Since the Olympic qualifying tournament for Athens 2008, the Brazilian men’s national team has worked to implement an offense that focused on a greater involvement of all the players. We’ll start right off by describing the basic concept of our offense. When the ball is passed to the low post, we want our perimeter players to execute this play: when there are two outside players on the ball side, one player makes a screen away from the ball. Based on the reaction of the defense, we now have two options. The screener can roll to the basket and the screened player then replaces the screener (diagr. 1). Secondly, the screened player can cut to the basket and the screener repositions himself at the same spot from where he has moved (diagr. 2). We like to have four players on the perimeter (rectangular structure) (diagr. 3), instead of three (triangular structure) (diagr. 4). We do this because there is more space on the court, we can make horizontal and vertical moves and cuts, and it’s more difficult for the defense to rotate and help. This is particularly true during the final minutes of a game.
OFFENSIVE ROTATION FROM THE DRIVE
With the physical improvements that players have made over the years and the implementation of more sophisticated defenses combined with technology that now allows us to analyze individual and team offensive moves, the offense is challenged to the extreme. For these reasons, players with or without the ball cannot stand still. They must always be on the move. On our offense we stress the one-on-one and the drive to the basket, but the penetrator must have also passing options if his path to the basket is stopped by the defense.
Let’s examine three different dribble penetrations with two players involved:
- Drive to the corner: a teammate nearest to the driver spots up behind the driver to receive the ball and shoots if he is open or else acts as a safety (diagr. 5).
- Drive to the middle of the lane: the teammate opposite from the driver cuts and spots up to the opposite corner (diagr. 6).
- Drive to the baseline: the opposite wing cuts and spots up in the opposite corner (diagr. 7).
Now let’s now examine the concepts we apply when three or four players are involved. With a baseline dribble penetration by 1, 3 will cut and spot up in the opposite corner to receive the ball from 1, while at the same time the low post 4 will cut behind 1 under the the basket. This will give 1 another passing lane (diagr. 8). If nothing happens, 3 will drive out from the corner to the wing spot, while 1 will end his cut to the corner (diagr. 9). In this way, 3 has a chance to pass the ball to 1 or to 2 on the opposite wing (diagr. 10). Based on these concepts, we build our offense.
Starting from a one-four set, 4 pops out for a ball screen on 1, while at the same time 2 cuts baseline and makes a back screen for 5, who cuts in the lane and seals his defender under the basket (diagr. 11). Player 1 can pass the ball to 5 under the basket. It that’s not possible, he can pass to 4, and then 4 can quickly pass to 2, who has popped out after the screen, while 3 posts down low (diagr. 12). Right after the pass from 4 to 2, if 3 cannot receive the ball, he makes a baseline screen for 5, and 4 screens away from the ball for 1. Player 2 tries to pass to 5 under the basket (diagr. 13). If 2 cannot pass to 3 or 5, he reverses the ball to 1, while 4 has screened down for 3. Player 1 passes to 3, who comes out from the screen of 4 (diagr. 14), and 3 shoots or passes the ball to 4, who has rolled to the basket and has sealed his defender on the low post. Right after 4 has received the ball, the other players on the perimeter spot up as they did in diagram 15 and they offer 4 several passing lanes: to 5 in the high post, to 2 in the corner, or to 1 at the wing. This is a great movement that has as its main objective to play with the center in the low post (Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao, and JP Batista). It also focuses on ball rotation and the spotting up of players without the ball.
We start this play with three outside and two inside players. Player 1 drives to wing opposite to the high post 5, while 2 cuts in the lane on the baseline and sets up in the opposite corner. Player 5 then makes a back screen for 3, who cuts in the lane and receives the ball from 1 (diagr. 16). If he cannot receive the ball, 5 screens again, making a vertical screen for 4; at the same time, 2 comes high to the wing spot, and 3 pops out of the lane, sprinting to the corner as 1 passes to 4 (diagr. 17). If 4 cannot shoot, he has two choices: play high-low with 5, who has ducked in the lane, or else pass to 2 (diagr. 18). If there is no solution, 2 can try to pass to 5 in the low post. If he cannot shoot, 5 can pass outside to 3, who has received a vertical screen from 4, or to 1, who has made a flash cut in the lane (diagr. 19). In this play, we also want to take advantage of our big men, our center and power forwards, who are playing in the low post or work to complete a high-low play. These players include Splitter, Varejao, JP Batista, Carlos Alexandre, and Giovannoni. If we rotate well, we can also shoot from the opposite side with great efficiency, thanks to the perimeter players who have medium-and long-range shooting skills. These players include Leandro Barbosa, Alex Garcia, Marcelo Machado, Marcelo Huertas, Jonathan Tavernari, Diego Pinheiro, and Eduardo Machado.
This is another offensive set based on the rotation of the perimeter players. It uses a pick-and-pop out and ends with a pass to the center, who is positioned under the basket. In this case, the center, 5, is set outside of the lane on the perimeter, with 2 and 4 on the two low-post spots. Player 4 is screened by 2 and then he sprints out of the lane and screens for 2. After the screen on the ball, 4 pops out to the corner (diagr. 20). Right after 2 is moving to screen 4, 5 starts to move to screen 2 (screen the screener), who gets out of the lane, receives the ball from 1, and shoots as 3 spots up in the corner (diagr. 21). If 2 can't shoot, he passes to 5 under the basket, or to 3, who passes to 5 (diagr. 22). If 5 cannot shoot, he can skip the ball back to one of the perimeter players.
Here is how we play in transition. We apply the concept of two screens in succesion (staggered screens) and also screen the screener. This allows us to take advantage of the fact that the defense is not yet set. Player 1 brings the ball up near the sideline on the low-post side and passes to 2. He then changes his position with 5 (diagr. 23). Player 2 receives a back screen from 4, who has popped out of the low-post spot, and then another screen from 3 (staggered screen), while the ball is reversed from 2 to 5, from 5 to 1, and finally from 1 to 2, who has come out from the opposite corner after the two screens (diagr. 24). If 2 cannot shoot, 3 makes another screen, this time for 4, who cuts on the opposite side of the court, while 3 is screened by 5. In short, we make a staggered screen, and two consecutive screen-the-screener actions (diagr. 25). Player 1 passes to 3 for a shot, or if 3 cannot shoot, he passes to 5 in the post (diagr. 26).
The out-of-bounds play also applies the concept of screen-the-screener. Player 1 has the ball for the inbound pass. 2 screens for 4, who cuts in the lane to receive the ball. If 4 cannot receive the ball, then 2 is screened by 5 (screen-thescreener) and quickly pops out to receive the ball from 4 after he gets free (diagr. 27). If 2 doesn’t shoot, he can to pass to 3, who makes a reverse pass to 1, who crossed to the opposite side, using the screen from 4 (diagr. 28).
We have focused on offense in this article, but our main weapon is actually our team defense. I primarily use a man-toman with some variations. This defense worked best at last year’s FIBA Americas Championship and was a major reason why we won. The success of our offense depended on our strong defense that created many fastbreaks. If we couldn’t score off the fastbreak, we immediately went into our secondary break offense, and finally the set offense that utilized the basic concepts that we have already explained: get the ball inside, and if a scoring opportunity isn’t available, then the ball is kicked outside to create shooting possibilities on the perimeter.