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.

Attacking the Matchup Zone

The Matchup Zone can be very tricky for teams to play against.  Is it man to man or zone? Is it neither or both? The answer to these questions can be yes and no all at the same time. Matchup zones love play against predictable offenses.  They can have very defined coverages and they can make it very tough to score. However, there are a few concepts that give matchup zones a lot of trouble.

  1.  Penetration to the middle of the floor

This can give a lot of defenses trouble, but it makes it especially hard on matchup zones.  It makes the defense collapse and opens up lots of passing angles.  The key though is the recovery. When a matchup zone recovers, are they supposed to recover to an area or to a person?  Well, if your players are moving on this attack, it’s likely that the defense will get confused.  They might recover to the first pass, but they will probably have a hard time recovering to the next one. If another middle penetration follows, then it’s even more likely that the offense will get an open shot.

  1.  Skip passes

Skip passes give matchup zones trouble in the same way that middle penetration does. In a lot of situations, a matchup zone will leave 1 person on the weak side. If the offense has one player on the opposite wing and one person in the weak side post, this puts the weak side defender in a tough situation. Offenses must be willing and able to make good skip passes to make the defense shift quickly.  Just like with middle penetration, back to back skip passes are very difficult for the matchup zone to “matchup” to.

  1. Pin screens

Bullet 2 alludes to this but pin screens force weak side defenders to matchup to one player and then to a second player without them being able to handoff easily.  If the defender wants to cheat the pin screen, the offense can get an easy lob and layup. If they decide to guard the screener initially, then you’ve set things up for an easy skip pass.

  1. Changing alignments

A matchup zone tries to matchup to the offensive alignment. If the offense constantly changes alignments, then the matchup zone can have problems.  If the offense stays in one alignment, the zone can predict where the offenses players are going to be and easily stay in position.  So how can offensive teams change alignments? They can have players constantly cutting to the rim.  They can have players going from post players to perimeter players or visa versa. Any of these strategies will give a matchup zone trouble. It’s not very difficult to generate mismatches in the offensive team’s favor.

  1. Dribble At

Another very simple way to attack matchup zones is through the use of the Dribble-At. When a player “Dribbles-At” another player, two defenders engage the ball for a moment. They can switch or not, but these two defenders must communicate on who should defend the ball. An advantage could be gained immediately, but usually this isn’t difficult for the defense to guard. The real advantage occurs with the other three defenders. The other three defenders’ responsibilities are predicated on who defends the ball. It is very difficult for all 5 players to be on the same page and find their assignments quickly in this situation. If the defense can predict that a Dribble-At is coming, they can plan ahead on how they want to handle it. However, in a R&R style of offense, the random Dribble-At can cause real confusion with defensive assignments leading to open scoring opportunities.

Matchup zones are a like a puzzle.  It can be tough to figure out how to solve it, but once you do, they are very easy to score against.

 

One Decision Makes a Big Difference

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

Let’s take a quick look at one example of how teaching players to play this way is so powerful. We’re going to look at a traditional 3 out 2 in alignment. I don’t care how they get open.  They can come off screens from the post players.  They can V-cut.  They can post up.  Getting open or being open is not irrelevant, but I’m going to assume that they are. 1 passes to 2.  Fancy huh?

Page 588It’s pretty simple and straight forward right?  When 1 passes to 2, 1 cuts to the basket.  That’s the rule right?  There’s nothing to dispute or discuss. 1 must make a basket cut. We can talk about how they make that cut.  We can talk about faking one way and going the opposite way.  We can talk about sprinting without a jab.  We can talk about cutting in front of the defender or behind the defender.  Again for this discussion, that’s irrelevant. 1 is cutting to the rim. 3 must fill because there is a spot open that’s one pass away.

 

 

Page 589Here’s where the fun begins though.  1 now gets to make a decision. As a coach, you can give the player the freedom to make the decision or you can tell them where to go and what to do.  Let’s look at some different  scenarios.

 

 

 

 

Page 590Let’s say you tell the player to fill the strong side corner. Doesn’t this look like you’re running triangle?  Yeah I know that in the triangle the guard doesn’t cut to the rim.

What happens next?  I don’t know.  It depends on what the ball handler does.  Maybe they throw it to the post player and Laker Cut.  Maybe they throw it to the corner and the post sets a back screen and then a ball screen.  Maybe 4 flashes and 3 pinches the post with 4.  Maybe 5 back screens for 3 or cross screens for 4.  Maybe 2 drives it and hits 4 on a post slide in the short corner. There are other more complicated options.

Page 591Let’s say 1 cuts out to the weak side corner. Remember they don’t have to fill up because they are more than 1 pass away. Talk about an easy and obvious pin screen. 4 doesn’t really even have to do anything.  2 could still drive either way.  They can still throw it to 5.  4 can still flash to the high post.  There are still lots of different screening options.  Can we teach our players to do try different things?  Do we have to require them to do the same thing all the time?  Can we teach them to find ways to score on their own?

 

 

Page 592Let’s say 1 decides they want to screen.  As the next four diagrams show, they really have 3 screening options.  The only one that probably is not a good idea is the screen on the ball.  Though theoretically it would not be “against the rules”, we would not want our players to play that way.

1 screens for 4.  This could turn into a high low look.  It could be a stagger with 5.  It could be a screen the screener if 3 decided to make a Read Line cut and saw that 1’s defender is vulnerable to be screened.  4 could sprint into a ball screen.  4 could flash high and get re-screened on a back screen from 1.  There are numerous other options.

 

Page 593This one may look a little weird, but 1 could screen for 5. I’m pretty sure the defense wouldn’t switch.  Would this be an easy way for 1 to get good post up position? Maybe.  Maybe not. But I have a feeling not many teams cover how to defend this kind of screen.  Maybe you don’t want your 1 in this position, but 1 could very easily be any other player on the court.

 

 

 

Page 594Maybe 1 decides to back screen for 3.  You might say well the lane is so full, 3 will never be open.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  At the worst, 3 is not in a position to make a decision that the defense cannot anticipate.  Maybe 4 or 5 steps up with 1 and sets a double or staggered screen for 3.  Maybe 1 wants to try to get an open look at a 3.  Maybe 1 doesn’t trust 2 to handle the ball and wants to get it back ASAP. Again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know there are a lot of possibilities.

 

 

Page 595Or 1 could take the boring way out and just fill out to the wing.  Useless huh?  Or maybe vanilla is exactly what is needed right now.

 

 

 

 

 

The point is that a different decision by 1 player changes everything.  It provides endless possibilities.  Just one decision.  This doesn’t include the decisions that the other players could be making at the same time. Is it too much for players?

I don’t think so.  I think we can teach players how to play and then let them play.  One decision can make a huge difference.  Just consider how big of a difference the variety of two or three decisions could make to how your offense looks.  Just think about the scoring opportunities that could be created with this unpredictable variety.  We just need to teach the game better.

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 (Part III)

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

As a smart coach pointed out to me last night, one reason teams play zone is because the offense can’t shoot. Well, I don’t know of many offenses that can cure that problem.  So get in the gym and get up reps.  In the meantime, let’s look at some options for zone offense as a part of the R&R.

There are a number of ways to defeat zone defenses.  One way is to force defenders to play out of their zone.  Another strategy is to overload a zone. The traditional overload, puts four players on the ball side of the court and forces 3 players to cover them.  What if we overload the zone in a different way?

What if we make 2 weak side defenders guard 4 offensive players?  What if we make two defenders guard one person which leaves no one to cover a second offensive player in the same zone?  What if we simply put two people in one zone and make one person guard both of them?

Below are three single action options. The first is an attack dribble.  The second is a Pass and “hook and look.”  The last one is third is a Dribble At.

I guess you can use them as quick hitters.  I would say this is a way to get a zone defense chasing right away.  I will include some variations of these zone offense diagrams in a following post.

I look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions.

 

An Attack Dribble can make 2 people guard 1 person.
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Who is going to guard 2?  X1 and X2 both helped on the drive from 1.  A simple reverse pivot and a kickout to the safety can cause issues for the defense.  You might not get a wide open 3.  You might not want a wide open 3. Regardless, it creates a situation where X1 and X2 might be in confusion about who guards 2.  Not to mention that there is a numbers advantage on the right side of the floor. On the kickout, does X5 come up to help on 1?  That leaves 5 open.  Can 1 post up one of the top defenders for an easy return pass?

 

Pass and Hook & Look…Oh but wait, I can just take a couple steps and bury my defender with a screen.  

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I doubt X2 will come all the way over to help.  X1 is stuck with a decision to make. In the meantime, 5 can seal X4 in the lane or out of the lane on the weak side.  If 5 commits to help X1, X3 is stuck guarding 2 one on one.  If X5 is too worried about 5, then 1 is open.

 

Dribble-At & Pin Screen

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A simple dribble-at can set up a double pin screen on the weak side. Somebody has to close out to 4. Who’s gonna do it, X2 or X4?  That’s gonna leave somebody open.  Maybe 5 on the post up?  Maybe 2 for an open jumper.  Maybe 3 at the elbow.

Zone Offense: Hook and Look (Part II)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

I mentioned in my first post on zone offense that we are typically 4 out 1 in. You might ask, “Are you 4 out 1 in against even front zones?”  My response, “Sure, if we want to be.”  We don’t let the zone dictate our alignment.  We let our lineup and the abilities of our players dictate how we start.

First let’s look at this strictly from the standpoint of the initial set. There are a few reasons teams play zone defenses.  One of the most common reasons is that they don’t think they can defend the offense playing man to man.  While lining up in the gaps is certainly an effective strategy against zone defenses, matching up with them forces them to play man to man.  It’s probably not something they want to do. Running an even alignment against an even front zone or an odd alignment versus an odd front zone puts teams in a situation that they were trying to get out of to start with.  Yes, it may help them define who they have to guard, but it also means that they have to guard those players. Now two people can’t guard one person as easily.

Second, let’s consider what happens after one pass in a 4 out alignment.  After one pass, there will always be 2 people in gaps of the zone and 3 people on the perimeter. Even in a 5 out alignment, the same is true after 2 passes.  So the perimeter players may be in gaps or they might not be.  They may be isolated in 1 on 1 match-ups against zone defenders.  The constant stream of cutters into the lane and out of the lane forces the zone to adjust in ways that it may not want to.  It forces zone defenders to constantly make decisions about their responsibilities.

Since there is no pattern, they can never count on a certain cutter coming to a certain spot at a certain time.  Yet the movements are so simple for offensive players to understand that it’s fairly simple for offenses to operate.

The ability for these cutters to be effective is critical to the success of the offense.  Yes, of course, when they catch the ball, they need to be able to make a good decision.  Whether this is a shot, drive, pass to the other cutter/post or kick out, these players must be able to handle the ball in traffic.  However, they can also be very effective without the ball. They can draw attention from multiple defenders.  They can set screens.  They are rebounders. They must be ready to react to dribble penetration.

These cutters force the zone to contract.  If the zone doesn’t recognize them, they will give up shots in and around the lane.  If the zone pays too much attention to them, the offense will get open jumpers.

Of course, you have to be able to make shots. As a coach, I can help you get the shot.  I can even help you work on your shooting. However, when it comes game time, I can’t make the shots.  Players have to make plays no matter what zone offense you run.

I happen to think this zone offense is pretty easy to teach and tough to guard when you’re already teaching the same concepts against man to man defenses.