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.

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Send me your comments, questions, thoughts….

Is the R&R the Same as the Dribble Drive?

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series FAQs

In recent conversations with other coaches, I’ve discovered a misconception that the Read & React is the same as the Dribble Drive Motion offense.  While the blog places a huge emphasis on teaching the offensive and defensive concepts surrounding dribble penetration, success in the R&R is not predicated on successful dribble penetration. Although, I would argue that the ability to defend dribble penetration is of primary importance, it is not a prerequisite to running this offense successfully.

The traditional Dribble Drive offense requires players who are able to attack the lane off the dribble.  It would be difficult if not impossible to run the DDM without at least two players who can breakdown their defender.  If your players are good players, but they are not good off the dribble, then they must be good at something.  Maybe they are good passers, maybe they are good screeners, or maybe they are good shooters.  If your players aren’t good at anything, then you need to read my post on fundamental skills. It won’t matter what offense you’re trying to run if your players don’t have any skills.

However, if your players are good at something, then they can be successful in the R&R.  The offense naturally lends itself to allowing players to accentuate their strengths while making it easier for them to either execute or hide their weaknesses.  The R&R can look like DDM or Princeton.  It can look like Triangle Offense or UCLA 1-4 high sets.  It can look like a ball screen continuity or a bunch of quick hitters.  It all depends on the players and the coaches.  It depends on what is taught, how it’s taught, and how the players execute it on the court.

Remember the R&R is offense.  It’s not an offense.  If your players can learn to play offense, then why can’t they learn to play multiple offensive systems. If they can play multiple offensive systems, then they can defend multiple systems as well.



Zone Offense in the R&R

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

Zone offense in the R&R is one of the greatest reasons to play using this style.  The ability to use the same concepts against both man to man and zone defenses saves lots of time and gives players less to remember.  Many people ask me what we run against zones defenses.  We do the same thing against zones that we do against man to man defenses with one adjustment. Coach Torbett calls it “hook and look.”

Let’s quickly define “hook and look” and how it is applied.  The phrase basically means that every cutter must cut into one of the six posting spots and “post up” looking for the ball. Against zones, they are not required to finish their cut to the basket.  The length of time that the cutter stays in that spot depends on the alignment that the team is using.  If the team is in a 5 out alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from the next 3 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball.  In other words the cutter waits for 2 passes.  If the team is in a 4 out 1 in alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from 2 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball. In other words the cutter waits for 1 pass. If a team is in a 3 out 2 in alignment, there are already two players in post spots and so no specific adjustment is necessary.

There’s a very specific reason I mention the number of receivers that the cutter should look at before finishing their cut.  It helps with the timing of the offense.  If we only talk about the number of passes, the tempo of the offense can be too fast.  Especially when teams are used to executing the faster tempo of the man to man offense, they can often rush the offense against zones.  The likely result is that open cutters are missed.  Either the person with the ball doesn’t see them or the cutter doesn’t take the extra split second to realize that they are open.

This adjustment creates a constant stream of players entering and exiting the middle of any zone. The zone can is always adjusting to the player movement and ball movement that this concept creates.  However, the zone offense must operate at a different pace in order to be successful. It cannot operate at the same pace as the man to man offense. It must slow down so that the zone must adjust to the cutters.  If the offense moves too fast, the zone must only keep up with the ball and doesn’t have to worry about the cutters as much.

Against zones, coaches may also want to adjust the location of their post players. We are typically in a 4 out 1 in alignment with our post player starting in one of the short corners.  From there, she can post up at any time.  She is also encouraged to set pin screens on the weak side of the zone.

I will expound on this more with diagrams and video clips.  I welcome any questions or comments that you might have. Here is one clip of us running the zone offense.

Don’t You Need Good 1 on 1 Players?

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series FAQs

As with most offenses, I think it helps to have good 1 on 1 players, but I don’t think it is necessary with this style of offense. I know I talk a lot about attacking off the dribble. I do this for two different reasons.  The first reason is from a teaching perspective. The second reason is from an emphasis perspective. I believe teaching basketball in a progressive manner begins with what players do with the ball and how you guard the ball.  A lot of our offensive and defensive teaching is based around dribble penetration.  We want to be able to attack off the dribble as well as stop dribble penetration.  Since we want it to be a big part of our offense, we emphasize it a lot as well.  As a result, the blog probably makes things sound like you can’t run this offense unless you have good 1 on 1 players.  That’s not true at all.  I would run it with any team and any collection of players, because I believe it can be easily adjusted to maximize the talents of whatever players you have.  I believe that your personnel may change what you emphasize but not what you teach.

Let me explain.  I believe it’s always important to be able to attack defenses off the dribble.  Defenses who can guard the ball without help have a greater chance at being successful. They are less prone to fouls.  They can worry more about defending screens and cutters and less about helping and rotating to stop dribble penetration. Good offensive teams are be able to create pressure on defenses by use of dribble penetration.

While I think it’s important to teach the skills and concepts surrounding dribble penetration first, I don’t believe it’s something that every team should emphasize.  I think it’s important to emphasize taking advantage when these opportunities exist, but you may emphasize different ways of creating those opportunities. There a number of ways that offensive teams can create dribble penetration opportunities.  Your team will determine what you emphasize.

  1. Making a 1 on 1 move
  2. The Draft Drive
  3. Creating long or difficult closeouts
  4. Ball Screens/Dribble Handoffs
  5. Creating mismatches that make 1 on 1 easier

Let’s say your team isn’t athletic enough or skilled enough to create off the dribble.  You probably can’t change their athleticism much, but you can improve their skill.  I would say that  skills limit players’ abilities more often than their athleticism.  However, teaching skills does take time, and so let’s assume that creating off the dribble is not something you want to emphasize with your team.

The Draft Drive is a great way to help players attack off the dribble who might not be great 1 on 1 players.  The Draft Drive creates a larger driving lane.  The 1 on 1 move doesn’t have to be as sharp or as precise.  Moreover, ball handlers should know that they will always have receivers available if they can’t score.  This larger driving lane and the confidence that their teammates will be available may give some players the confidence they need to be aggressive when they would normally be passive.  This is still a bit of a 1 on 1 situation, so let’s pretend this doesn’t work well for you either.

In order to guard a player 1 on 1, a defender must be able to go from off the ball to on the ball without getting beat.  Many players can guard the ball once they are guarding the ball.  They just have trouble on the closeout.  If your players aren’t great 1 on 1 players, then creating long or difficult closeouts for the other team can put them in situations where attacking off the dribble is much easier because the defense is at a disadvantage.  The constant movement of the offense towards the rim tends to keep defenses from extending.  They tend to gravitate to the paint.  This can create long closeouts or can delay defenders in getting to the ball through the use of a variety of screening actions, which is upcoming in the blog.

There are a number of off ball screening actions, but the Pick and Roll or On Ball Screen is also a tool in the toolbox.  Ball screens can be incorporated in a variety of ways.  It’s really up to you based on your philosophy and your personnel. Dribble Handoffs can also be used as a way to get ball handlers going towards the rim off the dribble. Both of these can create opportunities for dribble penetration

Screening actions may generate mismatches as a result of teams switching.  If your team’s best guard can’t take the other team’s post player 1 on 1 and at least draw some sort of help side defense, then you are probably in for a long night.

I like to look at it like this. In order to be a decent perimeter offensive player, you have to be able to either dribble or shoot.  If you can’t do either one, then you become pretty easy to guard.  If you can do one of the two, then defenses have to at least respect one of the two skills which should help you be more effective at the other one.

2 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

The following diagrams show how two players can combine two attack dribble actions back to back in 4 different ways.  In short, it shows the 4 possible combinations of players using the attack dribble to their right and to their left.

A number of different skills can be taught as a part of this building block.  Ball handling, 1 on 1 moves, passing, post slides, circle movement, shooting, finishing, pivoting, and spacing are all possibilities on the offensive side of the ball.  Of course if you put defense on the court, there are many other possibilities as well.

Keep in mind there are a number of other combinations as well with different players at different spots, but these building blocks teach players how to be aggressive with the ball as well as show them their different options when they are aggressive.  Placing defenders on the court forces them to learn how to defend a ball handler who wants to use their attack dribble.  It’s important in these situations to make the defenders be aggressive so they can learn how to keep a ball handler in front of them.

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Attack Dribble: Circle Movement (Part)

This entry is part 8 of 24 in the series Dribbling Actions

This will break the Attack Dribble Layer down starting with 2 player actions and including defense build up to 5 on 5.  Individual skill development is critical but will not be covered in this blog.  I will save that for another place and time.

One big question that some might ask: “What do I tell players when they pass?”  For now, I’m not going to tell them anything, because we haven’t covered what to do when you pass.  For some building blocks, I’m going to tell them to step off the court, but I’m not going to tell them what they should do….yet. If they ask, I might tell them.  I just don’t want them to worry about that right now.  I want them to focus on the Attack Dribble Layer. This becomes an important detail in being able to practice back to back actions.

So for now, for any drill designed through any building block for this layer, the rule is if you make a pass, you (and your defender if one exists) step off the floor once you pass. When other layers are added, they will have “something to do.”

A. 2 offensive players 1 action

This building block is the most basic component for teaching this layer. Everything else will build off of this. Coaches will still want to conduct individual skill development drills first to teach the different fundamentals that make up the building block. However, this is the first place where players really learn how to play team offense.

Players start at two designated spots. The player with the ball performs an attack dribble. The player without the ball rotates aggressively in the appropriate direction to the next spot. Is it really that simple?  Sure it is; except it’s not. I’ll discuss the different things that can go wrong shortly. Let’s finish the building block first.

The attacking player must make a decision on when the defense has committed to help on their attack.  If they have their defender beaten and help doesn’t come, they should keep going.  If the defense steps over to help, this means their teammate should be open and they should look to pass them the ball.

In designing the drill from the building block, coaches should consider some of the following details:

  1. Which spots are we using?  There are plenty of combinations.  Coaches should make sure players are comfortable from all spots. Players should be adjacent to each other initially but as they become more comfortable, the two players can be located on any two spots. Just remember, NO BASELINE DRIVES….yet.
  2. The ball handler can finish with a layup or a jump shot. The other player rebounds after they rotate. They must practice an aggressive rotation even if they aren’t going to get the ball.
  3. The ball handler takes 1 or 2 dribbles and kicks it out to the receiver who has rotated properly. The receiver shoots or attacks the basket. The initial ball handler is now out of the drill.
  4. Initially predetermine the direction of the penetration. This is important for youth players who are new to the action.  Eventually though all ball handlers must be given the freedom to choose the direction of the drive.
  5. Ball handlers attack off the dribble as opposed to off the catch. The question then becomes when do the receivers rotate.  Once the ball handler enters a scoring area?  After the ball handler crosses the 3 point line?

So what can go wrong?

  1. Ball handler travels on the attack.
  2. Ball handler dribbles with the wrong hand (e.g. going left with their right hand)
  3. Ball handler dribbles too deep before they kick it out
  4. Ball handler stares down their receiver instead of selling the attack.
  5. Ball handler doesn’t attack the lane.
  6. Ball handler passes with the wrong hand.
  7. Ball handler makes a bad pass.
  8. Ball handler reverse pivots incorrectly.
  9. Receiver rotates the wrong way or doesn’t rotate at all.
  10. Receiver’s reaction is early because they anticipate the drive.
  11. Receiver’s reaction is late.
  12. Receiver isn’t aggressive in their rotation.
  13. Receiver’s knees aren’t bent or their feet aren’t ready.
  14. Receiver doesn’t stay wide.
  15. Receiver shoots a shot with a foot on the 3 point line. (PET PEEVE!!!)
  16. Receiver travels when they try to attack the basket.
I could go on, but I figured that would get the point across. There’s a lot that can go wrong in this simple 2 player building block. This also means that there is a lot you can teach out of this simple building block. Granted, a lot of these are fundamental skill issues that may show up in other places as well. In any case, this is a great chance to teach, reinforce, and emphasize those skills in addition to learning the circle movement.

This is just the first block, but it’s such an important one. It is a great tool to drill all the offensive fundamentals associated with this layer well as the team concept. The inability for players to execute the basic offensive fundamentals that make up this layer will lead to turnovers. However, continuous repetition of this building block for the sole purpose of improving offensive execution is ineffective since reactors are able to anticipate the initiator’s action.  This is especially true at higher levels, but even youth teams will eventually need to be challenged further for the purpose of offensive execution.  There are a number of different drills that can be created from this building block. I’m compiling and will post them eventually…..hopefully….

B. 2 offensive players 1 defender 1 action

The only difference between this building block and the previous one is the addition of a defender. However, this one defender changes the dynamic of the drill.

The defender starts guarding the attacker. This can be live or not, but the receiver must still react. If the defender is a dummy defender, it is up to the coach to specify what happens.  If it’s live, the attacker should look to score first, but they must take good shots.  This is a good way to teach shot selection.

The receiver must always rotate appropriately, even if they don’t receive a pass. The ball handler must be limited in the number of dribbles and/or space that they have to score. This might as well be called 1 on 1 with an outlet. However, there are a lot of offensive and defensive concepts that can be taught in this building block, not to mention the many different ways that the 1 on 1 situation can be created.  Either way, why have players standing on the baseline watching two people play 1 on 1.  Have them in spots on the court, practicing their reaction. Every repetition helps. This building block can be used to teach 1 on 1 defense in a variety of ways as well as closeouts.  Again, when the drill section is complete…..

The defender should now guard the receiver. Again it is up to the coach what defensive technique is used.  The defender can be dummy or live.  Regardless, they will pretend that the ball handler beat the on-ball defender, and they have to help.  The attacker must make this read and deliver the pass to the receiver who has rotated to create a passing lane for the passer.

The intensity of the defense should start at a low level and increase as the players improve. As the players become more comfortable with the execution of Circle Movement, the drill can be used to teach defensive concepts.

This building block provides an opportunity to drill the defender on their 1 on 1 defense in a more game like situation. This helps the passer learn when to pass. It helps the receiver gauge the amount of time they have to evaluate their next action. In addition, it drills the defender on help and recovery techniques as well as proper closeouts and rebounding. At the same time, the offensive players are continuing to build their offensive habits that were covered in the previous drill as well as the reactions required to run the offense.

You guessed it, there are a lot of different ways to create a drill with this building block.

C.  2 offensive players 2 defenders 1 action

In this building block, the ball handler must attack their defender with a good 1 on 1 move.  The player without the ball must react appropriately.  Defenders must defend one action from the initial ball handler.  The ball handler can pass after 1 attacking action.  The receiver is now playing 1 on 1.  The other offensive and defensive player are no longer involved in the building block (follow the rule as stated in the beginning of this section.)

D.  3 offensive players 1 action or 2 actions

This next step is the same as the 2 on 0 block except there is a 3rd offensive player.  Previously, the attacker only had one receiver as an option.  Depending on the direction of their penetration, the attacker had either the natural pitch or safety as options for receivers. This is the first time that the attacker will have more than one receiver.  The attacker must have awareness on every drive where receivers will be located.  The attacker must make a clearly defined attack while the receivers learn to  react habitually by rotating in the appropriate direction. Both receivers must be ready to receive a pass.

This is the first opportunity to execute a second action with a second reaction.  After the first receiver catches the pass, the initial ball handler steps off the floor. In this case, player 2 fills in. At some point during this filling action, player 3 attacks again.  Player 3 can attack immediately or they can wait. It’s important for player 2 to react immediately.  This is a good way to repeat the Circle Movement reaction.


The same coaching considerations listed above apply here. Receivers must know that they are always an option for an attacker and must be in the proper position on every drive whether they receive the pass or not. Even though, only one layer and at most two actions are being taught at this time, players must be in proper position in order to be able maintain proper spacing for the next action.  This 3 player building block is especially good for teams with 12 players who only have 2 baskets.

Drills are coming. DOH! I said I wasn’t going to mention the drills again.

E.  3 offensive players 1 defender 1 action or 2 actions

Coaches can now put a defender on any player and run the same drill as before.  The defender must maintain proper position based on the player with the ball and their man.  If the ball handler dribbles in their direction, the defender should “help” and now they are forced to closeout and play 1 on 1. The other offensive players in the drill remain as outlets and rotate if the player with the ball attacks. The ball handler can now be taught shot selection in a 1 on 1 scenario.

This block is similar to the 2 on 1 block above except defenders are added to both receivers.  Defenders can play at varying levels of intensity depending on the emphasis. This will help attackers become comfortable with delivering passes to all receiver positions from all attacking positions against defense.

This block can be used to build from a defensive standpoint as well. It is recommended that other layers are added before players are allowed to play in any type of live scenario except for 1 on 1. Even in 1 on 1 there should be time, space or dribbling constraints.  Just as in the 2 on 1 and 2 on 2 blocks above, once the ball handler passes, they are no longer in the play along with the person who was defending them.

Any person with the ball who is being defended is forced to look to attack. We always want players to be threats.

F.  3 offensive players 2 defender 1 action or 2 actions

It’s the same as above with another defender.

F.   3 offensive players, 3 defenders 1 or 2 actions

This is very similar to building block E with an extra player.  1 on 1 defense, closeouts, help and recover and rebounding can all be taught from this building block. This building block can be turned into a number of different drills to teach a number of different skills.  It’s up to the coach and the emphasis.

G. 4 offensive players 1 action

This building block will let the ball handler see 3 of their teammates in motion at once.  This building block may not require a lot of time for more advanced teams. It may still be a useful step in helping younger players build the complete picture. All 4 of these players must be perimeter players.  They could be in 4 out or 5 out spots.

Keep in mind placing them in a 4 out alignment completes the picture for this alignment.  Congratulations!!!

H. 4 offensive players 1 to 4 defenders 1 to 3 actions

I think everyone is smart enough to figure this out by now.  Right?  If you need an explanation let me know.

J.  5 offensive players 1 to 5 defenders, 1 to 4 actions

This completes the picture.  Remember to keep everyone on the perimeter.

Let’s look at the WHOLE and see how we can assess what we’ve learned.

Attack Dribble: Circle Movement (Whole)

This entry is part 7 of 24 in the series Dribbling Actions

Since this is the first layer, we are only able to execute one action at a time for two reasons.

1.  Players don’t know what to do when they pass the ball.
2.  Players don’t know how to react in the post.

This will change when Post Slides and Pass & Cut are added to the mix. In the meantime, we will make a rule for all drills that says when a player passes, they are off the court and out of the drill along with the player who was defending them if applicable. This will allow us to practice multiple Attack Dribble actions when 3 or more people are on the court.

A. 5 offensive perimeter players 0 defenders 1 action

5 out or 3 out 2 in
Locate 5 players at the 5 perimeter spots. The player with the ball attacks the lane with one dribble.  Each player rotates one perimeter spot in the direction of the penetration. Ball handlers should always recognize their natural pitch and their safety from each location. Place the ball in each spot and show the rotations for one attack dribble from each spot.  All penetrations should be shown except for baseline penetration. Baseline penetrations and rotations will be covered in the second sub-layer.

The shaded player #2 in the above diagram is called the Natural Pitch player.

The shaded player #3 in the above diagram is called the Safety Valve.  

If 1 passes to the Natural Pitch player, they would fill out to the opposite side as 3, 4, and 5 filled the empty spots (as shown above).  If 1 passes to the Safety Valve player, they would fill out to the same side corner after 2 fills the wing spot.  (as shown below).

Keep in mind that the above diagrams show where players would be if there was only one action.  Ideally, another action would follow this drive and kick.  As multiple actions are tied together, players react to these actions making their placement unpredictable.  These strings of back to back unpredictable actions make the offense very difficult to defend.

4 out 1 in

Locate 4 players at 4 of the 6 perimeter spots. The post player should not be  included. The player with the ball attacks the lane with one dribble.  Each player rotates one perimeter spot in the direction of the penetration. Ball handlers should always recognize their natural pitch and their safety from each location. Place the ball in each spot and show the rotations for one attack dribble from each spot.  There are a few different combinations of player locations in 4 out. All possible combinations should be shown.  All spots 1 pass away from the ball should always be filled.  All penetrations should be shown except for baseline penetration. Baseline penetrations and rotations will be covered in the second sub-layer.

The shaded player #3 in the below diagram is called the Natural Pitch player.

The shaded player #2 in the below diagram is called the Safety Valve.  

Notice in the last drawing that 1 has not filled the other top guard spot.  This fill is optional.  There are advantages to 1 staying on the wing as well as advantages to 1 filling up to 2.  These advantages will be discussed in future posts. The post also has a number of options as well. These will be discussed in the upcoming layers.

3 out 2 in

Locate 3 players at 3 of the 5 perimeter spots. This should look the same as 5 out with two open perimeter spots.  The post players should not be  included. The player with the ball attacks the lane with one dribble.  Each player rotates one perimeter spot in the direction of the penetration. Ball handlers should always recognize their natural pitch and their safety from each location. There are a few different combinations of player locations in 3 out 2 in. All possible combinations should be shown.  All spots 1 pass away from the ball should always be filled. Place the ball in each spot and show the rotations for one attack dribble from each spot.  All penetrations should be shown except for baseline penetration. Baseline penetrations and rotations will be covered in the second sub-layer.

Now that we’ve shown the whole, it’s time to break it down.