In trying to describe this sub-layer of the Attack Dribble layer, I’ve realized the need to break down this layer even further. This need arose out of various complications that occur in the 4 out 1 in alignment. The truth is that the same complications arise in the 5 out and 3 out alignments as well. Even though a team might be playing 5 out, there could be 1 or 2 players in the lane when a baseline drive occurs. This could mean that a 5 out alignment could look like a 3 out alignment for a short period of time.
This breakdown is FOR COACHES ONLY. I would not recommend that we teach our players in this level of detail. I think this is a time when we have to encourage players to use instincts and common sense to accomplish the task the best way they can. In other words, get the 4 windows filled whenever a player drives baseline. I think they can figure it out.
However, for coaches who want all the details, here’s one approach. I would encourage you to share yours.
We’ll tackle each window 1 by 1.
The primary window that must be filled is the natural pitch. That’s the one in the opposite corner. That window should be filled by the perimeter player furthest away from the ball because they are closest to that spot and are best equipped to be a threat on receiving a pass.
The next window that we want to make sure is filled is the safety valve. That one should be filled by the perimeter player closest to the ball.
Pretty simple right?
This leaves the 45 and 90 degree windows. Post players will likely be filling at least one if not both of these spots. Remember post players who players who are in or around the lane. Some post players are “permanent” posts. Others are not. Regardless of the alignment, players must know when they are posts and when they are not. If there are no post players, it’s pretty straight forward who fills the 45 and 90 degree windows.
Similarly, if there are 2 permanent post players, it’s pretty obvious that they will fill these windows. If one player is on either side of the lane, they both slide up the lane and the windows are filled.
If both of them happen to be on one side of the lane, that means one will be higher than the other one. In this case, we will have the higher one “circle move” to the elbow opposite where they are now, while the other one slides up the lane.
In a 4 out 1 in alignment, one of the windows will be filled by the permanent post player, and one of them will be filled by the other remaining perimeter player. This “other perimeter player” could be on the perimeter when the ball is driven. They could be in the lane. They could be exiting the lane.
The question is “Who Goes Where?”
If the other player is on the perimeter, it’s pretty simple to decide who goes where. It may be that both players are already in the two windows and they don’t have to move at all.
It could be that the post is in the low post on the opposite side of the lane of the perimeter player, which basically means the post just slides up the lane and now both windows are filled.
All pretty simple and straightforward, right?
The same scenario holds true if the guard is a cutter and is on a different side of the lane than the post player. Both players slide up and we have all the windows filled.
Again, that’s pretty simple.
There are two tricky scenarios that occur.
One is if the guard and post are on the same side of the lane when the drive occurs. In this situation, we tell the permanent post player to go to the 90 and the perimeter player (or possibly cutter) to fill the 45. That one isn’t too bad.
The second is if the drive occurs when the guard is exiting the lane. Does the guard keep going? Or do they move up the lane? This is one of those times where players just have to make it work.
As much as we would like to set a hard and fast rule, this is one time where it really isn’t feasible. Players have to fill all the windows based on what makes sense.
Success! Simple, straightforward (for the most part). We’re all good right? Well sort of. I could stop there and avoid the next more difficult question. But that would be leaving things incomplete. I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. The next question is “How do I know which player I am?”
More specifically, “How do I know if I’m furthest away from the ball”, “How do I know if I’m closest to the ball”, or “How do I know where my teammate is to determine if I should fill the 90 or the 45 degree window?”
Let’s try to tackle these questions 1 window at a time.
Natural Pitch: I know that I’m the perimeter player furthest away from the ball if I am looking at the ball, and I can see all 4 of my teammates in my vision. At the same time, if I can’t see all my teammates, I know I’m not the Natural Pitch.
Safety Valve: I know that I’m closest to the ball if I am on the perimeter and there are no perimeter players between me and the ball. If there is at least 1 perimeter player between me and the ball, I am not the Safety Valve.
2 down. 2 to go. Stretch. Breathe Deeply. Ready? Let’s do this.
The first step is for players to know if they the 45 or 90. This is the same as understanding that they are neither the Natural Pitch or the Safety Valve. Once I know, I’m either the 45 or 90, I have to decide which one. How do I decide?
There are two different scenarios that can arise in this situation.
1. One perimeter player and 1 post player.
2. Two post players (one permanent post and 1 cutter)
Let’s say there is 1 perimeter player and 1 post player. This is usually pretty easy for players to figure out. The post player is going to move up the lane. They will fill the 45 or the 90-degree window, which is determined by the side of the lane they find themselves on. The perimeter player must see this and adjust to the post player. Everything that is happening should be in perimeter player’s vision. It shouldn’t be too difficult for them to quickly go through the thought progression:
1. I’m not the farthest player from the ball
2. I’m not closest to the ball.
3. The post is in my way. I need to slide over opposite of the post.
Now let’s tackle scenario number 2. A perimeter player is now in the lane with the permanent post player for some reason. The reason why is irrelevant. It’s probably going to happen How do they react now? Again, they must know that because they are in the lane, they will fill the 45 and 90 degree windows on a baseline drive. Now how do they know which window to occupy? How do they know “which player they are.”
If the drive occurs early in the cut, the cutter should treat it as if they were on the perimeter. The post should be able to naturally slide up the lane while the perimeter player fills the opposite window from the post.
If the drive occurs in the middle of the cut, it’s likely easiest for the permanent post player to take the 90 degree window, while the cutter fills the 45 degree window. Again this may not be a hard and fast rule, but it should work most of the time.
If the drive occurs as the cutter is exiting the lane, this is the toughest scenario to figure out. Do you let the cutter keep going and hope they get to the corner? Do you stop the cutter and make them slide up the lane? I think regardless the post player must go to the 90 degree window.
My preference is to have the cutter stop their cut and move away from the baseline. This keeps the initial rule of “farthest perimeter player from the ball fills the Natural Pitch.” Again, I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer to this. At the end of the day, we must get all 4 windows filled.
I hope this isn’t confusing. It hope it helps.