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
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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.
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