When planning out how you will install your offense try starting with the most important element then building out from there.
It's a good idea to not get too lost in the weeds when it comes to planning for the season, but one element I think would be beneficial for coaches to put thought into is how they plan to teach their offensive system. In an effort to reduce the learning curve we want to develop a logical progression that will allow players to build on each level of the offense. Generally speaking, I'm not talking about micro-level details, but the macro-level concepts that players must master in order to be effective in our system.
Admittedly, there is no correct way to install an offense, and if you talked to enough coaches you might come across every possible version of how to do it. Over the course of the last five years, I feel like I have arrived at a comfortable understanding of my preferred method of installing offense. To me, we need to start with the aspect of offense that impacts our success the most. Once we determine what that is we can ask the question again and move to the next most important aspect. Theoretically, I want to follow this format until we get to those aspects of the offense that are rarely used.
Half Court Spacing -
The first thing we try to teach offensively is our half-court spacing. One of the first questions I want our players to be able to answer is, "what should our spacing look like when we arrive in the half-court?" Once we understand that then we get into the more challenging components of offense like reactions and creating advantages.
Four Out Spacing -
If we are not going to get a shot out of our Primary Break then the next objective is to arrive in the half-court with good 4 Out, 1 In spacing.
We are expecting our Rim Runner to get post position on the ballside - looking for an early post entry.
The two players running the sideline in transition should stop at about the same depth as our Rim Runner.
The slots are extended out to the depth of the NBA three-point line and just over the width of the lane lines. We typically want our two slot players to be even with one another if the ball has not been advanced. On the larger courts, we try to extend out further and ask the slot players to align themselves on the volleyball line.
Drive & Post Reactions -
The next layer of offense that we want to install is our reactions to a Dribble Drive and Post Entry Pass. These are things that will happen repeatedly over the course of the game, so we want them to be ingrained into the habits of our players. One thing I want to emphasize in this phase is to just keep it simple with your players' movements. We don't want reactions to be complicated, but just serve the purpose of helping us extend or keep advantages.
Post Entry -
We want to keep our Post Entry reactions simple. The goal is to give the ball space to operate, while also providing options in case the ball is doubled.
Pass & Cut:
If the ball is passed from slot to wing the passer cuts to the opposite corner in an attempt to open a gap on the ballside. This will help facilitate an easier post entry pass.
Once the ball is entered into the post we would like the passer (2) to make himself available for a kickout pass by respacing to the corner. On the backside, we are asking the single gap player (3) to make a "burn" or "back door cut" to give the post player a drop pass option in case their defender turns his head. If the double team does not come we want our post player to go to work on the block.
Drive & Space Reactions -
The most common type of drive we get is the slot drive. On these drives we want the wing player to fade to the corner, the 5 Man to circle away from the drive, and the 3 to backfill to the point.
Another common drive we will see in games is the wing drive. In these types of drives, we want to get the 5 dropping to baseline, shooters on the backside spotting up, and someone backfilling the driver.
Generally speaking, we are encouraging our baseline drivers to be looking to score the ball. On the occasion that the defense prevents any scoring opportunity we want to provide those same Drop Pass and Quick Pitch options by haveing out 5 Man Pop Up, and our backside players fading towards the baseline.
Create Actions -
The next layer of offense to install would be our Create Actions. These are the main actions that we use to create advantages when the ball is in neutral. In most years there are 1-2 actions that we are making the centerpiece of our offense. Typically, there are reads involved in the actions that give players the ability to counter the defense's approach. We would make it a priority to teach players how to make these reads, and how to get to these main Create Actions in multiple ways.
The main Create Action we are going to use this season is the Princeton Point Series. In neutral scenarios, we are looking to enter the ball the 5 Man at the high post and then use a split-screen action to create an advantage.
Point Entry -
Aside from the options within the action, we also want to teach the ways to flow into it.
Ways to Initiate:
There are 3 ways that we will teach players to initiate the action:
Slot to Slot Pass (Diagram)
Low Post Swing into Point
Options Within the Action:
Once players have been taught how to get into the action we start working on the options within the action. In teaching Point Action we would get into the Over and Away decision for the passer, and the corresponding screen & second cut reactions that come with that decision.
Once we have our main Create Actions in place we want to work on the counters. At some point, teams will attempt to take away that action and our players need to be able to respond naturally. These counters do not need to be anything more than a simple option to help keep the offense flowing naturally. Regardless of what create actions we are using we are going to work on the use of Back Door Cuts & Dribble Handoffs as a way to counter defensive pressure.
Use of Back Door Cuts -
Incorporating the use of Back Door Cuts is a priority in our offense. We need to be able to give our players the ability to counter defensive pressure.
Counter for Point Action:
As we mentioned above we will be using Point as our main create action this season. The entry pass into the high post is how we begin the action, so we will have to work on scenarios where that pass is denied.
The way we want to counter this is by going to Spin Action and getting a Back Door Cut and DHO option with the backside players. As coaches, we need to create the habit for our players that IF we are denied, THEN we cut Back Door.
Slot to Wing DHO -
Another counter to defensive pressure that we commonly use is the Slot to Wing DHO. We feel like this counter helps to 1) Relieve Defensive Pressure and 2) Maintain our 4 Out Spacing.
Although we are mostly using the DHO as a means to relieve defensive pressure, it can serve as a scoring opportunity as well. Poor defensive communication can often lead to an open shot or gap to attack.
Flow into Offense:
In the case that no scoring opportunity presents itself, we would like the DHO to serve as a means to continue our offensive flow. We will often combine the DHO with an exchange on the backside to change the on-ball defenders, and then make the slot to slot pass to initiate our preferred create action.
Set Actions -
Generally speaking, I prefer Conceptual style offenses that do not require me to micromanage our offensive possessions. Ideally, the need for me to call Set Plays will be minimal, and we can rely on our spacing, reactions, & create actions to guide our play. That being said, I do usually like to have 2-3 sets that we can use in dead ball scenarios. I typically want the sets we use to be easily run out of our normal spacing, and to incorporate at least some element of our main create action.
I really love this Ghost Action Set to compliment Point Action.
Pop Action -
One of my favorite sets to flow into out of our 4 Out spacing is Pop Action. This is something that can be used as a Man or Zone Action.
We initiate the set with a pass to wing. Instead of cutting to the opposite corner like we usually do, the passer simply cuts to the block.
After the passer cuts the 5 Man Pops Out to the top to begin reversing the ball.
We want the 1 to be patient here and wait for the swing.
On the backside we have an exchange with the 3 and 4. As the ball is being swung from 1-5-3 we are getting our Point Guard to come off of a baseline Pin Screen. Assuming that the pass is made to the Point Guard coming off the screen we can get a catch & shoot 3 in the corner or the option to the throw the ball into the post to the screener. If not shot emerges we are still in good 4 Out Spacing where we can hunt our next action.
Concluding Thoughts -
This progression from spacing to set plays is built on the belief that we should teach what happens most often first. Once we have mastered those most common elements (spacing, reactions, etc) we can move into the more complex elements of creating advantages. When get to the point where we are working on Create Actions and Set Plays I think we need to walk a fine line between simplicty and complexity. I tend to lean on more simplistic create elements, but I think it's worth noting that what is simple for the offense to understand is also simple for the defense. Our last step in all of this is determining how you will go about teaching this progression - and that is where the fun begins.
Check Out Skill Development Practice Concepts - if you're looking you ways to work on these in a practice setting.
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