5 on 5 Attack

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

5 on 5 attack

We want our teams to play aggressively.  We want them to look to attack gaps in the defense.  We want them to get in the lane.  We want to them to draw help defenders.  We want them to get fouled.  We want them to take shots in and around the lane.

However, we want them to do this intelligently.  We want them to take good shots. We don’t want them getting in the lane and just throwing it up and hoping it goes in. We want them making effective straight line attacks.  We want them making good decisions and good passes when defense helps.  We want them to take advantage of situations.  We never want to pass up on a good situation to put the defense at a disadvantage.

We also want to put an emphasis on defending the ball.  We want to teach how to help, when to help, and when not to help.  We want to teach rotations and recoveries.  Here’s a drill that you might find useful to teach all these different things.

I would recommend running this drill 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 and build it up to 5 on 5.  This drill is best run with everyone on the perimeter.  It could be run with permanent post players though I think this is less than optimal.  The defense in these diagrams is based on helping on the ball from 1 pass away.  If your help defense concepts state that you don’t help 1 pass away, then the defense would look different, which would in turn make the offense look different.  It doesn’t matter what you teach, the drill will still challenge your players on both sides of the ball.

Here’s how it works.  The player with the ball only has two options.  They can shoot or attack.  If the first ball handler has an open shot, then your defense isn’t very good.  The only option that the first player should have is to attack.  The defense knows they are going to attack.  The question is can they make a good enough 1 on 1 move to get into the lane or make the defense help.  If the ball handler can score off the dribble, they should, but let’s assume for a second that your defense is good enough to stop the first drive. The other offensive players should be following their circle movement rules.  If the defense can stop the drive without help. They win the possession.  But again for the sake of argument, let’s assume that a defender helps.  The ball handler would kick out to the open player.  This player has a choice, shoot or drive.  That’s it.  If they don’t shoot then the first ball handler and their defender are off the court and the drill continues until it’s 1 on 1. Can you get a stop for your team when you’re on an island and tired?

If at any point a player shoots, it turns into a rebounding drill with the players that are on the court.  You can score the drill in a few different ways.  You can count the times the offense gets two feet in the lane.  You can count how many times they score.  You can count how many offensive rebounds they get.  You can count defensive stops.  You can count steals, defensive rebounds, good close-outs, good rotations, times that help was not necessary, and any number of other things.

If you want to challenge the defense more, you could have all of the defensive players on the baseline.  You can throw the ball to a random player which forces them to identify their proper defensive positions on the fly, closeout and defend.  Remember offensive players without the ball will need to execute circle movement, as well as the baseline drive adjustment and post slides.

Page 129 Page 130 Page 131 Page 132 Page 133 Page 134 Page 135 Page 136 Page 137


Send me your comments, questions, thoughts….

One Decision Makes a Big Difference

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

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?

Page 588It’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.



Page 589Here’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.





Page 590Let’s say you tell the player to fill the strong side corner. Doesn’t this look like you’re running triangle?  Yeah I know that in the triangle the guard doesn’t cut to the rim.

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.

Page 591Let’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?



Page 592Let’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.


Page 593This 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.




Page 594Maybe 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.



Page 595Or 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.

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.

Page 596Page 597Page 598Page 599

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.

Pin Screen: The Whole

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

There are so many ways that teams can set pin screens.  They can come from any number of players at any number of times.  The coach must decide which are the best times and places to set pin screens.  In the Description of Pin Screens, a few different options are mentioned.  The primary focus for this section is the Next Best Action. Therefore, we will approach this topic from this angle.  Pin Screens can be set by post players or by alert perimeter players and do not have to be NBAs.  However, in order to keep things streamlined, we will talk about the NBA method first out of a 5 out alignment. This removes permanent post players from the equation and gives ample options for cutters.

As we mentioned in the offensive fundamental breakdown of the pin screen there are three players in this action that we must be concerned with: the ball handler, the screener, and the player being screened for. Since we are talking about this being an NBA, we must have a first action in order to have a second one. Remember our first action can come any number of places. It could be a simple pass & cut. It could be a dribble-at or a read line cut. It could come as a result of a back screen. It could come from an attack dribble and a kick out.

Think about this.  How many times have you ever seen a player attack the lane kick it out and immediately set a screen?  With all the attention going to the ball on the attack and then to the kick out, think about how blind the weak side defense would be to a pin screen.

So with 5 players on the court in a 5 out alignment, start the ball anywhere you want and have the players make one action of their choice and then set a pin screen once they finish their cut. They are learning that it is going to be pretty tough to set a pin screen on the same side of the court that they just passed to or cut from. Most likely, this screen is best set on the other side of the floor. In some cases, the player may have more than one option for screening possibilities.

Below are a few different single actions that can lead to pin screens in a 5 out alignment.  The first is a simple drive and kick.  The initial driver sets the pin screen for the weakside player.

Page 339Page 340
Page 341
This is a simple pass and cut.  Most 5 out alignments have this corner player either fill back to the corner that they came from or back screen for the opposite corner.  While both of these are legitimate options, a pin screen works as well. Depending on how the defense rotates, 1 can screen 2’s defender.  If 4 drives baseline, 5 should be wide open.  Can 4 make this left handed pass?

Page 337Page 338

This just a simple dribble-at.  Again if 1 crosses over and goes baseline, there should be a wide open shooter on the weak side.

Page 335Page 336

Maybe 4 is being overplayed.  This is another way the Pin Screen can get set.  Remember 2 and 5 don’t have to fill.  They are more than 1 pass away.
Page 333 Page 334

This is the same as the last diagram except the ball is in a different spot.  3’s cut is bound to draw attention from weakside defenders.  When they help, pin them in.



Page 331 Page 332

Again, this is a simple Dribble-At.  In this case the ball is in the middle of the floor, so there is no “weak side”, but player 5 is 2 passes away so theoretically their defender should be in help.  If they aren’t, this can turn into a back screen/flex screen for a layup.

Page 329Page 330

The ball shifts sides of the floor on the skip pass.  While the defense is recovering to their new positions, 3 can find one who is in help and pin them in.  Most defenses can recover to one skip pass.  Can they recover to the second one when there is a screener there to slow them down?

Page 327Page 328

This skip pass may seem a little unorthodox, but against a team who is trying to keep players out of the lane, it sets up a nice pin screen on the weak side.

Page 325 Page 326
Here’s another Dribble-At from a different location.  Even if 1 crosses over to their left and attacks the middle of the floor, 2 can seal in 4’s defender for a wide open shot.

Page 323 Page 324

This is the most simple and straightforward action. It’s a simple pass and cut from the top.

Page 317Page 318

Pin Screen: The Whole Part II

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

The first pin screen article was written with a focus on the pin screen coming as a NBA out of a 5 out alignment. The diagrams showed numerous  single actions that can be easily followed by a pin screen. However, pin screens are no different than any other screen.  They are most effective when the defense doesn’t expect it.  So making it the first action every possession makes it more predictable.

If your players can set a pin screen after the first action, shouldn’t they be able to set one after the fifth action or the 15th action?  Of course a possession may not last long enough to have 15 actions, but the concept is the same.  Once a player finishes a cut, that player can set a pin screen. Pretty simple, right?  I think so, except let’s look at it a little deeper.

One question a coach should consider before having their players set pin screens is the player being screened for.  Do we want to set a pin screen for a driver?

Some coaches may say no. They might say this is a wasted action. If the player can’t shoot it, the screen is wasted and our offense is easy to guard.

Some coaches might say that it doesn’t matter who the screen is set for. The pin screen helps get the defense moving from side to side and increases the chances for a defensive breakdown.

I think this is something each coach needs to answer for their situation on their level. It might even be a question that is answered from game to game.

However, I think we should encourage our players to REGULARLY set pin screens for shooters.  You can change that to ALWAYS if you want. However, at least regularly, if a cutter notices a shooter on the weak side of the floor, they should look for that weak side defender and make the defense pay.  It doesn’t mean the passer has to make the pass.  It doesn’t mean that the shooter has to shoot it. However, the threat of this action will take some of the attention of a help side defender away from the ball.

We’ll talk about the pin screen from a 4 out 1 in alignment in the next post on pin screens.

32 Split High

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

This is a first on this blog.  I’m actually talking about making a call. You might be surprised. I certainly think there are times when a coach can impact a game by making the right call. The question is how does that call change the team’s outlook. I will cover that in a different post. For now, let’s look at “32 Split High”.

“32 Split High”

“32” is obviously 3 out 2 in. That’s the easy part.

“Split High” refers to the location of the post players. “Split” tells them that one should be high and one should be low at all times. “High” means that the ball side post should be at the high post.

All I’ve done is called an alignment.  I haven’t called any actions. I haven’t restricted the play of the offense.  I’ve just created the opportunities for some interesting offensive spacing and actions.  There is no set pattern here. Let’s look at a couple different possibilities when players follow the basic concepts that we’ve outlined so far. These are actions that just naturally flow off of the basic actions of the players.  The combinations and possibilities are endless.


Page 629Initially, you might ask which post is “High” when the ball is in the middle of the floor.  You can answer that any way you want. It could be either, both or neither.  There is justification for all three answers.  I chose the 4 just because that’s how I happened to draw it. There is no specific reason.

In a very inauspicious beginning to the action, the point guard passes to the wing and cuts to the basket just like they are supposed to.  2 fills the spot vacated by 1 and 1 fills out to the corner.






Page 630As 2 fills up, 5 yells “PIN” on the backside and 4 sets a back screen for 2.  You can certainly call this a fade screen.  It could also be considered a “PIN” screen. Either of those are fine, but to keep it consistent with I’ve written so far, it would technically be a back screen. Pin screens are set on help side defenders.  2’s defender is 1 pass away. Depending on your defensive terminology, this could be considered “help side”.  Usually, I reserve help side for more than 1 pass away. Again, it’s up to you, it’s just important that you’re consistent with your players.

Back to the action. 4 is screening for a defender who is moving to get in the gap defensively to help on the potential middle drive from 3. 5 has pinned in 1’s defender. 3 has driving lanes and also has 4 passing options.  If the defense cheats the pin screen, 5 could be open on the weak side.  We’re screening for 1 and 2 and 4 might be open on the slip.  2 could certainly cut to the basket if the defender tries to chase over the screen.  In this case the defender tries to go under the screen.



Page 631Let’s say that no one is open or 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable making the pass or drive at that moment. 4’s defender probably helped on the back screen and will probably be late in getting in position on the ball screen if 4 will sprint to the screen.  If 1 and 2 don’t receive the ball from either of the screens, they should fill up.








Page 632As 3 drives off the screen, this filling movement keeps their defenders off balance.  If either of them help on 3’s drive, then someone will be open.  If not, 3 should be able to get into the lane with 4 passing options. 5 slides down as 3 drives. After setting the screen, 4 can roll to the rim or pop to the perimeter based on the defense and/or their skill set.


I didn’t draw this diagram, but let’s say 3 refuses the screen.  2 would fill behind 3 as a safety on that baseline drive.  1 would still go to the corner for the drift pass and 5 would rise to the elbow. 4 can dive to the rim or pop, again depending on the defense and/or their skill set.






Here’s a whole different set of actions

Page 629Everything starts just like the last set of actions.  1 passes to 3 and dives to the rim.










Page 633This time 4 sets a back screen and 2 dives to the block and posts up.  Maybe 2 gets the ball and maybe they don’t. Either way, 2 and 4 have switched roles. 4 has become the perimeter player and 4 has become the post player. This means that since the ball is on 2’s side, they must come back to the high post, if they are going to stay in the post. In this case, I’m assuming 2 wants to stay in the post for a pass or two but doesn’t receive the ball. If they did receive and entry from 3, there would be a Laker Cut and then who knows what might happen.







Page 634

On the pass to 4, 3 cuts off of a back screen by 2.  They might be open, but if they aren’t they continue to the rim and run off a down screen from 5. Without really trying that hard, we’re just set a staggered screen for 3  They can curl off this screen if they are being chased or pop to the corner if not.  As 4 reverses the ball to 1, 5 posts up off the screen and 2 back screens 4 back into the post.  Again if 4 can shoot, 4 might fade off of this screen.









Page 635

If 5 isn’t open on their seal after the second staggered screen for 3, they can sprint into a ball screen.  5 can roll or pop off of the screen based on the defense and their skill set.  Everyone else is either circle moving or sliding in the post.










Here’s an exercise for you.  Take “32 Split High” and following the concepts that you understand, what are some combinations that you can come up with?  How do things change if there is a dribble hand off as the first action?  What happens if the action starts with a back screen on the wing?  What if we make an entry pass to a post player, but that player doesn’t take a shot?  What other options or opportunities are created?

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.


Page 636


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.



Page 638
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.



Page 639
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.










Page 641
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.






Page 642
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.








Page 643

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.