing for the next action.  This 3 player building block is especially good for teams with 12 players who only have 2 baskets.

Drills are coming. DOH! I said I wasn’t going to mention the drills again.

E.  3 offensive players 1 defender 1 action or 2 actions

Coaches can now put a defender on any player and run the same drill as before.  The defender must maintain proper position based on the player with the ball and their man.  If the ball handler dribbles in their direction, the defender should “help” and now they are forced to closeout and play 1 on 1. The other offensive players in the drill remain as outlets and rotate if the player with the ball attacks. The ball handler can now be taught shot selection in a 1 on 1 scenario.

This block is similar to the 2 on 1 block above except defenders are added to both receivers.  Defenders can play at varying levels of intensity depending on the emphasis. This will help attackers become comfortable with delivering passes to all receiver positions from all attacking positions against defense.

This block can be used to build from a defensive standpoint as well. It is recommended that other layers are added before players are allowed to play in any type of live scenario except for 1 on 1. Even in 1 on 1 there should be time, space or dribbling constraints.  Just as in the 2 on 1 and 2 on 2 blocks above, once the ball handler passes, they are no longer in the play along with the person who was defending them.

Any person with the ball who is being defended is forced to look to attack. We always want players to be threats.

F.  3 offensive players 2 defender 1 action or 2 actions

It’s the same as above with another defender.

F.   3 offensive players, 3 defenders 1 or 2 actions

This is very similar to building block E with an extra player.  1 on 1 defense, closeouts, help and recover and rebounding can all be taught from this building block. This building block can be turned into a number of different drills to teach a number of different skills.  It’s up to the coach and the emphasis.

G. 4 offensive players 1 action

This building block will let the ball handler see 3 of their teammates in motion at once.  This building block may not require a lot of time for more advanced teams. It may still be a useful step in helping younger players build the complete picture. All 4 of these players must be perimeter players.  They could be in 4 out or 5 out spots.

Keep in mind placing them in a 4 out alignment completes the picture for this alignment.  Congratulations!!!

H. 4 offensive players 1 to 4 defenders 1 to 3 actions

I think everyone is smart enough to figure this out by now.  Right?  If you need an explanation let me know.

J.  5 offensive players 1 to 5 defenders, 1 to 4 actions

This completes the picture.  Remember to keep everyone on the perimeter.

Let’s look at the WHOLE and see how we can assess what we’ve learned.

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