5 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
Since this is the first action that is not initiated by the ball handler, a defender is needed in order to initiate the action. Locate 5 players on the court in 5 spots. Place a dummy defender in position 1 pass away from the ball. Have the defender step across the Read Line. The player then cuts back door while the other players fill. The defender can stay in one location and continue to step over the Read Line as players fill. This dummy defender could be another player, a coach or a manager.
You: WHOA! Slow down coach. What is the Read Line?
Me: We use the college 3 point line as our Read Line. You may choose use the high school line or the NBA line for your team.
You: So you’re telling me that you use the 3-point line to initiate an offensive action?
Me: Well sort of. The line can’t really initiate an action. Only players can initiate actions.
You: I was wondering about that. So who initiates this action?
Me: This layer is initiated by the defense.
You: But coach, I don’t want the defense to dictate what we do.
Me: I hate to tell you coach, but they already do. When they play man to man, you do one thing. When they play zone, you do another thing. When they trap, you do another thing. Defense always dictates to the offense in one way or another. Some defenses dictate more than others. Some defenses give up more than others. Some defenses give up exactly what they want. Some defenses give up everything. In any case, defense makes an impact on how we play offense, don’t they?
You: OK. OK. I still don’t like it. But I’ll entertain you for a second. What is the action?
Me: It works like this. When a player who is one pass away from the ball has a defender who steps over the Read Line, they immediately cut to the basket.
You: That’s it? It’s that simple?
Me: Yep. That’s it.
You: Well that makes sense, except I want #23 to catch the ball on the wing every time.
Me: If defense wants to keep #23 from catching the ball badly enough, they will. They might give up a lot in the process, but they can keep #23 from catching the ball.
You: Coach, you can’t keep Lebron from catching it on the wing.
Me: You’re right. But you don’t have Lebron on your team.
You: Don’t I wish I did.
Me: We all do. Now that we’re done dreaming, I’ll give you 3 reasons why this layer is important.
1. We fight fire with fire. If the defense wants to attack us by denying a pass, we will attack them by cutting to the rim.
2. The action initiates offense without the ball handler having to do anything.
3. It eliminates confusion between the ball handler and the receivers. Either the receiver is open or not. Either they are going back door, or they aren’t.
You: Those are 3 pretty legitimate advantages.
Me: Not to mention the options that the cutter has that we will talk about later.
You: I have one more question. We emphasize playing in gaps defensively. We are never in a denial position. How can we practice this action if we’re never over the Read Line defensively?
Me: That’s a tougher question to answer. I hope to help you figure that out as I describe an implementation plan for this layer.
2 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
This building block is very similar to the 5-player building block with 2 players. Players without the ball can start in a position one pass away. Coaches can also have them start more than one pass away. In this situation, players fill up to the open spot in order to learn the Read Line action. In either arrangement, a dummy defender steps over the Read Line. Players without the ball must react quickly to the dummy defender with a hard cut to the basket. Passers must learn to make the pass as early as possible and work on fitting passes into tight spaces or making the pass late when the defender has relaxed.
Defenders can be live in this building block as well. This may only be applicable to teams with defensive philosophies that have off ball defenders close to the line of the ball. This is a good start to teaching players how to defend the back door cut. For teams who play off the line of the ball significantly, this may serve no purpose as a defensive building block.
3 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
This is very similar to the previous building block except there is now a player to fill the empty spot. The dummy defender can stay in position and step over the Read Line for each new receiver as they fill.
3 offensive players 2 defenders 1 action
It’s important for the offensive players to cut when the ball handler “sees” them. Receivers could make a great back door cut, but if the ball handler doesn’t see them it doesn’t matter. Place the defenders on the players off the ball. The defenders can be over the Read Line or not. The ball handler looks each way. If the defender is over the Read Line, the player cuts backdoor. If not, they stay.
A building block of any more than 3 offensive players is probably not worth very much until other actions are combined with it. For teams that play on the line of the ball defensively, this will fit right into what they do defensively. These teams should force their teammates into a steady stream of backdoor cuts by players one pass away. For teams that play off the line, coaches may want to have a manager or coach step in as defenders. It may be difficult for them to learn this habit if they don’t play this type of defense on a regular basis.
Remember the Dribble-At? Let’s say the player one pass away should be making a Read Line cut. Maybe they don’t see the defender. Maybe they forgot. Maybe they never knew to start with. Well if the person with the ball recognizes this situation, they can Dribble-At this player and send them back door.
There’s another situation that may you may consider a “Read Line situation.” This one is up to you.
Maybe the defender isn’t over the Read Line, but the ball handler still doesn’t feel comfortable making the pass. Maybe they are in a position to to steal the pass without being over the Read Line. Maybe the ball handler just doesn’t want to pass to that player right now. As opposed to that player standing still, they can cut to the basket. So the rule can be stated like this. If the ball handler recognizes you as a receiver who is 1 pass away but does not pass you the ball, cut to the basket just as if your defender is over the Read Line.
An Important Detail:
Keep in mind, we only use the Read Line for players who are 1 pass away. We don’t want to help the defense get in better position. A player who is more than 1 pass away and who is over the Read Line is in pretty poor defensive position. We want to keep that defensive player player there. While I’m sure this offensive player could get open for a layup, if everyone follows the Read Line rule at the same time, they could all end up at the basket at the same time. Now no one is open. Limiting this rule to only the players who are 1 pass away is important to giving cutters who cut to the basket a chance at being open.