Phase II: Transitioning from the Foundation to “What’s Next”

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

We’ve built the foundation and the primary structure.  Now it’s time to turn the house into a mansion.  The first 100 posts have been all about the Foundational Layers of the Read & React offense. These will always be part of everything we talk about. Why?  Because they are all about that little orange sphere.  They are all about that magic pill we call a basketball.

We started with the Attack Dribble.  There’s no mistaking it’s importance.  Besides being the first main topic, it was mentioned in over 50 of the first 100 posts. You can go back and read about it.  I won’t harp on it anymore right now.

Then we moved on to Dribble-At and then to Passing which covered both perimeter and post passing.  These are critical too. However, to stop with these layers would be like putting up the outside walls and not making rooms inside, not to mention furniture or decorations.

Some teams may only need the foundation.  Some teams may only have time for it.  Some levels of basketball don’t need a mansion.  If you’re coaching middle school teams or rec league teams, the foundation is probably all you need.  It’s probably all you have time for.  You may not even have time for all of those.  However, as the level of basketball increases there has to be a next level, a next step.  The foundation is still critical.  You’ll never get anywhere without it, but you have to take the “NEXT” step.

So you ask….”What’s NEXT?”

These are the “Next Best Actions.” Offense is about to get really fun really quick for those of you who eat, sleep, and drink X’s and O’s. Defense is about to get complicated. The NBA’s (not David Stern’s league) are the actions of cutters.

Remember, the person with the ball has a choice of what to do with the ball.  They can shoot, dribble, or pass.  If they shoot, the response of their teammates is rebound (or prepare for transition defense depending on your philosophy).  If they dribble, their teammates have a specific response based on the type of dribble.  If they pass, there is a certain response.  Unless a shot is taken, each of these actions results in a cutter.

Now we will train the cutter on their “next action.”  Until now, they only had one choice.  Their next action was to fill out to the perimeter.  This action is not eliminated.  This is still an option.  However, they also have other options that they may choose from.  Coaches may decide to make these decisions for them.  That’s another topic and another discussion.  Regardless, every cutter must make a decision on what to do “NEXT.”

The cutter’s options are:

1.  Fill Out
2.  Post Up
3.  Set a back screen
4.  Set a post screen
5.  Set a pin screen
6.  X-cut
7.  Set a ball screen
8.  Set a screen for another cutter

These are a lot of options.  You may only choose one or two of these.  You may be able to teach all of them.  Less may be more for some teams.  Other teams may need all of them. That’s up to you to determine.

I’m going to attempt to cover them all in as much detail as I can.  Covering the foundation was like swimming the English Channel.  Tough, but doable.  Covering all of these seems like the Atlantic Ocean right now.  We’ll see what happens.  One stroke at a time right?

Why Would I Fill Out?

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

Before we get so caught up in “WHAT’S NEXT,” we shouldn’t forget that filling out is an option.  Why would I fill out?  Because it’s simple.  Because it’s easy.  Because it’s thoughtless.  Or at least less thought than other actions.

We’ve been training players through the foundational layers to just fill out.  This is a good habit that some players may not want to break.  That’s fine.  This will help the offense maintain spacing and continuity.  Here are some rationales for just “filling out.”

I can get to the perimeter and be ready to react. Maybe I’m a shooter and I want to want to be able to get an open 3 when my teammate drives.  Maybe I’m a creator and I want to get back to the perimeter so I can get the ball back and make a play.  Maybe I don’t have a good understanding of my other options yet.  I just need something simple to do so that I can focus on doing what I am good at.  Maybe we’re just trying to run clock and we don’t need anything complicated.  Maybe I don’t have any other good options right now.

I would be interested in other reasons to “fill out.”  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It provides spacing and continuity of movement.  Both of these qualities end up being pretty critical to good offense. You may decide that you always want certain players to fill out.  That’s fine.  Nothing will break.  However, you’re a basketball coach.  You are ready for a little flavor.  Let’s spice things up a bit.

Posting Up: Overview

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

Posting up is not an “official” layer of the R&R.  It’s not an “official” NBA.  It is, however, a possible choice for a cutter.  I tend to think of it is a pretty basic choice and a pretty important one.  I hinted at it in the post about temporary post players.  This may be covered by the “Changing Alignments” layer.  The Hook and Look Layer is also related.  Both of these layers come much later.  I am going to cover it now.

I think there are a lot of players who are “tweeners.”  They aren’t big enough to be post players, but they may not have the 1 on 1 or shooting skills to be great guards.  However, they may draw a matchup with a guard who doesn’t quite to know what to do as a post defender. This gives these kinds of players a way to use their skills while at the same time creating numerous other offensive options.

Having players who post up after their cut opens quite a few doors.  It provides a post entry option.  It turns a 5 out offense into a 4 out 1 in offense.  It turns a 4 out 1 offense into a 3 out 2 in offense.  It puts a player in better rebounding position. It draws attention from other defenders.  It provides a great screening option. (I can’t wait to cover all of these.)

Any of these will put stress on the defense. Depending on your philosophy, this player could post up for one pass or for the rest of the possession.  You can tailor it to your personnel. The fundamentals of post play are still important regardless how long they are in the post.  They still have to react to dribble penetration as a post player.  However, all of the post actions can now be a part of their tool belt.

We will keep this discussion short.  We won’t get into all the different options that this player has until later.  We will only discuss different opportunities to turn perimeter players into post players. We will discuss their options later.

Posting Up: The Rules

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

Just like with other post related topics, there are no rules that discuss when players should post up. You have total freedom to do what you want.  Some people struggle with that freedom.  Others thrive on it.  I hope we can give you some guidance to help you make the best decisions for your team. You know you have some players who you want posting up sometimes, but not necessarily as permanent post players. You think you can exploit mismatches around the basket, but you want to keep the lane open so that your players have space to attack the rim off the dribble.  You want to be able to tell them when to post up, where to post up, and how long they should post up. We’ll answer these questions one at a time.

When Do I Post Up?
The short answer to that question is that a player can post up anytime you cut to the basket.  So let’s review when a player makes a basket cut.  They make a basket cut when….

1.  Someone dribbles at them.
2. They pass to a player 1 pass away.
3. Someone throws a skip pass and they are 1 pass away.
4. A defender jumps over the Read Line and forces a back door cut.

There are a few other scenarios where players may basket cut that we haven’t covered yet. However, these are the most common ones.  The question the coach has to answer is what rules do I set for my team.  What do I tell my players?  Which players are allowed to post up?  Do I tell them to post up on every basket cut?  Only on a certain action? Only on a certain side?  Only when the post is open? Only when a certain player is guarding them?

Where Do I Post Up?
This one seems pretty straightforward. Maybe it isn’t as obvious as it seems.  We’ve talked about the 6 “post spots.” When most people think about posting up, they think about the mid/low post.  Some players are going to be successful there.  Others will be more successful in the high post or the short corner.  Posting up may look different from these spots, but these are certainly areas on the court where different types of players will find success.

Have you ever considered having a player cut and post up on the weak side?  It might be easier for them to get good position on ball reversal or off of some other action. Some players are much more effective in the high post.  If your players are smart enough to read the defense, maybe you can give them the freedom to post up anywhere they want.

You can institute as many or as few rules as you want. The more rules you institute, the harder it will be for the players to learn.  Know your players.  Know your team.  Know your situation.  Know your opponents.

How Long do I Post Up?
So I cut, and I post up.  Do I stay for as long as I want?  Do I stay in the post for the rest of the possession?  Do I stay for a  certain number of passes?  Do I stay until someone else posts up?  Maybe I get to stay until I touch the ball.  Do I stay until I set a screen or until someone screens for me?  Again there are a number of different ways to play it based on the variety of factors.  If you only have one player posting up, then obviously you would have a lot more flexibility in your rules than if you had your whole team posting after every cut.

Posting-Up: Whole

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

The description of Posting-Up from a whole perspective is completely dependent on the rules you prescribe as a coach. There are a series of questions in the last post that you might want to answer to help determine your rules.  You could make rules for individual players or for the whole team.  It’s really up to you.

The method prescribed here is just one of many possibilities and is only one example. Keep in mind that the Part break down will be impacted by these rules too.  Maybe another project will be to create some different scenarios and then diagram them.  Let’s keep it simple for now.  Once we install some other layers, we can get more complicated with the rules.

For the purposes of this scenario, we’re going to set up in a 5 out alignment with the 4 and 5 posting for one pass on any cut.  Let’s see what this looks like using some random combinations of layers. This only includes the layers we’ve covered so far.

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This is just one combination.  A pass in a different direction, or drive in a different direction, or even a different Read Line cut would make this look completely different. This doesn’t include any screens. You could probably go through each diagram and find ways to set one or more screens without a lot of effort.  Notice how we started in a 5 out alignment, went to 4 out 1 in, and were in a 3 out 2 in alignment for a short time before we went back.  If 5 sets a back screen in the last diagram, we’re back to 5 out.  I know we haven’t talked about back screens yet, but this is starting to get interesting.

We’re going to break down this posting-up action and integrate in with the other layers.  Then we’ll come back and look at some different combinations of rules.  Got any rules that you use?  Do you have a combination you’d like to see diagrammed?  Email me or leave a comment.

Posting-Up: Fundamentals

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

The 8 C’s of Post Play still apply, but we probably need to break those down into specifics.  This is especially important for players coming from the perimeter who may not be as skilled in the post or who may be unfamiliar getting post position from the perimeter.

Philosophically, I’m not a huge fan of a post player trying to gain a position that the defense is taking away.  What I’d prefer is to let the defense take away one position and then keep them in that position as the ball moves. It’s easy for post player to get offensive fouls fighting for position that may disrupt the timing and rhythm of the offense anyway.  A defense can take away somethings, but they can’t take away everything.  I would prefer to teach post players how to take advantage of a defender’s position.

Let’s say for instance that a defender is fronting the post.  I’d prefer that the offensive post player concede that position and keep them in that position.  Then as the ball moves that defender will almost certainly be out of position.

A good post player may be denied the ball in one position, but they will use that denial to their advantage to get the ball as it moves.  Of course we want to teach players how to post up.  We want to teach them how to swim, how to duck in,  and how to step in, spin and pin.  Sometimes it’s better to work smarter.  It might make the hard work count for more.

  • Sealing for the Lob
    There’s no easier post move than not having to make one. The opportunity to catch and finish is one that is always a good option. Of course this takes a good read and a good pass from a guard, but the threat of a good lob pass creates longer closeouts on skip passes and a post defender that is less comfortable.  Players who are posting up should know how to seal for a lob pass, how to catch the pass, and then of course how to finish.  This should look different when the ball is on the wing, as opposed to when the ball is at the top, or on the weak side. Maybe their defender did a good job of jumping to the ball on the pass and preventing the face cut.  That’s fine. If the offensive player can learn to keep them in that position, they could have an easy lay-up as the ball is reversed.
  • Step-in, Spin, and Pin
    So now let’s pretend the defender was extremely physical with the cutter.  The defender jammed the cutter, but really didn’t jump to the ball.  The offensive player may not be able to finish their cut to the rim. However, the defender is going to have a hard time keeping the offensive player from stepping between the defender’s legs, spinning and getting them on their back. Again, you can take some things away, but you can’t take everything away.
  • Duck-in/Weak Side Post
    The offensive player decides to post up away from the ball.  You might say, “that’s dumb.” Well, maybe it is because players haven’t been taught how to take advantage of this opportunity.  Their defender relaxes for a second because they are in help position.  The offensive player recognizes the opportunity and ducks in for an easy catch and finish.

    Keep in mind too that there’s rarely help on the help side.  So let me say it another way.  If you can post up the help-side defender, who is going to help them?  They are already supposed to be helping on the ball side.  Occupying a help side defender by posting them up is a great way to attack defenses.

  • Facing up
    I haven’t had the privilege of coaching a lot of BIG post players.  Most of the time they are undersized.  Drop step, hook shots, up and under moves are all wonderful. I’ll let someone else teach them that if I don’t have time.  I want to teach them to face up.  I want to be able to teach them the same things from the elbow, the mid-post, and the stretch (short corner). Not many players are going to be able to successfully execute back to the basket post moves from the elbow or the stretch.  So in 4 out of the 6 spots, they have to know how to operate facing the basket.  So to me, it makes sense to teach 1 thing 6 times as opposed to 1 thing 4 times and another thing 2 times.  Not to mention now you’re teaching them skills they can use on the perimeter as well.
  • Playing from the Elbow
    It’s important to be able to catch the ball at the elbow and make a play.  This could be a scoring play, whether it’s a shot or a drive.  It could be a high low pass, a pass on a backdoor cut, a skip pass, or a handoff.  This is a great place to attack defense, but it’s also going to get the person with the ball a lot of attention. Can your post players catch it there?  Be strong with it?  Make good decisions with it?  Do a variety of things with it?  This is a hard place to guard players in a 1 on 1 situation.  Not to mention all the other defenders are one pass away when the ball is here.  It’s hard to double because rotations are more difficult. But your players have be able to do something with it when they catch it.
  • Playing from the Stretch (short corner)
    This is not a baseball term. Stretch is less typing than short corner, but it also creates a more concrete idea for players why we would want them there.  To me, attacking from the stretch is much the same as attacking from the elbow.  It’s just that players are used to playing one on one from the foul line, not from the stretch. We treat a catch in the short corner the same as a baseline drive.  This player is going to get a lot of attention, and I bet the shooter in the corner is going to be open.

Posting-Up: (3 player breakdown Part I)

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

This post will introduce a 3 player breakdown of players posting up as a Next Best Action.  Remember, the breakdown of posting up is going to depend on your rules.  It’s obvious you have to work on the fundamental skills first.  These may be taught in 1 on 0 building blocks or anything up to 2 on 2. I will expound on different options for teaching these skills later.

Once you’ve covered the individual skills, you’re going to have to do a little brain work on your own to figure out what works for your players and your team.  You’re going to be able to rep those skills as you teach and drill the team concepts that are based on your rules. However, you’re going to have to determine what rules you have for your team.

Are there permanent post players?  Where are they?  Where can they go? Is everyone else a temporary post player?  Are only certain players posting up?  Can they post up anywhere or only in certain spots? This list goes on and on.  I don’t want to repeat things from previous posts, but they do need to be considered.

All of the NBA breakdowns will start with 3 at least players.  There has to be a third offensive player so that a second perimeter action can be performed and so the players can have some continuity as they execute the NBA. So let’s start breaking it down.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to apply your rules to the building blocks.

SAMPLE RULE: Every cutter posts up (anywhere they want) for one action and then they fill out.  

3 offensive players 2 actions (3 out)
Let’s start this breakdown just like we’ve started the rest of them. This is a good chance to practice the foundational layers. You should be able to give players the freedom to choose the action.  The only rule they have to follow is that they must post up on each cut.

Keep in mind you can start with a player in the post.  They should be considered a temporary post player. The assumption is that one action has already been completed or that they are exiting the post after one action.  The execution of the next two actions will give both of the other perimeter players the chance to post up.

Version 1 (Attack, Dribble-At, Attack)

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Version 2 (Attack, Dribble-At, Attack)

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Version 3 (Attack, Dribble-At, Attack)
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Version 4 (Attack, Dribble-At, Attack)
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This post would be too much to digest if I kept going.  So I’m going to stop here.  I will post some more 3 player breakdown combinations.  This one simple rules creates significant amounts of variability.  The combinations of actions make this grow even more rapidly.  There’s no way I could diagram every possible combination.  Isn’t that fun?  One simple rule completely changes how the offense looks.  More diagrams to come.

Thoughts?  Comments?