Playing Through the Trailer

Updated: Mar 31

When the Pitch Ahead Pass or Attack the Middle Third phases do not produce a shot we look to the last option in our transition attack, The Trailer.


The goal of a transition opportunity is to create a high-efficiency shot before the defense can get set. Theoretically, we want players to take the path of least resistance to get that shot. So in teaching our transition system we want to give players simple reads that allow them to make decisions quickly. The decision that will look at in this post comes when a Pitch Ahead Pass is not available and a player's Attack of the Middle Third does not create a shot. At this point, we are flowing into the last layer of transition offense, playing through The Trailer.


The trailer serves the dual purpose of taking advantage of a collapsed defense and being the trigger to flow from transition to half-court offense. Against a collapsed defense the trailer is often presented with open catch and shoot threes or chances to attack long closeouts. If those Attack opportunities are available then we would encourage the trailer to take them. If no scoring opportunities present themselves for the trailer he simply completes the next action that triggers our half-court offense.




Establishing the Trailer -

One teaching point that can be helpful to transition design is establishing defined roles for players. If players know exactly what they are responsible for in transition we can hopefully increase the speed at which we operate. Determining how the ball will be inbounded on made shots, which players will Rim Run or sprint to the sidelines, and who becomes the trailer are all aspects we could choose to define for our players. In preparation for this post, I put this question out to Twitter to see how other coaches establish their trailer.



Trailer Design -

There are many ways to determine who becomes the trailer in transition. What I have taught over the last four years could be called a combination "Two Man Trailer" system. On the vast majority of possessions, it will either be the 4 or 5 man that arrives in the trailer position. We are not going to micromanage every transition opportunity, but we want to have a few simple rules that help our 4/5 men know who should be the Rim Runner and who should be the Trailer. In a back and forth game like basketball, we are not going to be able to perfectly control every possession, but if we establish a few clear principles we can make our decision making on the floor cleaner.

Establishing the Trailer -

On Made Shots:

If a shot is made or if there is a dead ball we have a predetermined role for all five players.


Roles & Responsibility -

  • 4 is the Inbounder

  • 5 is the Rim Runner

  • 1 is the Outlet

  • 2/3 run the Sideline


On Missed Shots:

If a shot is missed or if there is a live ball turnover then we have to be more flexible with our responsibility.


The main difference on missed shots is that we are asking whoever is ahead of the ball to become the Rim Runner. This means the 4 or the 5 can take on that responsibility.


Roles & Responsibility -

  • First to Cross Hafl Court (4/5) is the Rim Runner

  • Second to Cross Half Court (4/5) is the Trailer

  • 1 is the Outlet

  • 2/3 run the Sidelines



The Trailer as an Attacker

There are a number of scoring opportunities that present themselves to trailers in transition. Assuming that the defense has been collapsed as a result of our initial transition push the trailer will be presented with chances to get open catch and shoot threes or chances to attack long closeout off the dribble. In my experience, the skills and aggressiveness of your trailer determine how effective this layer of transition can be. If I have a choice I would generally prefer to have a more skilled player in the Trailer position so we can take advantage of collapsed defenses.


Trailer - Attack -

Collapsed Defense:

Often times when a player has Attacked the Middle Third with aggression we are going to get a collapsed defense.


On occasions where our defender has moved to help guard the basketball, we should be preparing ourselves to catch & shoot.


Attacking Long Closeouts:

If your trailer is not a confident shooter or if the defender closes out aggressively on the ball then we should be looking to attack.