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4/4 Cut Throat

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

4/4 Cut Throat is my favorite practice concept to work on half-court offense. We are getting all 12 players involved and combining our 'create actions' with free play.

One of my favorite practice concepts to work on half-court offense is to play 4/4 Cut Throat. The 4/4 element lets us get every player into the action, while also adding a competitive edge to practice. What we are trying to do with this concept is work on a specific aspect of our offense, while also allowing players to play freely if no advantage emerges. Regardless of what offensive system you use, you can easily shape this drill to fit your team's needs. Over the past five years, I have used this concept with both Motion Screening and Dribble Drive actions - and will most likely be incorporating some Princeton Point Action this season.

We use this drill almost daily as a way to work on our Core Concepts; things like drive & space reactions, pass and cut movement, and post-entry spacing. We're also going to use this as a way to teach players how to create and extend advantages through our offensive actions. In this post, we're going to give a detailed explanation of how I use the 4/4 Cut Throat concept in practice and then provide some examples of how you can incorporate it into whatever offensive system you use.

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Setting It Up -

A typical Varsity or JV team is made up of about 12 players. So we are going to set up the 4/4 Cut Throat concept by splitting the team into three groups of four players. As a general rule of thumb, I am going to make the teams as even as possible to make sure that we are getting good reps, and that players are evenly matched up. Before we get into the setup of the concept I wanted to stress the importance of finding a way to make it competitive. I typically set a certain number of baskets made to win the drill, but you can certainly make the focus on defensive stops as well.

4/4 Cut Throat Alignment -

On the Floor:

We are going to start the concept with four players on offense and four players on defense. Even our post players will be working as perimeter players in this segment.

  • Check the Ball in

  • Play it Live

  • Half Court Play Only

  • Must Clear it to the Slot

Off the Floor:

The players who are off the floor will enter the drill when:

  1. There is a Score

  2. The Ball Goes Out of Bounds

Once the new defense enters they check the ball in with the slot and play live. The team that was scored upon, or who lost the ball out of bounds now becomes the team off the floor.

Working on Core Concepts -

Regardless of which create actions we happen to be using, there are a few Core Offensive Concepts that we need to work on annually. These Core Concepts are the key offensive movements and reactions that allow us to maintain optimum spacing throughout a possession. All three of these concepts are designed to give the player will the basketball room to operate or options to pass to. Just like the System Based actions, we'll discuss later in the post we are starting play with a particular movement and then playing free from there.

Concept #1 Pass & Cut Rules -


The goal of our pass and cut rules is to create a perimeter double gap that we can attack with a flash or a dribble drive.

1. Pass Down, Cut-Away:

On any pass down to the wing, we are asking the passer to cut away to the opposite corner. This allows the basketball to have room to drive the elbow, enter to the post, or drive baseline.

2. Slot to Slot Pass, Brush:

On a slot-to-slot pass, we are asking the passer to make a brush cut inside the paint and then exit to the opposite corner. This gives us a double gap to work with.

3. Pass Up, Respace:

On a space from the wing up to the point, we are simply asking our passer to respace back to the corner. Ideally, this gives us space to drive or enter the ball into the post.

Concept #2 Post Entry -


The goal of our Post Entry concept is to give the post player room to work or give him a passing option if he's doubled.

1. Pass Down, Cut-Away:

Following our pass & cut rules, we are asking the passer to cut away when he passes down to the wing. In this case, we are creating room for a post entry pass.

2. Cut or Space Options:

We are giving the passer two options after making the post entry pass. They can either make a basket cut through the paint, or they can respace to the corner. It is then up to the post player to make a pass or get to work on a scoring move.

Concept #3 Drive & Space -


Our drive and space reactions are designed to give the driver passing options if help defense commits the drive.

1. Slot Drives:

Slot drives are ones that originate from one of the two slot areas. These drives are made along the lane lines and as a reaction, we are asking players to:

  • Ballside Wing = Kick Up

  • Post = Drop

  • Backside = Fill Up

2. Baseline Drives:

Baseline drives are going to elicit a slightly different reaction from the perimeter players. The ultimate goal with these movements is to make sure that you are visible to the driver.

  • Post = T-Up

  • Backside Corner = Fade

  • Backside Wing = 45 Window

  • Point = Fill Behind

Using 4/4 Cut Throat with your System -

In addition to the Core Concepts, we want to work on the create actions we are going to use when we have no advantage. As I said in the intro the beauty of using this concept is that it truly does not matter what system we employ. Whether we are a DDM team, a Princeton team, or we use Motion-Style Concepts we can find ways to incorporate the actions. I wanted to give a few examples of how I have used this concept with different create actions.

4/4 DDM Concepts -


With each concept, we are trying to create double gaps with our cutting, and then attack them with the dribble.

On any slot-to-slot pass, we are asking our passer to cut through the upper paint to the opposite corner. This creates a double gap to attack along the lane line.

2. Wave Through, Attack:

One option for the ball handler is to simply wave the slot player through. With a hand signal, he cuts through the upper paint to the opposite corner. This creates room to attack a gap.

As an option to relieve defensive pressure we work on the slot to wing DHO. To occupy the help defenders we are asking the backside players to exchange when this occurs. From there, players can attack the rim or make the slot-to-slot pass and follow the previously discussed rules.

4. Pass Down, Cut-Away:

As we discussed in the Core Concepts portion of the post we are going to cut away when we make a pass from the slot to the wing. In a DDM system, this will allow us to Drive the Elbow and put pressure on the rim.

Motion Strong Action -


As with all motion concepts we are going to be working on screening and cutting action. With Motion Strong action the main create action is the staggered screen.

When a slot to slot pass is made we are asking that the ball continues to swing to the wing, and then for the passers to set the staggered screen for the corner player.

  • Work on Cutting Options

  • Work on Reads

  • Work on Screening Details

One aspect of the staggered screen that we want to work on is the cutter curling or back door cutting to the rim. Whenever this choice is made it is up to the second screener to then second cut (or pop out) to the perimeter. From here we are letting our drive and space reactions take over.

Princeton Concepts -


One thing I am looking to flow into a bit more this season are the Low Post and Point Princeton concepts. The in this 4/4 Cut Throat concept the goal would be 2) to find ways to enter the ball to our 5 Man at the low and high post and 2) work on off-the-ball screening action.

1. Low Post Action:

Staying in line with our Core Concepts we are asking our passer to cut away when he makes a pass from the slot to the wing.

From here we can enter the ball into the post and work on our Post Entry concept or pass the ball to the point and look to make a high post entry to the 5 Man.

We can work on both ways to enter the ball into Princeton Point Action in our 4/4 Cut Throat concept as well. In the third diagram, we are making a slot to slot pass followed by a brush cut, flowing directly into Point Action from there. In diagram four we are getting into Point Action by simply waving through the slot player and initiating the flash to the high post. From there we are working on the cutter options available to the passer.

Concluding Thoughts -

In general, I am a big fan of keeping your practice concept simple and directly connected to game actions. Four on four works especially well for us because that is the spacing we are going to use in our half-court offense. There are really three benefits to using this as a core practice concept; 1) it allows us to work on the create actions we will use in the game, 2) It lets players learn how to play when our create action does not produce an advantage, and 3) it gets all twelve players involved in the action with very little wait time. Whether you are working on your core concepts or a system-specific action you can tailor this to fit your approach.

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