Category Archives: Plays

3 Tips for Drawing up Game Winning Plays

Time is expiring and your team gets the ball out of a timeout. You’re down by one and you need a bucket to win the game.

What type of play do you run?

You run what you saw Rick Pitino run to beat Duke a few years back right?

The problem with many basketball coaches is they think that’s always the right answer. They think that running something they saw a big name coach run will give them the best open look in every situation.

The reality is, the same play doesn’t work for every team in every situation. There are a lot of things that go into what type of play will work best in the situation you are in.

In this video, Coach Stricklin breaks down how to go about determining what type of play to draw up when you are in a tight game down the stretch and you have to have an open look.

5 Ways to Use a Ball Screen

1. PNR1Reject the screen.
Fake into the screen and when your defender starts to cheat over the top drive in the opposite direction

2. Attack the hedger.
If there is a hard hedge by the screener’s defender then attack his front foot. As soon as he opens up his stance you will have a clear path to the basket. If the defense likes to show and retreat then start by driving hard and stopping quickly to freeze the defender and then drive hard again.

3. Bounce back.
This is  an effective technique to use against defenses that want to trap on ball screens. Start over the screen and then bounce back dragging the defenders with you. As the defense extends more space is created making it more difficult for the defense to rotate and cover up.

4. Drive the screen.
Pictured on the right this is the most common method of using an on ball screen, especially at lower levels. Once the ball handler drives past the screen he can go to the rim, stop and shoot the ball, hit the screener rolling to the rim, or drive into the paint and then kick it out to an open teammate.

5. Stop behind and shoot.
If your defender goes behind the screen then stop right behind your teammate and shoot the ball. Just make sure you don’t go past the screen or your defender will be waiting for you.

4 Reasons to Run the Pick and Roll

Pick and RollThe pick and roll is one of the oldest and most popular plays in the history of basketball and teams that master the skills involved in the pick and roll can become virtually unstoppable. (For an example, go back and watch some video of last season’s San Antonio Spurs.)

However, there is obviously a huge difference between mastering the required skills and just running through them!

There are four main reasons why the pick and roll has been so effective for decades:

1. Creates size and/or speed mismatches

2. Forces two defensive players to defend one offensive player which causes defenses to rotate and cover up

3. Gets opposing defenders in foul trouble

4. Lets you play your best offensive players regardless of “position”

I see a lot of middle school and youth teams running the pick and roll as well as nearly every team in the NBA. However, I don’t see a lot of high school teams using it.

If you are still thinking about what to run on offense this year you might want to consider adding a pick and roll option.

Not only is it effective if run correctly but it will cause opponents to prepare longer and differently for you than for other teams on their schedule.

Can’t Get Open on the Wing?

Open on the WingIf defenders can keep the offensive point guard from passing the ball to the wing then they can stop a great majority of offenses before they can even get started.

Here are 5 things you can do if you are having trouble getting open on the wing because of extreme pressure:

  1. Dribble at the wing and send him backdoor. Best used if the defender is “above” the offensive player and in the passing lane so the pass can’t be completed.
  2. Dribble hand off. Best used if the defender is “below” the offensive player and waiting to “jump” the passing lane and steal the pass. When executing a DHO the ball handler should dribble right at the receiver’s defender so he can use his body as a screen.
  3. Drive and kick. Penetrate into the paint, force the wing defender to drop off and help and then kick the ball out to the wing.
  4. Zipper screen. Send the offensive wing running into the lane and around the post player. He can either return to his original spot on the wing (this is nearly impossible to deny since the defense gets turned around) or he can run up to the top while the point guard takes over the wing spot. Zipper screens can be set by both high and low posts.
  5. Flash the high post and send the wing back door.

Constantly mix up these strategies during the course of a game and it won’t be long before the point guard to wing pass will be wide open each and every time down the floor!


Set Plays or Motion?

Set Plays vs. MotionOver the last couple decades I have met dozens of coaches who run motion offense and motion offense only.

They run the same motion against man to man, 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone, Box & 1, Triangle & 2, and any and everything else that the defense throws at them.

These coaches proudly announce to the world that they are teaching their teams how to play the game and not to just run plays.

At the same time I have also met dozens of coaches who only run set plays on offense.

They have plays for 3’s, plays for the post, plays to isolate mismatches, and plays to counteract anything the defense does.

These coaches feel that they too are teaching players how to play by providing a variety of previously practiced options instead of relying on everyone’s decision making.

The ironic thing is that I’ve heard both groups of coach’s say “It doesn’t matter what you run but how you run it that counts.”

If that’s true then why do both groups refuse to change or even compromise?

Longtime NCAA Div. I assistant Coach Randy Brown has listed 10 advantages to both motion and set plays.

Let’s first look at his advantages of running motion:

  1. Motion is a “thinking” offense that requires players to have some basketball IQ.
  2. Motion is a combination of every pass, screen, and cut known to the game of basketball.
  3. The Snowflake Theory – no two possessions are ever alike.
  4. Can highlight your best player by constantly screening for him.
  5. Offense can react to the defense instead of moving in a predetermined direction.
  6. Motion is unpredictable making it very hard to guard. You can create hundreds of unique entries.
  7. It is impossible to scout because of its flexibility and adaptability.
  8. Screening, cutting, and ball movement are an unstoppable combination.
  9. Multiple opportunities for getting the best shooters open.
  10. Role definition is clear cut, letting players perfect their specific roles within motion.

How many of these motion advantages do you agree with? How many do you disagree with? Why?

Now let’s look at Coach Brown’s 10 advantages of running set plays:

  1. Coach has large degree of control over which players take the shot. Set plays are purposefully designed for specific players to receive the ball in specific spots on the floor.
  2. Execution is high due to the predetermined nature of set plays. Players know exactly where to start, what to do during the play, and how to finish the play.
  3. During late game or special situations, set plays can be very good.
  4. Coach can determine who handles the ball during plays to reduce turnovers.
  5. Sets plays take advantage of players’ strengths and hide player weaknesses.
  6. Set plays can be called by the coaching staff.
  7. Set plays can focus on a 2 point basket, a 3 point basket, or a need to penetrate.
  8. Each set play can have multiple options. One play becomes six plays by reading the defense.
  9. Makes for a difficult game prep for the opponent because each set must be defended.
  10. Set plays can be altered each year based on player strengths and skills.

How many of these set play advantages do you agree with? How many do you disagree with? Why?

For me personally, both lists contain things that I agree and disagree with which is not a huge surprise since I have often alternated between motion and set plays based on the personnel I have in our program at a particular time.

I want players to enjoy the success and confidence that comes from improving their skills and maximizing their talents and I also want them to learn the many life lessons that being on a team offers.

However, I also feel (and my administration agrees) that one of my primary responsibilities is to put the players in a position where they have at least a chance to win every game.

Because of that belief, running a combination of motion and set plays seems to work best for me and our program.

Miami Heat’s Game Winning SLOB

There’s been a lot of talk about last night’s Miami Heat overtime win over the Indiana Pacers but very people are mentioning the great sideline out of bounds play (SLOB) that was called by Coach Erik Spoelstra.

First of all, the exact same set was run at the end of the fourth quarter and the result was a wide open 3 point attempt by Ray Allen, which had to be in the back of the Pacers’ minds as everyone was getting lined up in the same set at the end of overtime.

Secondly, the play had multiple options – Ray Allen in the corner, LeBron at the top of the key, Chris Bosh coming off a back pick going to the rim, and even possibly Ray Allen isolated against the opposing center if the defense chose to switch the back pick.

Even the slightest hesitation by any of the defenders was going to result in a shot by one of the Heat’s three best players on the floor (Dwyane Wade had fouled out on the previous play) and that’s exactly what happened!

The players who successfully execute the plays get all the credit in situations like this, as they should. But let’s not forget that it’s often times the coach who puts those players in a position to succeed.

In the diagrams below Ray Allen is the 2, LeBron James is the 3, and Chris Bosh is the 5 as the play’s main options. Mario Chalmers is the 1 and Shane Battier is the 4.

Diagram Preview


8 Negatives of the Pick and Roll

1. The “unpaid” assistants in the stands claim your team “doesn’t run anything.”

2. Creates more possessions in the game since you are shooting sooner than if you are running motion offense.

3. If players aren’t able to dribble with their weak hand, you are limited to one side of the floor.

4. Causes you to spend more time finding solutions for traps.

5. You are going to face a variety of defenses, so if you don’t have solutions to all of them, you may abandon this offense quickly.

6. It takes time to drill all the finer points of the pick and roll.

7. Post players will pick up moving screen fouls if the driver is impatient and doesn’t wait for the pick to be set

8. Causes you to face a lot of zone defense, which is bad if you don’t attack zones effectively

The above list was written by Ted Anderson, the Assistant Boy’s Coach at Andale High School in Andale, Kansas and first appeared in the March 2012 edition of Winning Hoops magazine.






Catalog Your Drills

This time of year many coaches are attending clinics and enrolling in programs such as in order to jump start their thinking and preparation for the upcoming season. Invariably those coaches are going to hear or see a new drill that could possibly be used in their practices, but aren’t sure what to do with it until then. At the same time experienced coaches often have so many drills floating around somewhere in their head that they forget to use one when they need it the most.

One suggestion is to compile a drill catalog. Use either 3×5 or 5×7 index cards and on one side of the card diagram the drill and on the other side write down how long the drill takes and any pertinent teaching points. Then file the cards in a plastic box under one of the following headings:

  1. Defense, team
  2. Defense individual
  3. Offense, team
  4. Offense, individual
  5. Transition defense
  6. Transition offense
  7. Game preparation

Once you use a particular drill make a note on the card how it went and if it was as useful as you thought it would be. Don’t abandon it after you use it only once but if you find that it is consistently falling short of the desired results then pull it out of your catalog. The last thing you want is a box full of drills that you either never use or that are ineffective.



6 Questions to Evaluate Your Offense

I’ve watched our team play in open gym for a couple weeks now and as a result feel like I have a pretty good idea of what our offensive strengths will be once the season starts. Our posts are relatively young but skilled and our perimeter shooting is better than it’s been the last couple seasons.

We might be a little thin at point gaurd but we do have a 2 and a 3 that could fill in if our backup struggles. Taking all this into consideration I am going to tweak our offense a little bit. I have several ideas but haven’t made any definite decisions yet.

Here are 6 questions that I am constantly asking myself while considering what changes to make:

  1. Is it simple enough to learn?
  2. Are there enough scoring options?
  3. Can I get our best scorers the most shots?
  4. Will it get better the more we run it?
  5. Can we develop good enough passing skills to make this effective?
  6. Am I making things more complicated than they need to be?

As you evaluate your own offense, try asking yourself those same 6 questions. If you can honestly answer them with 5 “yesses” and 1 “no” then you are undoubtedly running the right offense for your team!