Introduction: An Offensive Philosophy Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Sometimes it’s good to talk skills, drills, and X’s and O’s. Sometimes it’s good to talk about leadership and relationships. Sometimes it’s good to talk about philosophy. Right now, I want to talk about offensive philosophy when it’s 5 on 5. Maybe “when it’s 5 on 5” is more clearly stated by saying when we’re not in a transition opportunity. Of course, it’s easiest to score in transition because the defense isn’t as well organized. Most teams want to create and take advantage of transition opportunities. How many coaches say “we play an fast paced up tempo exciting brand of basketball?” Yeah ok, that ‘s fine but let’s be honest.

Teams can’t always create these situations. The higher the level of play, the more half court possessions there will be. The need to score against set defenses will always exist. Great offensive teams can score when it’s 5 on 5.

Having an offensive philosophy helps coaches define what is important to them. It helps coaches decide what they teach their players and how they teach them. It helps coaches communicate clearly to their teams. If players know what is important to the coach, it is much easier for them to play offense. Players who play offense without a lot of mental stress are able to focus more on executing skills and making shots.

Before we start talking about this part of an offensive philosophy, let’s talk about defense. On any individual possession, defense has the opportunity to dictate the initial action and alignment of the offense. They can choose to play man-to-man defense in a few different ways. They can choose to play a few different kinds of zones. They can choose to press in different ways. They can choose to switch defenses in the middle of a possession. The offense must respond to what the defense does. Their response determines how successful they will be.

A team’s personnel or offensive tendencies may impact the defensive decisions made by a team and a coach. However, on any given possession the defense will always choose their positioning and alignment first. A defense may be excited and ready to stop a team or they may be scared to death before the ball crosses half court, but they will choose what defense they play and what they decide to try to take away.

Once this choice is made, the defense is choosing to give up something. There is no perfect defense. There isn’t one defense that can stop every offense. No one can guard everything. Some defenders are better than others. Some teams play better defense than others. However, even great defenders will get beat against good offensive players.  Great offensive players will beat great defenders almost every time.

A lot of people say there is no defense in the NBA. I agree that some players and teams are not very good defensively. However, it’s very difficult and maybe impossible to guard some players in the NBA. These great players make some teams impossible to guard.

When you watch NBA games, you can see that defenses choose what to try to guard. Their positioning on the court is an attempt to take away something. Let’s be a little extreme for a second. If there are 5 NBA level defenders standing one step outside the 3-point line, it may be pretty tough to get a clean look at a 3 pointer.  If there are 5 NBA level defenders in the lane, it may be pretty hard to shoot a layup. Of course teams don’t play like this, but no matter where defenders position themselves on the court, they are choosing to make an effort to take away something.  They might be taking away the wrong thing. They might not be able to take away that thing, but they are attempting to take away something. However, every time a defender takes something away, they are giving up something else. It is impossible to guard everything.

 

There are two questions that come as a result. We will talk about those in the next post.  Until then….What is your offensive philosophy?

Skills and Abilities: An Offensive Philosophy Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

The first major question in developing an offensive philosophy (and not necessarily the most important question) is do the offensive players have the skills and abilities to take advantage of what the defense is doing. In other words, if the defense takes away a certain movement or action can the offensive players take advantage of what the defense gives up? In reference to the last post, if the defense allows a certain movement or action, can the offense capitalize?

For instance, if a defender denies a pass, can the offensive player recognize it and make a good backdoor cut. If a defender fronts a post player, can the perimeter player make a good lob pass away from help side defenders? If a defender chases the offensive player off of a downscreen, can that offensive player curl? If the defender is forcing the ball handler to their weak hand, can that player still be effective? If the defense traps a ball screen, can the ball handler make the proper play to make the defense pay for taking that risk?

How do you defend Ray Allen when he’s coming off of a screen? He’s going to set it up. He’s going to use it. He’s going to make the right read depending on what the defense does. So many times a defenders only chance is too defend him differently than he did the last time to make him uncomfortable and then make the shot a little tougher in hopes that he misses.

How do you defend Tony Parker on a ball screen with Tim Duncan? So many times, the only thing defenses can really do is force one of the two to shoot a jump shot and hope they miss. Without Serge Ibaka on the court, they got any shot they wanted in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. It’s a nearly impossible task.

Complete offensive players make offense easier on everyone else. They create opportunities for teammates that allow them to play to their strengths. One complete player is hard to guard. Two complete players are almost impossible to guard.

If you’re coaching against players who have extraordinary skills and talents, they become nearly impossible to defend with one player. These kinds of players have the skills and abilities to counter almost any defensive maneuver. If you decide to double-team that player, offense just got a lot easier for the other 4 players.

However, most of us don’t have the luxury to coach that level player. Most of us coach players who have limitations. They aren’t proficient dribblers with both hands. They can’t create their own shot. They don’t use screens well. They can’t finish in traffic. They can’t shoot off the dribble. They can’t shoot without dribbling. They are undersized. They are slow. The list of potential limitations is long. Most players have at least one offensive limitation. Other players have more than one. This affects their mentality, which we will talk about later, but at the most basic level, it affects their offensive production.

What if your team doesn’t have one complete player? Like most of us, what if our whole roster is made up of incomplete players? We become much easier to defend. Defenses can make shooters drive. They can make drivers shoot. They can make right-handed players go left. The good news is that the teams we play against are similar to us. Some are better, and some are worse, but the limitations of other teams give us a chance to be successful on game day. Otherwise, we would be in trouble (e.g. the rest of the world during the Summer Olympics). When the USA puts it’s 5 best players on the court, the rest of the world can’t keep up.

Players can develop their skills. They can get better over the course of their careers. However, very few of them will ever be complete players. Even if they have complete skill sets, many of them don’t have the athleticism of a Lebron James or Kevin Durant. So even a complete skill set is limited by their athletic ability.

There are so many situations where it comes down to a matter of the execution of a skill. Some players are more skilled than others. Some players are so talented that a defender might only make it more difficult for a player to execute a skill. They may never be able to take away that opportunity. Other players may have trouble executing the skill even in the most simple situations. Even if the coach calls the perfect play in the perfect situation, if the player can’t execute the skills properly, then the play will fail.

How can we empower players to be successful on offense given their limitations? We teach them how to play and use their skill sets to help the team. We let drivers be drivers. We let shooters be shooters. We let players who can go right go right. We let post players, who might not be good 1 on 1 players, be good screeners. We find ways to help our players be successful no matter what the situation.

How many times do we run an offense that looks good on paper but doesn’t work when our players run it? We’re mad at our players because it isn’t working. Maybe they don’t have the skill set to run that play or that offense. Our players’ limitations severely handicap offensive production. When we run plays or offenses that require players to do things that they are not good at, we make that box even smaller.

I believe players have to have options. Players must have the option to do multiple things with the ball within their skill set when they catch it. Obviously if they can’t do anything with the ball, then there is a bigger problem. Surely if they are on your team, they can do something with the ball. Surely you can help them learn how to take advantage of their skill set in a way that helps the team.

As long as there is spacing, player movement, and ball movement, I believe teams will create cracks in defenses and turn them into gaping holes if we teach them and allow them to do so. If offense is simple, then they can be more focused on their skills. If offense is unpredictable, then the defense has a more difficult time knowing what’s going to happen next. This gives our players with limited skill sets an advantage.

The point here is that an offensive philosophy should allow players to maximize their strengths and hide their weaknesses. It should be flexible to no matter who is on your team and no matter who goes in the game. If there is an emphasis on spacing, player movement, and ball movement along with the development of skills, then your team will be tough to guard.

Team Mentality: An Offensive Philosophy Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

The first question about an offensive philosophy surrounds the physical skills of the offensive players. The second question asks about the mental state of the players. Do the offensive players allow the defense to dictate the mentality of the offense? In other words, are the offensive players confident enough in their understanding of the offense that no matter what the defense does, they will be able to generate the best shot every possession?

How many times have you seen a player on offense freeze because they don’t know what to do? Typically this happens for one of three reasons, they forgot what to do, there are so many options they can’t decide, or they aren’t allowed to do what they want. Sometimes this happens when a player catches the ball. Sometimes it happens when they don’t have the ball. We can yell and fuss and scream and teach and whatever we have to do to get the player to remember what to do. Or we can make it really simple and straightforward and we can drill it until they don’t know what else to do.

Players can own an offensive mentality in which they are ultimately confident. There’s no reason they can’t. When they don’t have to worry about “messing up the play,” they can focus on just playing. They can focus on shooting, making good moves, making good decisions, screening, and all the other skills we want them to execute.

This mentality must start with an understanding of spacing, player movement and ball movement. Then it must be complimented with an understanding of each player’s strengths and weaknesses. This starts with understanding one’s self and then understanding one’s teammates. If players understand these things, then I believe they can find a way to beat any defense that’s out there.

I don’t believe they have to memorize 57 quick hitters or 10 continuities to confident in their offensive mentality. At the same time, it takes time and a level of basketball IQ to be able to effectively run a true motion offense. Instead what if we do something that takes the best of both worlds and combines them.

What if we glue players to spots on the floor that they can’t leave unless something makes them leave those spots? That something would be an action that is so simple and that has been drilled so many times that it becomes instinct.  Spacing therefore is maintained.

What if we give the player with the ball the freedom to do whatever they want within their skill set? Now the ball can move freely based on what the player feels comfortable doing based on what the defense allows. Ball movement happens easily.

What if we teach them step-by-step how players can move through the use of concepts and rules that can be drilled and mastered? Now players move in an organized fashion but also in a way that is unpredictable. We have accomplished the criteria of player movement.

Now we have to know our teammates and ourselves. As a player, I must know:

The list goes on and on. However, if a player knows these things like this, it makes offense so much easier to play. Each of these things could happen on the same possession or none of them, but none of them are specific to any play. They are just a part of playing offense.

Don’t get me wrong; there must be some skill level to go along with the mentality. Players must be able to do something on the court. The higher the level of competition, the more they need to be able to do.

However, assuming that there are similar levels of players on the court, I believe that a team of players with a confident mentality regarding how they want to play offense will be able to take advantage of any defense they face. What happens when a defense changes how they defend the post or a ball screen? What happens when a defense goes from a man to man to a match up zone? What happens when the defense starts playing a box and one?

How many times have you seen a defense get into the heads of the offense just because they take something away or do something different? I believe we can severely neutralize if not prevent this from happening. If players know how to play offense, they don’t care what the defense does. They just play offense.

Sometimes players get in their own way. Ever seen offensive players freeze up when the pass they are supposed to make isn’t available? What happens when a player forgets to set a screen, or makes the wrong pass? What happens when players run aimlessly around the court without purpose and spacing, because they don’t really know where to go?

If the offensive players are tied to a play, they are more likely to be unsure what to do if the defense is able to take away part of the play. If the defense can cause the play to breakdown, then the offense is forced to do something else.

I believe these should never happen. Players should be able step on the floor and play offense with very little mental effort. Of course we can practice offense for hours and hours to make sure we get it right, but what about players’ skills? What about defense? If we simplify offense and at the same time make it unpredictable, we can be good offensively, and get better at defending and fundamental skills. If we teach and practice the same concepts on a daily basis, then we can focus on improving on the skills surrounding these concepts as well as defensive concepts.

Players will never worry that the defense took something away. They will never worry about what defense the other team is playing. They will find ways to attack the defense and generate scoring opportunities. It’s really not that hard. I think a lot of coaches make it that way trying to out think the room. If your team has a mentality that they can’t be defended, you might be surprised what they can do.

The only question that remains is can they put the ball in the basket. This is the single biggest reason we have struggled over the last 4 years offensively. We can generate tons of shots and good shots. We just haven’t been able to put the ball in the basket. The best way to defend us has been to let us shoot and then make sure you get the rebound.

Establishing a Foundation: An Offensive Philosophy Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Great offenses are made up of great players who use their superior skill sets and mentalities unselfishly within the framework of the team. We see great offense game after game when teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio play each other. Those guys are hard to guard. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to coach that level player. We might get to coach dominant players on our level, but they don’t come around all the time and even they have limitations. This makes it incumbent on coaches to establish a foundation offensively that we can build on using the abilities of our players to create the mentality that we want. If there is no foundation, there’s nothing to build upon. The foundation must be fundamentally sound. The foundation must be robust. The foundation must be straightforward.

I guess we just generated a list of three more questions that need to be answered as we develop an offensive philosophy.

  1. What is a fundamentally sound offense?
  2. What is a robust offensive philosophy?
  3. What is a straightforward offensive philosophy?

I think we’ve talked significantly about fundamentally sound offense. We’ve talked about spacing, ball movement, and player movement. I believe these are fundamental to any offensive philosophy. These three qualities are easily taught and mastered by players. Players can be easily held accountable for those three things. These are three things that can constantly be improved upon. Players can always move the ball and themselves better. I don’t necessarily mean move MORE. In most cases at least, I mean move smarter or move more efficiently. These are skills that can always be improved upon, but I think it is very easy to teach these at a basic level, while at the same time constantly emphasizing to players how to improve in these areas.

So what is an offensive philosophy that is robust?

  1. A robust offensive philosophy works against any defensive tactic.
  2. A robust offensive philosophy works with a variety of players, allowing them to showcase their strengths and mask their weaknesses.
  3. A robust offensive philosophy works at any point in the game.
  4. A robust offensive philosophy gives coaches something to hold players accountable to.
  5. A robust offensive philosophy gives players something they can be confident in.
  6. A robust offensive philosophy provides the best offensive players on a team the opportunity to help their team.
  7. A robust offensive philosophy emphasizes offensive rebounding.

You can change your offense against different defenses but your philosophy shouldn’t change. There should still be a certain mentality that players bring to a possession no matter what the defense is doing. Coaches talk a lot about having a defensive mentality. Contrary to what this blog might make you think, I think defense is more important than offense. However, having an offensive mentality is important to playing good defense. How many times do you see teams come down and fire up a bad shot and then play good defense? Playing good offense can give teams a sense of euphoria and a desire to get a stop. Bad offense often leads to easy transition opportunities or at best a lack of energy on defense. Having a robust offensive philosophy helps teams keep up a more consistent mindset on each possession.

A robust offensive philosophy must allow players to use their strengths and mask their weaknesses. Coaches can ask their players to practice in discomfort but they must allow them to play in comfort. When a coach asks a player to do something in a game that they know they aren’t comfortable doing, it affects that player’s mentality as well as the mentality of their teammates. As coaches we can always throw out the words, “Do it because I said so” but I would like to ask you this. If you’re asking a player who can’t attack well with their left hand to use a ball screen on the right wing to go to the middle, then how is that any different from asking that player to beat Michael Jordan in 1 on 1 and giving him the ball first.  It doesn’t set them up for success . That player knows that’s not their strength; their teammates know it’s not their strength. It affects the outcome no matter what the defense does because it affects the players’ mentality.

A robust offensive philosophy must be work no matter the time and score. Again you can change what you do based on the time and score, but it’s tough to change your philosophy. You can call a different offense but your players must have the same mentality when they approach that possession. It’s going to be tough to have a different philosophy with a different play call. I wouldn’t recommend developing your philosophy from your plays. Develop your plays from your philosophy.

A robust offensive philosophy provides a mechanism for holding players accountable which helps create a confident mentality. We’ve talked a lot about mentality already. I won’t harp on that now except to say that being able to hold players accountable is important to team success. When players know they are doing the right things, it gives them confidence because coach is happy and they can be more freely on the court.

I haven’t talked a lot about scoring, because I think that is more of a factor of the players than the offense. Players make plays.  Good players make good plays.  Great players make great ones. They don’t need a coach to score. They need a coach to make it easier for them to score. A robust offensive philosophy gets the ball to players who can score or create easy scoring opportunities for their teammates in situations where it is easy for them to do so. We’ve already talked about how a defense can take away something if they want to throw enough resources at it. The question is what do they have to give up to take it away and can your offense capitalize. A robust offensive philosophy makes defenses pay for every choice they make.

This last one may be the most important one of them all. A robust offensive philosophy places an emphasis on offensive rebounding. If you’re not coaching in the NBA, you’re probably coaching a team that’s going to miss over half of their shots game after game. How many of those rebounds are you going to get? Your half court offensive philosophy must address how you want your team to rebound offensively. You won’t score many points if you don’t.

Now that your offensive philosophy is fundamentally sound and robust, you must make it straightforward for your players. You can make it as complicated as you want to in the office. You can talk about it for hours and look at different options and pros and cons. However, when you step on the court, it better be like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It better be simple. It better be presented simply. It better be executed simply. Of course there are a lot of different skills and concepts that go into making an offense work. Shooting is a fairly complex skill. Some players make it more complicated than others. That’s even more reason that your offensive philosophy must be simple. Players should be able to tell you in less than 30 seconds how you want them to play on offense. It doesn’t have to be some catchy anagram or “Coach’s Offensive Octagon.” It doesn’t have to be clever. It should be simple, concise and easy for them to understand.

Your offensive philosophy must be fundamentally sound. It must be robust. It must be straightforward. If your offensive philosophy encompasses those three qualities, then your team has a good chance to play lots of quality possessions over the course of a season. By the end of the season, your offense might be complicated but your philosophy will remain the same.

Top 10 Qualities of Good Offense

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Good offense is like a well built house. It’s not enough just to have good players or a good plan. It’s just like having a good plan but builders who can’t drive a nail, or maybe the builders are great, but the plan isn’t.  Teams who play good offense are a combination of good offensive players and the systems they play in. It’s not enough to have good plays; and good players can be limited in the systems that don’t fit them. Granted great players can fit in a lot of different systems. Most of us don’t coach great players. Let’s be honest, only a small percentage of players play professionally. Most of us coach average players. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, in order for us to run good offense, our systems should have the following qualities.

  1. Good Spacing
    In my opinion, it’s the foundation to efficient offensive basketball. If your spacing is bad, the rest doesn’t really matter.
  2. Ball movement
    Here’s where you build your house. Ball movement is the structure. If you can move the ball with good spacing, you’re 75% of the way there.
  3. Player movement
    This is your floor plan. What’s the layout? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How big is your kitchen?  Do you have a garage?   I don’t think it’s as important as the first two, but you have to make good choices to have a functional house. Keep in mind, the more rooms you have, the more there is to take care of.
  4. Takes advantage of players’ strengths
    What kind of floors do you like? What color are you painting your walls? Recessed lighting and ceiling fans? Do these things fit the room that they are going in? In other words, does your offense fit your personnel?
  5. Hides players’ weaknesses
    Similar to the previous point, if your return duct for your HVAC has to be in a certain area of the house, can you hide it with a closet? Where do you put your water heater so it’s not an eye sore and so that it doesn’t use valuable square footage?  Not all of us can afford a tankless water system right?
  6. Flexible and adaptable to personnel
    You know when you get your furniture arranged a certain way, and then you want to change things around? Isn’t that similar to when one player leaves a team and a new one joins?  Maybe you want a different type of player or maybe it’s hard to find one like you had. Let’s be honest, no two players are exactly alike.
  7. Simple so that players can play more and think less
    We don’t want 7 different light switches on the wall where we have to figure out what goes where. We don’t want to have to use 5 different remotes just to watch our favorite sitcom. If we can’t hit one button to pop the popcorn in the microwave, it’s probably too complicated.
  8. Organized
    A messy home is a sign of character. At least that’s what somebody said once. I think it’s easy to agree that it is important for offense be organized. The trick is everyone has a different definition of organization.
  9. Difficult to scout
    We want to know our house inside out. We don’t care if other people know about our house, but even if they know about our house, they could never copy our house, and they definitely can’t stop us.
  10. Enable the ball handler to be a threat on every catch
    Get rid of the clutter. Ever been in a house that’s so overly “decorated” that it looks like the clearance section at a flea market? There’s so much extra junk that you lose sight of what’s really happening.

Each of these qualities is mentioned in different articles on this blog. I will follow-up this post with a description of each of them and how each of these in inherent in the R&R.

 

Good Spacing

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Spacing has been discussed multiple times on this blog.

  1. The Simplicity of the Game
  2. Skills and Abilities: Offensive Philosophy Part 2
  3. Teaching Basketball Players to Play the Game
  4. Team Mentality: Offensive Philosophy Part 3

However, it hasn’t been discussed in detail. I know it’s a pretty basic concept, yet I consistently see that players don’t understand it. They might be able to take a test and pass it, but when they play, good spacing is consistently compromised. I hope to answer three questions in this post so that we can help our teams play better offense.

  1. What is good spacing?
  2. Why is good spacing important?
  3. How can we achieve good spacing throughout a possession?

Definition

Offensive spacing is the distance between offensive teammates at any given time. Good spacing has been defined by different coaches as anywhere between 12-18 ft. I haven’t seen many coaches take a tape measure on the basketball court and measure the distance between two players. So how can we concretely define good spacing for our players in a way that is easy for them to understand and maintain throughout a possession?

We can use a few different spots on the court and the alignments that are created when players stand in these different spots. A 5 out alignment has perimeter players on each wing, each corner and the top of the key with no permanent post player. A 4 out alignment has one player in the post and 4 players around the perimeter. Coaches define their “4 out spots” differently. Some coaches have between 4 and 6 potential spots for players in a 4 out alignment. Some use the same spots that are used in a 5 out alignment. Some put two spots outside of each lane line extended, two spots on the wings, with two “optional” spots in the corners. Keep in mind, the post player can be anywhere in the post and good spacing will be maintained. It may be helpful for other reasons to dictate where the post player is located, but with regards to specifically to good spacing it really doesn’t matter. In a 3 out alignment, typically, the spots are the same as a 5 out alignment which of course means they will be spaced appropriately.

When there are two post players, their spacing might be less than 12-18 ft. Defining spacing for post players is a little different. Because post players are closer to the basket, defenders have less room for error. Defenders must play closer to their player. Their decision to help a teammate can result in a layup very easily. One slight misstep or hesitation can result in the offensive post player being open for an easy shot or getting an offensive rebound. As a result, it isn’t the end of the world to have one post player on each elbow or each block. In fact a lot of good offensive actions can occur in these situations. As long as they aren’t standing beside each other, they can still be effective.

Importance

Good spacing forces defenders to cover the full width of the court. Defenders who are forced to move laterally often are more susceptible to getting out of position.

Good spacing forces defenders to make decisions in what they defend. Poor spacing allows one defender to guard two or more players at the same time. Poor spacing keeps defenders from having to make decisions on where they are positioned.

Good spacing puts players in positions to make passes safely to one another while at the same time giving them enough space to attack the defense off the dribble without defenders being able to help easily.

A detail that is often neglected is that the more shooting range players have, the more of the length of the floor defenders have to defend. Steph Curry is hard to defend because he is a threat from very deep. Teams who can’t shoot very well provide the defense with space that does not have to be defended. If I don’t have to guard you, it just made my job easier to defend the space where I do have to guard you.

Making Good Spacing a Reality

In order to help players understand spacing, coaches have designed sets that put players in predicated spots. As long as players stand in those spots, the team will have good spacing. That is certainly one way to achieve it. How many sets does a team need? How many sets can a team remember and execute? How easy are those sets to defend? What happens when the set breaks down? Do you want to have to call a play every single possession?  What happens in transition?

Basketball is a player’s game. I believe our role as coaches is to give players the tools to be successful and let them use those tools based on their skill sets. As we teach every piece of the Read and React, we are playing from specific spots. Initially, we are very strict in holding players accountable to play from those spots. Every drill is run from “the spots.” Every time a player isn’t on the spot, we correct them .This helps them learn what good spacing looks like and feels like. As they become more advanced and more comfortable, we will give them a little more flexibility in the location of the spots. As long as they maintain good spacing, the specific spots become less important.

Spacing is critical to good offensive efficiency. As you watch basketball, I bet the better offensive teams are always spaced well.

Ball Movement

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

If good spacing is the foundation of the house, the walls and roof are ball movement. Without good spacing, it’s hard to get good ball movement, but if a team has good spacing, the next most important key is ball movement.

This game is all about the ball. Without the ball, there isn’t much point in the game. The team that dictates ball movement is probably the team that’s going to win. Offenses want to control where the ball goes, who the ball goes to, the speed with which the ball moves, and how the ball moves. Defenses want to dictate the same things to their advantage. Defenses have a hard time dictating all those things, and so they pick and choose what is most important.

The three ways to move the ball are by dribbling, passing, and shooting. Ball movement is primarily related to the skills of the player who has it at any particular time. Is that player a good ball handler with either hand or are they limited to one hand?  Maybe they can’t dribble at all without a defender stealing it. Are they a good passer? Are they a threat to score relative to where they are on the court? These are all very basic questions that are evaluated in some way by every player on the court every time a player touches the ball. Offensive and defensive players make judgments on what they think the player with the ball will do every instant so that they can react accordingly. Sometimes this is an obvious decision. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Sometimes these decisions aren’t very good decisions; yet decisions are always being made.

More importantly, the player with the ball is evaluating how they will move the ball next. The player with the ball is in control of the situation. The abilities of that player to make a good decision and execute that decision properly play a major part in determining what happens next. Of course this decision is also dependent on the decisions of the other 9 players on the court, but this is what makes the game fun.

Defenses want players who are not adept at dribbling, passing, shooting, or making good decisions to handle the ball more than the better players. In general, defenses prefer the ball be kept outside the lane. Most defenses would prefer the ball to be dribbled backward or laterally as opposed to towards the basket. Most defenses would prefer that the ball be moved slowly so that they have time to remain in good defensive position.

Offenses are designed to get the ball in the basket. In some cases, this means getting the ball closer to the basket.  In other cases, this means getting open opportunities for players who might be away from the basket. Offenses are designed to keep defenses moving so that offensive players can find breakdowns in the defense. The best way to keep defenses moving is to keep the ball moving. While moving players can move some defenders, moving the ball moves all the defenders (or at least it should).

What is most important in coaching ball movement offensively? Is it important to get the ball in certain areas of the court? Is it important to have the ball in a certain player’s hands? Is it important to predicate how the ball moves or make it less ? These are just a few of the questions that coaches have to answer in determining how they will attack opposing defenses. There are lots of different answers to these questions. This blog provides a few possibilities, but there are hundreds more.

I think many times we get caught up in player movement, and we forget to consider the movement of the ball. This blog has indirectly answered many of these questions. It is difficult to answer questions about ball movement or player movement directly without knowing the specifics about the personnel on a certain team. However, it is interesting to talk philosophically about these questions in preparation to answer them when that time comes.