This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Workouts

SMACKS is an acronym that I like to use for teaching players how to play when they have the ball. Every time a player attempts to score, it can be broken down into each of these 6 stages. When players learn to master each stage individually, they can start putting them together and become better players. SMACKS gives me a way to help teach offensive players in a progression that is easy for them to remember.

S = Setup

M = Move

A = Attack Dribble

C = Crossover Step

K = Kill Dribble

S = Score

The setup is what the player do before they make a move. The setup is probably the most overlooked part of SMACKS. When a player is making a move off the dribble, this is learning to change speeds and levels to freeze the defender. If the player is making the move off the catch, it is learning how to prepare their feet and bodies to make their move without being off-balance or traveling. Players who forget this step often make moves that are ineffective. Players must always learn to set up the move before they make it. In many cases, this setup is not complicated or difficult. The setup can be as simple as playing just a bit slower to make a good read so that they can make the proper move.

The move is probably the most popular part of SMACKS that coaches teach and that players work on. Players always want to work on or learn a new move. The move can include a change of speed, change of level, and/or a change of direction. While the move might be the “flashiest” part of SMACKS, the other parts are just as important to a successful scoring opportunity against the highest levels of competition.

Once the offensive player makes the move, the player must attack the advantage that they gained. This piece of SMACKS is critical to maximizing the advantage that the player gained. The attack dribble must create as much space as possible away from the defender. As a result, a poor attack dribble ruins even the best “move” because it allows defenders to recover and make any scoring opportunity more challenging.

The attack dribble’s partner is a crossover step. The crossover step increases explosiveness and protects the ball from the defender. Many times, this footwork is often overlooked, but mastery of the crossover step can help lesser athletes gain an advantage. Poor footwork by even good athletes can make them less efficient, effective, and easier to defend.

The kill dribble follows the attack dribble in situations where the player needs more than one dribble to score. In some situations, the attack dribble can lead to a scoring opportunity. Although at higher levels of basketball, players must have a variety of finishes in their arsenal. The kill dribble helps players get their feet set for whatever attempted finish they need to use.

The score refers to the different finishes that a player can learn to use. This could be a jump shot, floater, Euro step, pro hop or any number of other finishes that exist in the game of basketball.

Player Movement in the R&R

There are 27 questions listed at this link that coaches could ask to determine optimal player movement for their team. That, of course, is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of others. These questions are just windows into how different coaches view the game and how to coach it.

For me, the R&R answers a lot of these questions in way that is good for players and the game as a whole. Here are my short answers to those questions. If you want to expound on any of them, let me know.

  1. You can put in as much structure as you want. It’s completely customizable to your philosophies and personnel. You might even coach it well enough that players learn to do this on their own.
  2. It’s easy to teach, and in fact, it’s fun to teach. Teaching players how to play basketball and seeing them succeed is a lot of fun.
  3. Anyone can play in it.  It’s not skill specific as long as you have some sort of skill set. If you don’t have any set of offensive skills, it doesn’t really matter what offense you run.
  4. You can model your team after other teams. This gives you a framework to do so.
  5. It doesn’t matter who your best players are. They can all be successful in their way.
  6. Getting players shots won’t be a problem. Your best players will get plenty of opportunities. The question is can they take advantage of it.
  7. The hardest thing to guard is the ball combined with constant player movement. This is in the R&R’s DNA.
  8. Players are always in a position to use their strengths.
  9. You’ll have constant movement, along with random combinations of actions. Most teams aren’t used to defending that.
  10. If the player is as good as the players that you’re playing against, then it doesn’t matter. The skills of your players will determine how you play.
  11. The skills of your players will determine the most successful actions.
  12. This offense will work against any defense, man, zone, or anything else.
  13. This offense is never the same. It’s always evolving.
  14. Everyone better be moving or they are probably doing it wrong. The movements are scripted so players can be held accountable.
  15. They are giving up something else, but the offense won’t stop and you’ll find scoring opportunities.
  16. Someone should be open or have a mismatch. Can you make the play?
  17. Once they have the habits, there’s very little thinking involved.
  18. Players can hide their weaknesses in this offense.
  19. Players can use their strengths in this offense.
  20. Players aren’t worried about what defense they are facing. They just execute their trained habits.
  21. Even I never know what’s going to happen. There’s no way the opponent knows.
  22. Drivers can drive. Shooters can shoot. If you can’t do either, I hope you’re big enough to play in the post.
  23. For every action there is one reaction and we drill it every day, even in defensive breakdowns.
  24. Just make sure you teach players to put themselves in positions where they can be successful.
  25. This offense provides this opportunity to get the ball into the lane on every single touch.
  26. If you make it important that your players attack the glass, you’ll get rebounds.
  27. The defense is hardly ever standing still. If they are, they won’t be standing still for long.

Dribble 2 on 0

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

What happens when somebody dribbles? Most players know that when a teammate shoots, you’re supposed to rebound. You might rebound if your job is transition defense, but you get the idea. When a player passes, most coaches tell the players on the team where to go and what to do.  What do we tell them when a player dribbles? How is this not just as important as shooting and passing?  In fact, it’s probably more important. Many players don’t know what to do when their teammate dribbles. They become observers instead of active engaged participants in the action. They wait to see what kind of play their teammate is about to make instead of preparing themselves for what might happen.

This same drill can be used at different instances.  We used it after we taught attack dribble and circle movement. We used it after we taught dribble at. We used it to test the two concepts together. We used it to put two actions together. You can run it from an even front or an odd front. You can move the lines anywhere you want. It’s the same drill. But there are lots of things you can tweak to make the same drill completely different.

Page 006

Player Movement

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Player movement is probably the most debatable part of coaching basketball. There must be hundreds and maybe thousands of different diagrams that show different types and combinations of player movement. Coaches are constantly trying to come up with new ways to move their players to find new ways to create scoring opportunities for their team.

Of course this player movement is dependent on the first two qualities of good offense. Teams must have good spacing and ball movement first. Player movement without ball movement isn’t enough. If the ball isn’t moving, (or if the defense isn’t worried that the ball is going to move), then the off ball defenders will have a much easier time defending the player movement. Poor spacing rarely results in good offense. Coaches are constantly trying to figure out how to have good spacing with coordinated ball movement and player movement that will result in the best scoring opportunities for their teams.

Just like there are tons of different floor plans in houses across the world, coaches have different playbooks that have use different kinds of player movement. Just like bedrooms are typically similar shapes and sizes, there are some plays that a lot of different coaches run with their teams. However, most coaches have plays that are unique to them or that have their own twist.

There are tons of books, videos, and websites filled with plays. The question is how do you decide what to use with your team?

You can ask all kinds of questions to help decide how you want your players to move.

  1. How do I get the ball to certain players in certain spots?
  2. What do I know how to teach?
  3. What can my players learn, understand, and execute?
  4. Whose team is like my team and what do they do?
  5. Who are my best players?
  6. How will I get these players shots?
  7. What’s the hardest thing to guard?
  8. How can I put my players in situations where they can be successful?
  9. How can we have uncommon actions that teams aren’t used to guarding?
  10. What type of players do I have?
  11. What actions are going to help them be most successful?
  12. What types of defense will we face?
  13. What offense is fun to teach?
  14. What happens when the ball gets driven?
  15. What happens when the defense takes away a certain action?
  16. What happens when they switch a screen?
  17. How much do my players have to think and how much can they play without thinking?
  18. What weaknesses do my players have?
  19. What strengths do they possess?
  20. What offense will work against styles or types of defense?
  21. What offense is difficult to scout?
  22. What offense gives players freedom to create within their skill sets?
  23. What offense gives players structure so that there is accountability?
  24. What can we do so that everyone has to be guarded all the time?
  25. How can we get the ball into the lane via the dribble or the pass?
  26. What gives us a good chance to get offensive rebounds?
  27. What kind of offense moves the help defense?

Once these questions are answered, now the player movement has to get organized in a way to present to your team. Are you going to run a bunch of quick hits? Are they out of similar or different alignments? Are you going to run continuities? Maybe you’ve decided a motion offense is the best way to go. Maybe you like a combination of them all. Whatever you decide, player movement is important to creating good offense. This blog has lots of articles that discuss player movement in the Read & React style of offense. Every coach has to make their own decisions for their teams. The question becomes what do you think is best for yours.

Top 10 Qualities of Good Offense

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Good offense is like a well built house. It’s not enough just to have good players or a good plan. It’s just like having a good plan but builders who can’t drive a nail, or maybe the builders are great, but the plan isn’t.  Teams who play good offense are a combination of good offensive players and the systems they play in. It’s not enough to have good plays; and good players can be limited in the systems that don’t fit them. Granted great players can fit in a lot of different systems. Most of us don’t coach great players. Let’s be honest, only a small percentage of players play professionally. Most of us coach average players. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, in order for us to run good offense, our systems should have the following qualities.

  1. Good Spacing
    In my opinion, it’s the foundation to efficient offensive basketball. If your spacing is bad, the rest doesn’t really matter.
  2. Ball movement
    Here’s where you build your house. Ball movement is the structure. If you can move the ball with good spacing, you’re 75% of the way there.
  3. Player movement
    This is your floor plan. What’s the layout? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How big is your kitchen?  Do you have a garage?   I don’t think it’s as important as the first two, but you have to make good choices to have a functional house. Keep in mind, the more rooms you have, the more there is to take care of.
  4. Takes advantage of players’ strengths
    What kind of floors do you like? What color are you painting your walls? Recessed lighting and ceiling fans? Do these things fit the room that they are going in? In other words, does your offense fit your personnel?
  5. Hides players’ weaknesses
    Similar to the previous point, if your return duct for your HVAC has to be in a certain area of the house, can you hide it with a closet? Where do you put your water heater so it’s not an eye sore and so that it doesn’t use valuable square footage?  Not all of us can afford a tankless water system right?
  6. Flexible and adaptable to personnel
    You know when you get your furniture arranged a certain way, and then you want to change things around? Isn’t that similar to when one player leaves a team and a new one joins?  Maybe you want a different type of player or maybe it’s hard to find one like you had. Let’s be honest, no two players are exactly alike.
  7. Simple so that players can play more and think less
    We don’t want 7 different light switches on the wall where we have to figure out what goes where. We don’t want to have to use 5 different remotes just to watch our favorite sitcom. If we can’t hit one button to pop the popcorn in the microwave, it’s probably too complicated.
  8. Organized
    A messy home is a sign of character. At least that’s what somebody said once. I think it’s easy to agree that it is important for offense be organized. The trick is everyone has a different definition of organization.
  9. Difficult to scout
    We want to know our house inside out. We don’t care if other people know about our house, but even if they know about our house, they could never copy our house, and they definitely can’t stop us.
  10. Enable the ball handler to be a threat on every catch
    Get rid of the clutter. Ever been in a house that’s so overly “decorated” that it looks like the clearance section at a flea market? There’s so much extra junk that you lose sight of what’s really happening.

Each of these qualities is mentioned in different articles on this blog. I will follow-up this post with a description of each of them and how each of these in inherent in the R&R.


The Power Dribble: Offensive Points of Emphasis

The Power Dribble has a few different points of emphasis that should be part of teaching this layer.  Among other things, the Power Dribble is a great way to turn an uncomfortable situation into an attacking situation. No matter what it is used for, but these points of emphasis are vital to its proper execution.

Imagine your guard picks up his/her dribble at an inopportune time. The other perimeter players are being heavily denied and your post player comes to the perimeter to relieve the pressure and receive a pass. So what happens now? This probably isn’t a very good shooting opportunity. You may not want your post player attacking the rim off the dribble. This player may not be a very good passer either. Their post player may be coming up to pressure this player as well. You may be saying to yourself, this situation has gone from bad to worse. This is where the power dribble can be helpful. The post player can turn their back to the defense and make a power dribble in the direction of a perimeter player. Normally this would be a dribble at and this player would go back door, but because the player has their back to the basket, the player will start in a backdoor cut and then come back to the ball for a hand off. This dribble hand off can send the perimeter on an attacking dribble with the post player’s defender having to switch out and help on an attacking guard. Now our story has taken a turn for the better don’t you think? The post player can roll to the basket or pop to the perimeter. More importantly, pressure has been relieved and the offense can run freely again.

The Dribble

The dribble must take the ball handler towards their teammate.  This helps close the gap and helping the handoff occur more quickly.  The dribble must be strong and protected. If the ball handler needs to take more than one dribble that is fine but they must be sure to keep the ball away from the defense.

Setting up the Handoff

The receiver must set up the handoff well in order to maximize the effectiveness of the power dribble. Since this action is similar to a dribble at, the receiver should take a step or two towards the rim just like they would if it actually were a dribble at.  Then they should come back to the ball to receive the handoff.  If the defensive player doesn’t respect the cut, they should be wide open.  If they do, the handoff should be able to be executed simply and cleanly.

The Handoff

The ball hander must allow their teammate to take the ball from them.  The ball handler should not try to pass or flick the ball to their teammate. This handoff must be practiced properly to insure a solid transfer even under heavy pressure.  If the ball handler doesn’t feel like the handoff can be completed safely, they can take the ball away from the cutter. The ball should be well protected by the ball handler.  It should be held close to the body and in a position where only the offense can get to the ball.

After the Handoff

The new ball handler should look to get to the basket on the handoff.  Similarly to a ball screen, it is very possible that the ball handler’s defender gets caught up in the handoff. This could leave the ball handler an attack lane or the opportunity to shoot if the defender goes under the handoff. As the handoff is occurring, the other players should be filling spots. However, they should be anticipating that the new ball handler will attack which would mean they would rotate back in the opposite direction.

The player who initiated the power dribble has the freedom to roll to the basket or to pop to the perimeter based on that player’s skill set.  The coach may dictate this decision, or the coach may let the player make this decision. Either one can be very effective if it is matched to the player’s skill set.


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.