Dribble-At: Defensive Fundamentals

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

The Dribble-At is a very sneaky way to generate offensive scoring opportunities. It can be used in its most basic sense as a way to generate movement and release pressure. However, as players improve their skills it can be a way to create scoring opportunities. While overuse of the Dribble-At can cause your offense to be stagnant, using it occasionally will cause catch undisciplined defenses sleeping and is the trigger for a lot of different secondary actions. It is not difficult to defend the Dribble-At as long as defenders are alert and disciplined, but defenders can easily lose focus.

  1. Staying between the ball and the basket
    In the case of a Dribble-At, the ball handler isn’t going toward the rim. It is important that the player guarding the ball stays between the ball and the basket. In many cases, the defender will over pursue the ball handler in an attempt to cut them off. When they do so, they open up a lane to the basket if the ball handler can quickly change direction.
  2. Defending the cutter
    If you’re defending the cutter, you just can’t get beat back door. It’s really that simple. This can be a result of being too focused on the ball. It can be a result of over playing the receiver. It can be simply a matter of losing focus. However, defending the backdoor cut is only step one. It’s important to maintain good defensive positioning even if the backdoor pass is denied. The cutter can post up at the end of the cut. The cutter can decide to screen. The cutter might react to penetration. They might fill to the weak side of the floor. The key is to maintain sound defensive positioning relative to the ball no matter what the cutter does.

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….

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.

Post Defense: Fundamentals

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Post Play

Playing post defense is very similar to playing post offense.  At it’s most basic level, it’s a fight for position.  The player with the best position usually wins.  Defining “best position” is a little more tricky.  The best position for a player like Brittney Griner is going to be different than the best position for a 5’8″ post player.  The best position may also be different based on team’s defensive strategy.  The best position may also vary based on the type of post players an opponent has.

Coaches must determine and define the best position for their players. Whatever that best position is, there are some fundamentals that players must be able to execute to be successful.

First Post Down
The earlier a post player begins to work for position, the higher likelihood that the player will be able to get the best position.  Defensive post play begins in transition.  The defensive post player must work to beat their offensive teammate down the court.  It’s not enough to arrive at the same time.  This inevitably gives the offensive player an advantage.

First Post to the Spot
Assuming the defensive player wins the race down the court, they must beat the offensive post to where they want to go. This could be to a post position.  This could be to a screen.  A defensive player who can get to the spot first can disrupt the timing of the offense.  They may not be able to keep the player from getting to where they want to go, but they can throw off the timing which helps their teammates immensely.

Team Defense
Good post defense requires a team effort.  There’s no way one person can guard a good post player alone.  The two clips below show that you can’t keep a post player from catching the ball alone.  A good post player will take advantage of the defensive position of their opponent.  There must be good ball pressure to make it hard to see open post players and to disrupt the timing of the play.

Clip 1

Clip 2

On the Catch
Inevitably the ball is going to get inside.  So then what.  It’s important for the defensive post to get between the offensive player and the basket on the catch. Then this player must remain low and ready to move.  Many post players stand up to try to be tall in the post instead of staying low and being ready to move.  Post players must not go for ball fakes.  This gives the offensive player an easy opportunity to make a basket and get fouled.

On the Shot
If the offensive post takes a shot, the defensive post is once again in a battle for position.  The defensive post must work to get good rebounding position so that they can get the rebond in case the shot attempt is missed.

Drill variables

Tangent Alert!!!

Most of what I’ve been talking about are what I call building blocks.  They are conceptual combinations of actions.  I talked about why I don’t call them drills in a previous post. The building blocks are applicable to all teams.  However, coaches must take these building blocks and design drills every day that accomplish their goal.  I wanted to take a minute to list a few of the “variables” that coaches may consider in designing drills.  These variables should be considered on a daily basis to create the type of learning environment that is appropriate for their team on that day. A drill changes every time you change a variable. The building blocks may be the same, but making slight changes in these variables can have an impact on how players think about the drill, which helps them grow.

Rotations
How do players rotate in the drill?  Offense to defense?  Defense to Offense?  Are there players watching the drill? Is it a reward to watch or a punishment to watch? Does the offense get the ball a certain number of times? Do players start themselves?  Do they have to wait for a command?  Who gives that command?

Length of time
How long does a drill last?  Til one player reaches a certain score?  Til one group reaches a certain score?  Til the whole team reaches a certain score?  For a certain number of repetitions/possessions? For a certain length of time? Until it’s done correctly once?  Until it’s done correctly a certain number of times?  Until a certain player or grouping does it right? Until everyone does it right?

Scoring the drill
How do you keep score in the drill? Do you award points for doing things right?  Do you award points for doing things wrong?  How many “things” are being tracked?  How much does each thing count?  Who’s keeping score?  Players?  Coaches? Managers?  You can count actual points, touches for a certain player, 1 foot paint touches, 2 feet paint touches, travels, good screens, bad screens, good cuts, bad cuts, good rotations, bad rotations, good hedge, bad hedge, good shots, bad shots, good execution, bad execution, good position, bad position, face cuts, box outs, second efforts, dives on floor, charges, deflections, or any number of other things.  You could choose not to keep score at all. Is there a winner and a loser?  How is it determined?  Are players competing against yesterday’s score?  Are they competing against each other?  Individually?  In groups?  Are they competing as a team against some standard?

Advantage/Disadvantage
Is it even or uneven?  Does offense have the advantage or does the defense?  How much of an advantage? Give offense or defense an advantage by restricting space, changing an alignment, or implementing rules?  (ie the offense can’t dribble or #12 is the only player that can score.)  Do you restrict the actions that players can execute?  Per group? Per player? Per drill?  Is there an action that must be included?  Is there a specific order to the actions?  Is there freedom to the actions?  The list of rules that can be created is a whole different post.

Participation and roles
Number of Offensive players?  Number of Defensive players? Managers? Coaches? Who’s live? Who’s not?  How do players sub?  On their own?  Never?  When a coach tells them to? Is the rotation set? How are teams/groups selected?  Do they choose their own?  Are they chosen on the spot?  Are they chosen before practice?

Continuity
Where does the possession start?  Where does it end? Where does the ball start? How do you start the next possession? How does it end?  How do you start the next repetition/possession? Does the offense rebound continuously? When does it end? What happens if defense gets possession?

Necessary Equipment
Number of balls? Cones? Chairs? Pads? Heavy balls?  Tennis balls?  Agility ladders? Ball Racks?

Is this a lot of work?  Yes I think it is.  As teachers, we must answer these questions as we develop our daily lesson plans.  There is value to consistency.  There is value in familiarity.  I would ask how many possessions in a game are the same? Shouldn’t we force our players to learn to deal with variety?  Shouldn’t they learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable?  

The question becomes, “What do you want to accomplish?”

 

4 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series 4 player Combinations

4 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

Version 1
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Version 2
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If the initial attacker were to reverse pivot and pitch it back to the safety, these diagrams could look much different.  I have added those to the to draw list.

Pass, Cut, & Fill: Skip Pass

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Passing Actions

Implementation of the Skip Pass will follow a similar progression as passing to a player 1 pass away. Remember the rule is that on a Skip Pass, the player 1 pass away from the ball cuts to the rim. If there is no player 1 pass away, then there is no cut. This action is very difficult to defend.

I KNOW I KNOW!!! I know it “breaks the rule” of the passer cutting. So does the Baseline Drive Adjustment break the rule for an Attack Dribble. This one is pretty easy for players to learn though. Not to mention it’s really hard to guard and creates better perimeter movement than a weakside flash.

5 offensive players 1 action
Players will start at all 5 perimeter spots. The ball can start with any player. Players make the skip pass, cut, and fill without defense. Place emphasis on straight hard cuts to the rim. Players without the ball must fill one pass away spots aggressively. Passers must ball fake the cutter before the next perimeter pass is made. This is used to show the whole Layer.



3 offensive players 1 action
Players start at 3 designated spots. The player with the ball makes a skip pass. The appropriate player cuts to the basket and catches the pass from the person receiving the skip pass. The initial passer fills the open spot as the cutter finishes the building block with a short jump shot or a layup.


3 offensive players 1 defensive player 1 action
Ready to challenge individual defenders again? We challenged them when we play 2 on 1 with a drive, kick, and closeout. This action will be tough for them to defend as well. The defender could guard any of the 3 offensive players. There are skills that can be taught and drilled from every position. The most interesting is to have them defend the player who is getting skipped (ie the cutter). They really have to work to bump this cut on the skip pass. They can guard the passer and work on their defensive positioning once the pass is made.

3 offensive players 2 defensive players 1 action
We can put these two defenders on any of the two players. We are drilling the changing of defensive positioning on a skip pass. We’re still bumping cutters as well. This will get more interesting when we add multiple actions.

3 offensive players 3 defensive players 1 action
We are drilling the changing of defensive positioning on a skip pass. We’re still bumping cutters as well. This will get more interesting when we add multiple actions.

4 offensive players 1 action
Now we have the opportunity to talk more about a topic that we have touched on previously. The idea of being patient to fill is extremely useful in setting up other actions. Placing 4 players on the court creates a scenario where there is at least 1 person more than 1 pass away. This player who is more than 1 pass away does not have to fill up to the next open spot. They can stay where they are. If a pass is made, they can fill the open spot on the move. Here they may take advantage of a defender who may not be alert. As post players are added to the mix, this is a great way to set up pin screen opportunities as well.

There’s not much use in going into more detail on the skip pass. Of course you can add defenders on the 4 offensive players. You can increase to 5 offensive players. I’m going to skip those progressions for now. If you’ve read the other breakdowns, you get the idea.

It’s time to combine actions.