Close this search box.

Basketball Offense: What You Need to Know as Coach


What does a “Great Offense in basketball” look like, and what does it consist of? These are all questions that a coach or player would ask when looking to develop an offense that will win games. Well, it has been seen throughout time that a great offense can be made up through several different intangibles.

To have an effective offense in basketball, it takes great coaches, as well as great players. Another key is a great team defense because great defenses usually stimulate great offenses. Along with these basic foundations, I believe that some additional steps need to be taken before conducting a great offense. When you begin to cultivate your offense, you must consider your philosophy as a basketball coach and make sure that it fits your players and what you are trying to accomplish.


Offensive Vision

Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, refers to it as “Setting the Table.” Coaches must have a vision of what their program will portray on the court and off of the court. Once you set your vision, you can begin the process of creating a great basketball offense. Without the vision, you will struggle to know what to do as a team and where your team should be heading.


Team Identity

Always know who and what you are; it will become your identity. Are you a basketball team that hustles, scraps, and wins all the 50/50 balls, or are you a team that is too cool for school? As a basketball coach, you have a considerable impact on what your team’s identity is going to look like. You must be willing to develop your team’s identity daily.

Basketball coaches must also know the personnel of every player on their team. Only then can you, as the coach, put them in situations to succeed on the court. For example, you will have to figure out if your team will be better at running up and down the floor on offense or if they will be better at using half-court offense to score. This is all determined by the identity of your basketball team.

Recommended: Check out these basketball competition drills to help build intensity and competitiveness in practice.


Filling Player Roles

Identify each player’s role, and encourage your player’s to be a star at THEIR role. Most basketball players see their value in how many points they score, so it is up to you as the coach to show players the value of filling other roles on the team. Once players buy into their roles, coaches must continue to add to the core of who they are. This cohesiveness can bring great chemistry to a program.


Offensive Style

You must ask yourself questions like: Who do you want taking the shot? Who is your most dominant paint enforcer? These types of questions will help you determine what type of basketball offense you want to have and what players to run your offense through. This goes back to getting your best players the ball in spots on the floor where they are comfortable and can shoot a high percentage shot.



A great basketball offense must have excellent execution. Create a culture of execution. Every day in practice, draw up “in-game” plays. When the game is on the line, you must be able to execute offensively. An entire season can be determined by how you handle end-of-game situations, so this is extremely key. You must execute when the game is on the line, and the way you execute will be determined by the way you prepare.


Manufacturing Points Within a Game

Lastly, you must have balance within your offense. You must be able to manufacture points within a game. During the 2013-2014 season, UCONN Women’s Basketball averaged 5.6 offensive rebound points per game and 15.4 points off creating forced turnover’s against their opponents. Needless to say, they had a “Great Basketball Offense.” Whether it is points off of turnovers, offensive rebounds, fast breaks, etc., you need to generate points throughout the course of a game.


“Success is in simplicity – confusion brings doubt, limitations, and failure.” – Kevin Eastman




Moving Without the Ball in Basketball


Moving Without the Ball in Basketball

Ben Thompson contributed to this portion of the article. 


In today’s game, we are infatuated with one on one basketball. This is probably because most highlights that we see on television are individual achievements. However, some of the most important work in basketball is done before a player even catches the ball. Some guys can score, but those individuals struggle against teams that really buckle down defensively. What really makes a basketball player successful in the guts of the game?



Moving Without the Ball

Obviously, the first thing we think of is skill, which is an important attribute to have. However, less “talented” players get more done, especially against tough-minded defensive basketball teams. These individuals know the value of possessions and getting open. Depending on how your team plays, whether it be mainly motion, basketball set plays, or a combination of the two, moving without the ball is critical.



Set Up Your Defender

The ability to set up a defender and create spacing gives the offensive player a huge advantage. When you can catch the ball wherever you want and create spacing based on your offensive scheme, it puts a ton of pressure on the defense. That being said, how can you teach players to master this skill?


Reading the Defender

Some players have an innate ability to read their defender and figure it out naturally; however, most players do not. One of the biggest things that can wreck a great offense in basketball is when the defense pushes out so far that the offensive execution becomes ineffective. The biggest mistake players make is they want to take the easy route or push off with their hands; a lot of the time, it boils down to laziness. Players who have the discipline to battle and grind with footwork give themselves an advantage against their defender.



Ways to Get Open

Some of the best ways to set up your defender are to change the direction of your cuts, change the speed of your cuts, and step in the middle of their stance or into the defender before cutting. Too many times, players go through the motions on V-cuts or L-cuts. A good V-cut involves changing your speeds and stepping into the middle of a defender’s stance without pushing off, then sprinting to where you want to make the catch.

L-cuts can be similar, but players really give themselves an advantage when they battle for the top foot before they cut; the ability to step into your defender and sprint away creates separation. Being able to step in the middle of a defender’s stance or into them puts them back on their heels and gives the offensive player an advantage for a split second. As we know in basketball, sometimes a split-second is the difference between a win and a loss.

A good way to practice getting open is with basketball drills that require you to simply pop out and get a catch. Allow the defender to be aggressive, grab a little, etc., but being able to practice stepping across and popping open against a live defender makes a big difference.



Learning How to Use a Down Screen in Basketball

Here is a basketball training video and some links to other basketball fundamental teaching videos of how to use different types of basketball cuts and types of moving without the ball in basketball game situations. The player must read the defender and then execute the correct type of cut to get open. Great basketball coaching is taking what you know as a coach and passing it on to your players to execute. So really teach them the details of these different cuts and reads.




The Isolation Lie in Basketball


The Isolation Lie in Basketball


One of the biggest things that I see in today’s game and all over social media with different “Instagram Trainers” is the desire to breakdown and use different NBA player’s moves. Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, James Harden, or whoever else will make an exceptional isolation play, and then the next day, everyone and their mother is breaking down the move and adding it to their workouts.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for isolation moves, and some of these broken down moves will come in handy during the course of a game. However, the trap that many younger players fall into is spending the majority of their time working on these moves and neglecting so many other vital areas of their game.

Players buy into the lie that they need to be able to do everything off of the dribble and breakdown their defender to be great, and this leads to players that are streaky scorers who can shoot step-back 3’s and all other kinds of difficult shots, but ultimately at the end of the day are shooting a low percentage. They cannot run the offense or get high percentage shots because they spend all their time developing their one on one moves.

That is why I decided to write this article and give you five reasons why you should spend less time working on isolation moves and more time working on scoring within the offense.


Reason #1 The Shot Clock

There is a 24-second shot clock in the NBA, and in college, there is a 30-second shot clock. However, in most high school games, there is usually no shot clock. Most of the time, when an NBA player gets into an isolation situation, it has something to do with the shot clock running down. They have already run their set, and it was guarded successfully by the defense, so they are left to try and isolate to create for themselves or a teammate if a help defender over commits.

If you are a high school player with no shot clock, your end-of-clock situations will be infrequent with only four quarters in a game. In college, you will get more chances with a 30-second shot clock, but as we get into some of the other reasons why you shouldn’t look to iso all the time, you will see that it still doesn’t work in college the same as the NBA.


Reason #2 Designed Isolation Plays

NBA coaches do a fantastic job of taking advantage of mismatches and putting offensive players in a position where they can play to their strengths. Many of the isolation plays that you see in the NBA are designed by the coach or happen naturally when the defense is forced into a switch on some sort of screening action.

So unless your coach is specifically running basketball plays to get you isolation looks against a mismatch, you are going to end up trying to force the action. This doesn’t mean that you can’t recognize a mismatch in a game, but if this your primary response every time you get the ball, you will end up forcing and taking bad shots.

Your immediate instinct shouldn’t be to catch and isolate every time you get the ball. Keep the ball moving and learn to attack a poor closeout or bad defensive rotation, and you will find a lot more success.


Reason #3 Help Defense and Spacing

This is the single biggest reason why isolation offense in the NBA works, and most of the time fails in high school and college against a good defensive team. There is a defensive 3 seconds rule in the NBA that keeps the help defense from loading up on the side of the ball in the paint and sitting in the help. If desired, an offense can set it up so that the ball handler has an entire side of the court to work with.

This means that the offensive player has the option of shooting or attacking an open basket. In high school or college, if you are consistently looking to go one on one, the scouting report defense will load up in the help. The on-ball defender will stay tight to you and force you right into the help.

Even if you end up hitting a couple of tough shots, overall, the defense is happy. They know that you are forcing shots and that the low percentages of those shots will eventually favor the defense. Also, the other players on your team will not get into a rhythm because the ball movement is so stagnant. This will end up causing them to take poor percentage shots as well.


Reason #4 Surrounded by Elite Shooters

Along with there being a defensive 3 seconds, when NBA players make an isolation move, they are usually surrounded by elite-level shooters. This means that if the defense helps on the penetration, they are giving up an open 3 point shot to a pretty much automatic shooter from a catch and shoot position.

In high school and college, there usually ends up being a couple of non-shooters in every lineup. If the team defense is good, they know this and will play scouting report defense. They will choose to over help on the ball if a player is always trying to isolate.

The player isolating will not have any space to make a move, so they will have to pass out of it to a low percentage shooter, and the defense will live with the shot and rotate out of it.


Reason #5 Best Players in the World

Some of the moves and shots that NBA players make are so amazing that it seems unfair sometimes (actually the majority of Stephen Curry’s shots). My point to this statement is that these players making ridiculous moves, shots, and finishes are the best players in the world. They have spent hours upon hours upon hours mastering their craft. They are the players that fans pick in DFS NBA and are known all around the world. All that to say, it took time and a lot of hard work to get to that level of shooting and scoring.

They didn’t just start out launching threes or making ridiculous finishes. They spent time developing their game with the basketball fundamentals and working up from there. So unless you have already spent hours and hours developing a particular move in workouts, you shouldn’t be breaking it out in a game. You need to earn the right to take and make difficult shots.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the other parts of your game, though, and only working on isolation moves. It means developing your game to be a complete player and then also spending time fine-tuning different, more difficult shots.



The Isolation Lie in Basketball Conclusion

The best time to attack is when you have an offensive advantage over the defense, and the best way to get an advantage over the defense is ball movement, player movement, and screening. If you can catch the ball and attack a closeout while the help defense is having to rotate and guard other actions (instead of sitting in the help), you will get a lot higher percentage look at the basket.

It is okay to spend some time working on isolation moves, but it shouldn’t be what you primarily spend all of your time on. Spend the majority of your time working on high percentage moves that you will get within the course of running your team’s offense. Really look to limit the number of dribbles that it takes you to score and how long the ball is in your hands for.

If you can do these things, you will find that it is a lot easier to score, and then on the rare occasion that you need to iso, you will also be able to use the moves you worked on as well.



Preparation for Special Game Situations in Basketball


Preparation for Special Game Situations in Basketball

Kyle Getter contributed to this portion of the article. 


Just a few possessions often determine the outcome of a basketball game. Those outcomes can add up in regards to wins and losses and determine how successful you view your season as a whole. A perfect example of this comes from when I was on staff at VCU during the 2010-2011 basketball season.

We had enjoyed a fairly successful regular season. We had finished 4th during regular season play and entered the CAA Tournament with 21 wins. In the CAA Tournament Quarterfinals, we found ourselves in the following situation: Down 1, inbounding the ball on the side (frontcourt), with under 10 seconds to go in the game.

Coach Smart decided to run a basketball play that we had practiced numerous times and that our players were comfortable running. Jamie Skeen was able to catch the ball in the paint and score a lay-up as time expired. We lived to fight another day… we went on to reach the Finals of the CAA Tournament before losing in a tough, hard-fought game.

However, we had done enough to earn an At-Large bid to the NCAA Tournament, eventually participate in the Final 4, and finishing the season with a record of 28-12. Think about this: we entered the CAA Tournament with 21 wins. Had we lost that Quarterfinal game, we would have most likely been destined to make the NIT Tournament.

No disrespect to the NIT, but there is a big difference between making the NIT and going to the FINAL 4 of the NCAA Tournament. Looking back, I am very thankful that Coach Smart implemented his “special situation” philosophy during the season and that he prepared our basketball team to be ready to execute.

This basketball coaching article is about preparation for special situations. Whether it is the first possession or the last possession, we as basketball coaches must be prepared for the SITUATION. To take it a step further, we as coaches must make sure that everyone in our program, from coaches to players, is on the same page regarding what must be done to achieve success when encountering these situations.


Determine Your Philosophy

Whether it is to foul/defend up 3 at the end of the game, or what basketball play to run down 1 with 10 seconds to go. The head coach must determine what he/she feels comfortable doing and then make it part of their basketball coaching philosophy. In the game of basketball, no one truly has an original idea. Most are stolen. So a great way to determine one’s philosophy is to watch how others have handled certain situations.

When I worked for Paul Biancardi at Wright State University, he had me make a video of “end of game situations” that had numerous “end of half” and “end of game situations.” The video ended up being about 4 hours long. Still, it was basically made from any game in a conference tournament, NIT, or NCAA Tournament game that was within 2 possessions or less, with under 4 minutes to go in the first half, or within 2 possessions or less with under 4 minutes to go in the game.

I still have this video today and actually broke it out this summer to watch and brainstorm ideas. This is a great idea to see what basketball coaches are running in certain situations and how it worked.


Practice Your Philosophy

Once your basketball philosophy has been determined, IT MUST BE PRACTICED. As coaches, we often try to jam everything in during a short period of practice time. As a result, we often find ourselves neglecting to practice special situations. When I worked for Oliver Purnell, we would practice special situations daily during the season.

He had compiled a list of basketball plays over the years of being a head coach of different situations. Each day while we were in our coach’s meeting planning practice, he would pick 2 to 3 special situations that he wanted to review with the team. During our staff meeting, he would discuss his philosophy of how he wanted to handle each situation.

That ensured that all of the coaches were on the same page when we hit the floor for practice. During practice, we would divide the group into two teams; Coach Purnell coaching one group and one of the assistants coaching the other. Not only was this good practice for the players, but also good practice for the coaches in terms of being ready to communicate or diagram what play or action the coach wanted to be executed. Coach Purnell was brilliant at having a list of basketball plays that he wanted to run regardless of the situation and being prepared to have success in executing those plays.


Determine the Line-up

As in all basketball coaching, it is not often the X’s and O’s, but the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. It must be determined who will be in the game during certain situations. In working for Mike Jones at Radford University, we have adopted the football philosophy of having a “special teams” unit.

This group is always evolving and is different depending on which situation we find ourselves encountering. Coach Jones has an assistant in charge of making sure they communicate with him regarding the specific line-up during these special situations. Here are some examples of what I mean by a “special teams” unit and how it applies to basketball.


– Who is your best offensive team?

– Who is your best FT shooting team?

– Who is your best 3-point shooting team?

– Who is your best defensive team?

– Who is your best pressing team?

– Who is your best player inbounding the ball the length of the court?

– Who is your best player inbounding the ball just to get the ball inbounds?


These are just a few ideas that can assist with preparing for special situations in basketball. In conclusion, I will leave you with a quote from Bobby Knight.

“The key is not the will to win…everybody has that.  It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” 



The Details of Shooting a Basketball: Developing Your Team’s Shooting


Basketball Shooting Attention to Details


Attention to the details when shooting the basketball can transform average players and teams and turn them into good or even great shooting teams. The more a player or team can focus on the details of a movement like shooting, the more skilled and efficient they will become. Shooting percentages will increase, which will lead to a better offense, and ultimately more wins.

The great thing about mastering the details of different basketball skills is that it is something that every player or team can do; it just comes down to putting in the effort and time to do so. This is true because these details are minor adjustments to a player’s movements or actions, and all the player must do is put in the time to re-learn these movements. This skill development basketball coaching article will cover the details of shooting a basketball and the keys to improving a team’s overall shooting percentage.


Individual Basketball Shooting Details

There is a big difference between shooting 20%, 30%, or 40% from the field as a player, and every little basketball shooting detail can either add to improving your shooting percentage, or it can take away from it. From shot preparation to follow through, you need to make sure that you are maximizing your basketball shooting form and technique. Here are the details and tips you should be focusing on as a shooter every time you shoot the ball.

Shot Preparation: Did you know that your shooting percentage can be affected before you even touch the ball? Well, it can, and by a lot! You should already be working towards a great shot before the basketball ever touches your hands. Your shot preparation has a significant impact on whether the ball goes in the basket or not.

There are three big keys in shot preparation that you need to focus on. These keys need to be done before every shot that you take; they are nonnegotiable’s. The only time you might not use all of these keys is if a game situation requires you to fade away to get your shot off or an end-of-clock situation. Other than that, you should be using these three keys every time you shoot the basketball.

  • Drop Your Butt: This basketball shooting key will help make your catch and shoot motion quicker because you are already down and ready when the ball gets to you. Rather than catching, loading, and then shooting. It will also allow you to get a better lift on your shot, improving your range.
  • Show your Hands: Showing your hands gives the passer a good target to hit and makes the catch easier.
  • Momentum Towards the Basket: As a shooter, you always want to get your momentum moving slightly towards the basket. This will help make sure that you are getting squared up on the shot and improving your range. A great analogy for this is throwing a ball. If you are falling backward and throw a ball, you won’t get very much distance or speed on it. However, if you can step into the same throw, you can get a lot more distance and speed on the ball. The same principle applies to shooting a basketball.


The Shot: If you look at great basketball shooters, you will quickly realize that there are a lot of different ways to shoot a basketball. Not every shooter is going to have the exact same form and look. However, there are some key fundamentals that every great shooter has, and that is what you need to be focusing on. Here are a few keys to lock in on while shooting the ball.

  • Get your Shooting Hand Under the Ball: You must get your hand and arm under the ball on the catch. This will allow you to get the power on your shot that you need.
  • Shoot the Ball on the Way Up: Shooting the basketball on the way up will improve your range and give you a more fluent shot. If you hold the basketball too long, you will lose all of your momentum, and you will struggle to shoot the basketball from long range.
  • Let the Ball do the Work: The best angle for the basketball to go in the basket is straight down. However, this straight down angle is not realistic when shooting. So you need to find the best angle that you can to shoot the basketball. As a shooter, your job is to shoot the basketball with the correct fundamentals, arc, release, etc., and then let the basketball do the work. Don’t try to aim so hard that your shot becomes flat, or you lose your feel on the shot. Trust your shot, and then let the basketball do the work.
  • The Basketball Leads: It is vital as a shooter to bring the basketball up your body before you raise out of your athletic stance. This will allow you to get all of your momentum under the ball. If you stand up and then bring the ball up, you will get to the top of your shot and not have any power. Make sure the basketball leads when you are shooting.


Follow Through: The follow-through can impact a basketball player’s shot just as much as the shot preparation can. So it is essential that you really lock in on the following points.

  • Hold your Follow Through: After you release the basketball, keep your hand in the center of the basket. Don’t let your arm drift out to the side or pull it down early.
  • Land Balanced: Unless you are shooting a game situation fade away, you should be landing under control and with great balance. Don’t kick your leg out or backpedal after you land.
  • Stay in your Shot: Many players will shoot the basketball, land, and then take off somewhere. Instead of doing that, you need to land and stay in your shot for a brief second. This doesn’t mean that you become a statue and don’t run back on defense or follow a missed shot, but it does mean that you should stay in your shot until you have made or missed.




Team Basketball Shooting

All of these basketball shooting details are something that every player should apply to their game, but some great details apply to the team as a whole. By observing these basketball shooting details and applying them to your team’s offense, you will be able to improve your team’s overall shooting percentage. The best team offenses in basketball are able to keep the ball moving from player to player until an open shot is available.


Ball Movement: The type of ball movement that your basketball team has will determine the type of shots you are getting. If players are continually catching and holding the basketball or are always looking to score off the dribble, your team will end up shooting low percentage shots. If a player catches the ball and is not open for a shot, they should immediately do one of the following, unless it is a set isolation basketball play.

  • Swing the Ball: One of the hardest things for a defense to guard is quick ball reversals. The reason why is because it makes the defense shift. When a defense has to shift, it opens up opportunities for bad closeouts, communication breakdowns, and poor rotations. So when a player catches the ball, and they are not open for a shot, they need to quickly keep the ball moving to another teammate, don’t catch and hold. Sometimes even if a player is open for a shot, they need to make the next pass because there is a better shot available.
  • Attacking on the Catch: Ball reversals also open up the opportunity to take advantage of bad closeouts. There are two great moves that a shooter can use in this situation to take advantage of the defense and end up with a great shot. The two moves are the rip through and the shot fake. Both are great for getting past a defender’s poor closeout and then right into a one-dribble pull-up shot.



Penetrate and Kick: Another great way to get quality shots is by having the ability to drive and kick. A great penetration move to the paint will cause the defense to collapse on the ball, which will allow open shots on the kick out. Here are some teaching points for maximizing the drive and kick.

  • Shoulders to the Basket: The player driving the basketball needs to make sure that they keep their shoulders to the basket when they attack. You must make yourself a threat to score to get the defense to collapse. If you attack the paint with your body facing the player you will kick the basketball out to, it will alert the defense, and they won’t help off the shooter.
  • Stay on the Floor: You mustn’t leave your feet on the kick-out pass. Leaving the floor to make a pass opens up the opportunity for a potential charge situation and also getting stuck up in the air with the basketball.
  • Slide to Open Passing Lanes: The shooter must do a great job of helping the passer out by sliding up or down to an open passing lane. This not only gives the shooter a passing lane, but it also creates space from the defender that just helped off of the shooter.
  • Don’t Catch and Hold: If the player receiving the pass doesn’t have an open shot, they need to swing the ball or immediately re-drive the basketball. Catching and holding the basketball allows the defense to recover. This also means that the player who originally drove the basketball needs to quickly relocate and get ready to shoot after they make the kick-out pass because they may end up shooting the ball in the end.



Inside Out: Having the basketball go inside to the post and then come out for a shot has a lot of the same benefits as the drive and kick. The goal is to get the ball into the post, have the defense collapse to help, and then get an open kick-out shot. Here are a few keys to making this work well for your team’s offense.

  • Don’t Stand: Once the basketball goes into the post, there must be player movement off the ball. After the post feed, the passer should do one of the following; slide up or down, cut through, or screen for a teammate. These actions will create space for both the shooter and the post player. If there is no offensive spacing, a defensive player can double and then get back in time on the kick-out pass.
  • Weak Side Action: The players opposite of the post up action need to be moving as well. The weak side players can use one of the same actions; slide up or down, cut through, or set a screen for a teammate. If a shooter is going to slide up or down, though, they need to try to locate a spot where they can see the post player’s eyes. Doing this shows the post player that there is an open passing lane to the shooter.



The Details of Shooting a Basketball Conclusion

As a basketball player or coach, this may seem like a lot to take in and even more to implement. The details of shooting a basketball, though, are what separate the great players and teams from the rest. It is not something that happens overnight, but it needs to be reinforced daily when doing basketball drills and in practice, until one day, it becomes second nature.

So take advantage of all of these different basketball shooting keys and start taking your shooting to the next level as a player or a team.



Taking Advantage of Early Offense in Basketball


Taking Advantage of Early Offense in Basketball

Chris Capko contributed to this portion of the article. 


Leading up to a game, basketball teams will prepare for various things that they can expect to see from the opposing team’s offense. Coaches will spend hours upon hours breaking down how they will defend ball screens, the post, off-ball actions, defensive matchups, and discussing the opposing player’s strengths and weaknesses. This is all a necessity when preparing for a basketball game and getting your defense is “SET.”

Well, what about when your defense is not set, and it is forced instead to react to the offense? The match-ups are not correct. A guard is on a big, a big is guarding the ball, and the defense is in disarray. This is what early offense can do; it exploits the defense and keeps them from getting “set” in the half-court.

Any basketball coach would tell you they would rather have their defense “set” before a possession begins because players are in their assigned positions and roles. However, early offense forces the defense to react to actions they are not as ready for or prepared for. Most players can tell you how they will defend a ball screen on the guy they’re prepared to guard, but what about when they get matched up with a player position that they’re not as familiar with?

The same goes for a big man. They remembered exactly how they would play the ball screen when Player A is setting it and Player B is coming off it, but what about when they are guarding Player C because of a missed shot or scramble situation?


Early Offense in Basketball: Ball Screens

Ball screens are a very effective form of early offense in basketball. The reason why is because many times in transition, big men are not attached to their man and are not in a position to help on the ball screen like they would be when it is set in the half-court. This leaves the guard defender out to dry on the ball screen because he/she is expecting the post defender to be there to show/hedge, push up, etc.

In this basketball video clip, Utah’s big man goes to set a ball screen for the point guard, in which he ultimately re-angles or “twists” the screen. This forces the big guarding the screen to get out of position. Once Utah’s point guard throws it back to the screener, Stanford, as a team, is forced to react and help and does not come from the proper position, and Utah finishes with a layup. The action happened so early in the offense that Stanford was never really able to get set and was forced to react.


Utah: Ball Screen Offense



In this basketball video clip, you see a similar outcome but a different means to achieve it. The big from UNC sprints up to set an early flat ball screen. Jabari Parker, who is guarding the screen, cannot contain the ball handler until his man gets back. The ball handler (Marcus Paige) ends up making a great individual move and finishing at the rim. Duke had prepared a game plan to guard North Carolina’s early ball screens, but this clip is not it. The early ball screen forced Duke to react and did not allow them to guard a ball screen how they had prepared for it leading up to the game.


UNC: Ball Screen Offense


Early Offense in Basketball: Off Ball Action

Off-ball actions work great in early offense because the defense has yet established which players are in the help and must do a great job communicating to figure it out. Most teams do not do a great job of communicating in semi-transition, and that means quality looks at the basket are there if you can execute your early offense at a high level.

Here is another set that many teams will run off misses or makes. This provides offensive action early in the clock and within the game flow. The point guard (Kyle Anderson) passes the ball to the wing player (Jordan Adams) and then sprints to the corner with pace. The ball then gets swung through the trailing post player and finally reversed to the opposite wing (Norman Powell).

The first wing player (Jordan Adams) then shuffle cuts off the big to the ball side block for a post up, and the point guard (Kyle Anderson) comes off a double down screen for a shot. The pace at which UCLA executes this early offense causes the defense to have to react. The shuffle cut ends up being open, but the down screen action was also open, and all of this is because of getting into early offense with pace. The defense cannot set up and play to their strengths; they are forced to react instead.


UCLA: Off Ball Offense



Early Offense in Basketball: Pistol

This type of early offense forces the wing defenders to communicate at a high level and puts a strain on the help defense. However, most of the time in transition, the defense is so concerned with their individual man that they do not pay attention to communicating and being in the help. This equals excellent scoring opportunities for the offense.

This action is a popular NBA action called “pistol.” This action can be run off of misses or makes and is often run early in a possession. This specific clip just happens to be one part of the action, but the pace with which it is run creates confusion amongst the defense, even though they are like sizes. This shows that early offense can also run against a set defense in some cases.


Utah: Pistol Offense



Taking Advantage of Early Offense in Basketball Conclusion

Early offense in basketball is a great way to attack your opponent and force them to react instead of being organized and positioned to defend how they want to. There are several different early offense actions that you can run, but you must find the ones best suited for the personnel that your basketball team possesses. Figure out what makes your team go, and then start making the defense REACT!

It all starts with your team’s ability to finish defensive possessions and then get out and run. You can’t expect to be successful running an early offense if your team is unwilling to sprint the floor in transition. The longer the other team has to get back and gather themselves, the better they will defend your action. So really preach sprinting the floor and getting right into whatever type of early basketball offense you want to execute.



Playing With the Lead in Basketball


Playing With the Lead in Basketball

Chris Capko contributed to this portion of the article.


Basketball is a game of runs. This means that you are never out of a game, but it also means that you need to learn how to play with a lead effectively, or you could cost yourself games. In my college basketball coaching career, I have been blessed to be a part of several different programs, one of those places being FIU. During my time there, we had a season that really strengthened my knowledge of playing with the lead in basketball.

That specific season we had a challenging non-conference schedule and had been lucky to lead in most of the games that we played. However, we had a hard time maintaining leads and finishing basketball games out. At the moment, it was not a fun experience, but during that time, I was able to learn some very valuable insights on what it takes to be able to play with the lead and how to finish out basketball games better.

Here are a few things that I have learned about playing with the lead in basketball.


Stay Aggressive With the Lead

It is human nature to let down once you feel like you have built a big enough lead. Mature basketball teams, though, keep their mental edge even when they are up, especially if it is double digits. As a coach, when you are up 10 to 20, or even more points, you have to coach as if you are behind.

You cannot begin to substitute as if the game is over or start tinkering with a new team defense; that is what practice is for. Maybe it is time to press more or run an offense that mandates that your players stay active. You must keep your foot on the gas and continue to be aggressive. The aggression in your team needs to stay the same regardless of the score. Yes, there is time and score, but regardless of the strategy at a given point in the game, your players need to stay aggressive and confident.


Free Throws Down the Stretch

It is called the charity stripe for a reason. I have discussed improving team free throw shooting with several different basketball coaches. The answers that I got from other coaches were very different and ranged from not practicing at all to making some kind of consequence if their team free throw shooting didn’t reach a specific benchmark.

Whatever the strategy is, though, it will be hard to close teams out and win tight games if you cannot make free throws as a basketball team. Not only does missing free throws allow the other team to start believing they can come back, but it also creates doubt in your player’s minds. This doubt doesn’t stop at the free-throw line either. It will begin to spill into other areas of the game, and before you know it, game momentum has shifted.

Making free throws must be a priority for your basketball team, and you must be able to handle your business at the free-throw line if you want to be able to put games away.

Here is something that worked for us at Florida International. What we would do is split our guys up on both ends of the court. We would set six minutes on the clock, and then we would have the two teams shoot free throws until that time was up. If a player missed the first shot, it counted as 0 for 2.

If they made the first one but missed the second one, it counted as 1 for 2. And, obviously, if they made both, it counted as 2 for 2. At the end of the 6 minutes, if the team didn’t complete our goal of 70% from the free-throw line, the whole basketball team ran.

This is a great way to keep your players mentally engaged at the free-throw line and put some pressure on them to make their free throws. The more pressure free-throws that your players can shoot, the easier it will be to handle free throw shooting pressure in an actual game.


Handle Pressure

Handling pressure on offense has two components to it. At times, we struggled with one or both of these areas at FIU. The first component will be live-ball turnovers where the defense can speed up the offense, force turnovers, and then get easy baskets. This will be the most noticeable way of a team not being able to handle the pressure.

The second way, though, can be just as damaging when trying to play with the lead. The second type of pressure is being able to play with confidence and run basketball plays. When the game gets tight, players that aren’t prepared for the moment can begin to put too much pressure on themselves. Your team may be able to handle the pressure in the backcourt, but are they also able to execute in the frontcourt? Players need to handle pressure bringing the ball up, passing, etc., and executing the offense at the end of the game.

A big part of having a team be able to do this is your intensity level in basketball practice. As a coach, you need to create an environment in practice that will be able to simulate game-like situations. Make sure that you run special situations with your team that will force them to be prepared for a game. It will go a long way in making sure that you can play with the lead successfully.


Finish Plays with Big Rebounds

When teams get up, defensive rebounding is one of the first things that goes out the window. Instead of turning and hitting someone on every shot that goes up, players start watching the ball. This not only leads to more chances at scoring for the other team, but it can also be a big momentum builder for the other team. As a team playing with the lead in basketball, you want to kill the other team’s momentum and not allow them chances to generate it.

I have heard some different coaches explain their philosophies on rebounding the basketball, and from my research, a lot of it depends on your team and its makeup. So as much as it is a skill, it is also a mindset. Rebounding needs to be an area that you are spending time working on and continually reminding your players of how important it is.


Watch and Learn from Film

Watching film is a way that your basketball team can grow exponentially. This is where you can show situations like what a good shoot is depending on time and score, who needs to touch the ball, etc. There are plenty of areas you can highlight. The key is making sure that your players know what is expected of them, and watching film is an excellent way to do that.

On defense, you can point out areas where they could have been a bit tougher or might have missed a defensive assignment. Both offense and defense contribute to being able to play with a lead, and when it comes to monitoring the performance of your players, film is going to be an excellent tool to use.



Playing with the Lead in Basketball Conclusion

Playing with the lead in basketball is a good problem to have. It is something that you, as a coach, are aiming for in every game that you play. So you must prepare your team to be able to do so. It is also important that you are ready for both offensive late-game situations and defensive late-game situations. The better you can be prepared as a basketball coach for every situation and have your team prepared for every situation, the better you will play with the lead in basketball.



Increasing Efficiency in Basketball



Increasing Efficiency in Basketball

Kyle Getter contributed to this portion of the article. 


Basketball coaches are constantly looking for ways for their teams to improve. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the use of analytics as many coaches are now using statistics to track their teams’ performance. I am guilty of being one of those coaches.

I am not a numbers guy by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely appreciate how they can be utilized to increase efficiency in basketball.


Basketball on Paper

In Dean Oliver’s book, Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis, he describes the “Four Factors of Basketball Success.” The “Four Factors” he describes are the following:

  • Effective FG %
  • Turnover %
  • Offensive Reb. %
  • FTA/FGA (Free throw rate)

Dean Oliver continues in his book to explain how all of these “Four Factors” are not equivalent in value. I agree with him, and one thing that stands out to me as I look at them is turnover %.


Taking Care of the Ball

This is a very simple way of thinking, but if you turn the ball over…you are not giving yourself a chance to effectively perform in the other 3 categories. Therefore, I will share 3 basketball drills that can decrease turnovers and increase sureness and confidence with the ball while being pressured.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *