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….

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.

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.

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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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.

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?

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?

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?”