Sterling Wright was the head coach of the Senior Men’s National team of Morocco at 2003 African Championship for Men’s, and as well as the Technical Director of the Federation. He is FIBA Coaching Instructor, and has been coach of French teams at every level and of the Tabac Sports Club of Casablanca, Morocco.
Developing an offensive style of play is one of the most important tasks of a coach. To analyze the strengths and weakness of the group, find solutions, which will enable the team to reach the maximum of their potential, are some of the goals of the coaching staff. On the elite level, (club or National Team), individual and collective development are important, but winning is the underlining factor to gage success.
A coach must have general knowledge of both the controllable factors such as his team, club, etc., and some of the uncontrollable factors, such as the competition that he is engaged, his adversaries (both known and unknown), etc., to have a chance for success.
After taking into account a general understanding of these elements, a style of play consistent to satisfying players, coaches, and crowd while having the greatest chance of winning should be developed. How many times have we observed an unsuccessful team become successful by changing a few elements? Changing a player(s), coach, or style of play to produce a different winning style of basketball. We feel that it is important to attempt to get the most possible from everyone concerned to have a real chance to achieve expectations.
We feel for the Moroccan teams to be competitive on international level we must play a very aggressive style of basketball both offensively, and defensively. We try to compensate our lack of height and physical density, by speed of execution, and preventing the opponent from playing their normal game. To take advantage of our athletic but physically limited players, we feel that if we can have a moving type of offence we can neutralize some of our limitations. Our interior players receiving the ball in a moving type of situation, as opposed to “fighting it out” in the low post position against stronger and taller opponents. The same point holds true for our perimeter players in that if they can receive the ball in movement, and have the proper spacing, they can take advantage of their creative skills. We feel that creating a style of play, which permits our players to “read and react”, as opposed to “think and execute” will give us the best chance of success. To play pressure basketball, both offensively and defensively, creates spectacular style, which the players and the public enjoy. Since we have a young, developing athletic team, this style gives the maximum amount of playing time to nine-ten players as opposed to a more limited number. So with a maximum number of players involved and highly motivated, we have had some degree of success in the present, while building for the future.
We like to use as our basic offense the fast break or what we call pressure basketball. Really we hope that rarely we have to run a set half court offense.
We try to take at least a third or more of our total shots from a fast break, or transition situation. Playing an up-tempo style of game, while having the possibility to play from a set offense, is what we try to do. We feel that this is the best way to create the easiest scoring possibilities before our opponents can set up their complete team defense. We feel that if we walk the ball up the court every time we will be playing against a set defense that often has the physical dominance against us. If we must play 5-on-5 basketball with almost every possession that we are in for a long game without many advantages or possibilities to control the outcome.
In our offense, fast break or half court, we always want to create several advantages. With the fast break, a team can create several advantages and through good passing can find an open player for a high-percentage shot.
We feel that getting the ball in a situation that our players feel comfortable with the minimum constraints gives them the best chance of success. This helps build confidence in their abilities. In our half court offense, through good movement, passing, and screens, we try to create a quick 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 match up that can yield a high-percentage shot. So it is important for us to create situations where the players have time and the proper spacing to react to certain situations, with a few rules so everyone understands what we want to accomplish on the floor.
Our first option in our offense at any time during the game is our rapid attack. We like to run our primary break, which we create from steals, rebounds, blocked shots, made or missed field goals, made or missed free throws.
We like to divide the court into three lanes the traditional side - middle - side lanes. However after the half court line we like to designate two additional areas. One which we call our attacking areas, and the other our scoring areas (diagr. 1)
Actually our offense begins when we obtain possession of the ball. We try to have a continuous free flowing offense taking advantage of any mistakes or weakness of our opponents. When we gain possession we try to get the ball in one of our attacking areas (which is a couple of steps right over the half court line) as rapidly as possible. It is at this point that we want the ball handler to read the situation if: (a) there is a open teammate ahead of him to pass the ball if possible (b) he has an advantage to attack the basket (c) continue to advance the ball by passing, or dribbling down the same side to the scoring area. Advancing the ball down the side opens the middle lane for our big players to run to the basket, trailer, or offensive rebound possibilities. It also opens the opposite side lane for open shots on quick ball reversal. Once the ball is in the attacking area we want to continue to have good ball movement looking to profit on what the defense gives us.
Once we gain possession of the ball, we want to get the ball to 1-the point guard, as soon as possible. We want our perimeter players 2-the shooting guard, and 3-the small forward, to sprint to the attacking areas on their respective sides of the court, looking back for the ball only when they have crossed the half court line. It is important to have good floor balance and, if they find themselves on the same side, then one must go to the far side lane. The rule is if the advanced attacker is in the attacking area, then the second perimeter player crosses the middle lane to go to the opposite side. If the advanced attacker is in the scoring area, then the advanced attacker should continue to the basket then out to the opposite side scoring area.
On a made basket, or foul shot we want 4the post, in bounding the ball to 1. 5 - the center, sprints down the middle of the floor to the opposite basket, then looks for the pass, or offensive rebound. He should read the situation and if there is not a shot, or pass inside, he should go to the ball side low post looking for: (a) the pass; (b) the two-man game with the perimeter ball handler.
The last man down the floor, the rebounder, or the in bounder on a made shooting attempt, is the trailer running the middle, but going to the opposite side of the lane of the ball side low post. As he reaches the post area, he must read the situation. If the ball is: (a) in the opposite side scoring area, he can stop either at the high, or low post area ready to play the offensive rebound; (b) in the center lane, he can set a pick for the ball handler, or stop at the high post. (c) on his side, he can set a pick for the perimeter ball handler, or slide low post (diagr. 2). 4 gets the rebound and passes to 1, who comes to the ball. Perimeter players 2, and 3 sprint to the attacking areas on their respective sides of the court. 5 sprints down the middle of the floor towards the opposite basket. 1 passes to 2 in the attacking area right over half court. At this point we have the following rules:
This situation should always produce a high- percentage shot, whether it be a lay-up or a short jump shot. We want our players to attempt a shot for two reasons: (a) chances are it will be a good shot, and (b) in normal conditions offensive players generally change ends faster than defensive players, which can result in a rebounding edge as offensive teammates are hustling down the floor in anticipation of a missed shot attempt.
We would like for our offensive player to read the defender. If the offensive player feels he can beat the defender on the dribble, he should take it all the way to the basket. If the defender does a good job against the dribble, then the offensive player should pull up for the short jump shot.
Certain time and score conditions may force us to tell our players to take only the lay-up if it’s available. If it’s not, we may want to have them pull back out and set up the half court offense.
We try to teach our players that with the fast break they must try to get a good shot off when they have a numbers advantage. Hopefully, the shot will be relatively uncontested and taken from a short distance. When we are in a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 situation, we try to shoot the ball (given the time and score situation). When a shot is taken, we can either score, rebound the missed attempt, or, at least, prevent the defense from possibly scoring as a result of a turnover. We must use a numbers advantage as quickly as possible because the remaining defenders are eventually going to set up their defense.
In a 2-on-1 situation, the offensive players must fill the outside areas and spread out wide enough to prevent the defender from playing them both at the same time. As the offensive players enter the scoring area (which is about a couple steps outside the three-point line), the ball handler should take the ball to the basket, while the other perimeter player “spots up” on the opposite side area waiting for a possible outlet pass on the dribble penetration for an uncontested jump shot.
If we have not created a scoring opportunity, or the ball handler chooses to only advance the ball to the scoring area, the other players continue to run their lanes. 80 to 85% of the time our primary break is executed by our three perimeter players. We teach them that every time we gain possession to sprint to their respective lanes to create the proper offensive spacing. The middle lane is left open for the point guard, who directs the break, and the post and center, who are usually the slowest players, who serve as defenders in case there is a turnover. As 1 crosses half court our primary break becomes a 3-on-1; or 3-on-2 situation with the point guard becoming the third offensive player.
2, after receiving the pass in the attacking area, drives to the basket until he has good defensive resistance. At this point he passes out to the point guard at the top of the three-second lane. When 1 approaches the three- point area he should stop, and this will create space for 4 and 5 cutting to the basket, but also to be in the best position for the quick reverse pass to 3 for a possible two or three- point shot (diagr.3). If the up defender X1 comes out to far to contest the reverse pass from 2 to 1, then 3 must read the situation and cuts towards the basket, and the 3-on-2 situation becomes a 2-on-1 break. As 1 receives the ball, he swings the ball to 3 for a wide open jump shot. On occasion, 1 can take the jump shot, or penetrate, depending on the conditions of the game (time, score, defensive positioning).
4-ON-2 / 4-ON-3 SITUATIONS
4-on-2 or 4-on-3 fast break situations are very rare. Usually the forth and fifth players become involved during the secondary break when these possibilities occur. We want our forth and fifth players to go to the same positions as in our secondary break. The forth player (5 in diagr. 4) cuts down the lane to the basket looking for a pass for a lay-up, or to pivot when he gets to the basket to pin a possible defender for a post up basket and possible three-point play with a foul. If he doesn’t receive the ball in the lane, he should post up on the ball side. If any of the respective players are slow in their defensive transition, with good intelligent ball movement we hope to get: (a) an open player for an uncontested high percentage shot; or (b) a defensive mismatch giving us a physical advantage.
2 has advanced the ball to the side scoring area. The defense has slowed the fast break as 5 beats his defensive player to the lane looking for a quick return pass for a lay up. If X3, who is the weak side defender, attempts to help we want 5 to post him up right under the basket taking advantage of a mismatch situation. If he does not receive the ball, then he goes to the ball side low post position.
THE SECONDARY BREAK
If the initial primary break does not produce a good high percentage scoring possibility, we want the players to continue moving and our secondary break begins. It is very important not to stop the action after our initial break, unless the time, score, or game conditions determine otherwise. Sometimes our offensive players fail to execute our primary break properly, or the defense does a good job in transition getting enough players back in time to stop our initial attack. We feel that if we continue to run, and just one defensive player is slow getting back, or if the defense is not set, then we should be able to find the open offensive player. Also, it will be easier to execute player and ball movement.
As stated earlier, the first interior player who crosses the half court line should cut directly to the basket looking for a quick pass for a possible lay- up. You would be surprised by how many easy opportunities we get by a lay-up, or offensive rebound by just running the floor. If he doesn’t receive the ball he should go to the block on the ball side and post up his defensive player looking for the ball. He can also screen the ball handler’s defender in the event the defense over plays the reverse pass from 2 to 1 and play a two-man game with the wing (diagr. 5 and 6).
5 receives the pass from perimeter player 2 in the low post. 5 looks to score if possible. If not, he must read the situation of his teammates movement. After the pass, 2 reads the defensive situation and he can cut to the basket, looking for a quick return pass, then clearing to the opposite side corner if he doesn’t receive the ball. 2 can slide to the corner for a jump shot if his defensive player double-teams the low post 5. 2 can pick away for 1, who can replace him at the wing, looking for a jump shot coming off the screen. Any of these options are possible depending on what the defense gives us. We just don’t want 2 to stay in place, if he passes inside.
5 can come out to set a on the ball screen for perimeter player 2. This option helps us especially if defender X1 pressures the reverse pass to the point guard 1 (diagr.6). Also, if we want to get the ball inside to 5, this option creates movement and, sometimes, a defensive mismatch if there is a switch of the defensive players on the screen. If 2 drives in the middle we like the other perimeter players 1 and 3 to slide to create space and position for a possible outside uncontested shot if there is defensive help.
The last player who crosses half court, 4, the offensive trailer, has several options as he enters the attack area. The majority of the time we would like for him to stop at the side high post opposite 5, the center. He can also continue to the opposite low post, or set an on the ball pick, depending on the situation. He must read the offensive ball position, and adapt, as he is the last player to enter the offense. These are the options:
- 4 enters the attack area with the ball on the opposite side attack area. He can stop at the side high post, or continue to the opposite low post looking for a pass if he beats his man to these areas (diagr. 7).
- 4 enters the attack area with the ball this time in the center of the attack area. He stops and sets an on the ball pick for 1. He could also stop at the high or low post (diagr. 8).
- 4 enters the attack area and this time and finds the ball in his side attack area. He can stop at the high post, low post, or set an on the ball pick for 3 (diagr. 9).
Once the five offensive players have entered the attack area, our rapid offense continues until there has been ball reversal from one side of the court to the other, constantly looking for the open player for the good open high percentage shot. When the ball swings to the point guard 1, he can pass to the post and split with 3, screening X3, the perimeter defensive player (diagr. 10). Or, 1 can swing the ball to 3, who looks for an uncontested shot; or pass inside to high post 4 cutting to the basket (diagr. 11). The last option is for 1 to hold the ball, and we go right into our set offense, without any break in the rhythm of our offensive play. Our point guard reads the situation and determines when to stop our secondary break.
1 passes to high post and screens away for 3. If there is a switch on the screen, 1 rolls to the basket. 5 posts up in the lane for a possible hi- gh-low post pass from 4. 4 can also look for his shot (diagr. 10).
This time 1 swings the ball to 3, who looks for an uncontested shot, or pass inside to high post 4 cutting to the basket. 4 can also stay on high post with this pass, and 5 can cut to the ball side low post (diagr.11).
From a set offense we like to have a lot of player movement to limit the “help” possibilities of the defense. All of this trying to keep it simple while constantly having both “quick hitter” and ball control possibilities in our set offence.
We use several man-to-man plays out of a one-four set offensive pattern. This formation gives us the proper spacing, floor balance, rebound positioning to satisfy our needs. The following play we call “telephone” and it provides the possibility to constantly have post play, three-point possibilities, and proper spacing for isolation and one-on-one play. It is important for our players to read the defensive situation to take advantage of what the defense gives us.
The basic line up is one-four with two high posts, 4 and 5, positioned at the corners of the foul lane, two wings, 2 and 3, positioned at the foul line extended and 1 the point guard.
The play starts with 1 dribbling to either side, in this case the left side, towards the wing 2. The wing 2 cuts to the basket looking for a quick pass from 1 on his back door cut. If we have a speed advantage over 2’s defender, we look for a bounce pass to 2 going to the basket (diagr. 12). If we have an athletic advantage with 2’s defender we can look for the lob pass. We can also post up 2, if we want to create an isolation situation with his respective defensive player when 2 gets to the lane area. At the same time, 3 cuts over the top of the key, using staggered picks set by the high posts 4 and 5 to replace 2 in the wing area.
If 1 does not pass to 2 going to the basket, he passes to 3 in the wing area, and cuts to the opposite side of the court. Upon the reception of the ball, 3 faces the basket looking for shot. High post 4 sets a screen on 5’s defender, as 5 cuts to low post looking for the ball. 2 continues his cut to the weak side low post (diagr. 13). If 4 and 5’s defenders switch their defensive assignments on the pick, 4 steps back to the ball to receive the pass looking for a post shot, or high-low, two-man game with 5.
1 continues his cut to form a double screen with high post 4 at the foul line area. 2 cuts off the double screen, looking for a possible three-point shot, while 5 is positioning low on the strong side (diagr. 14). At this point we are looking to get the ball inside for a two- point possibility, or a possible three-point shot by 2 at the top of the key. As 2 passes the screen, 1 cuts underneath 4 to the wing area.
If 2 does not take his shot, he reverses the ball to 1 in the wing area, while 4 cuts low looking to post up his defender. 1 can look for his shot, or pass to 4 posting up (diagr. 15). 5 looks to position for possible weak side rebound, 3 slides to the corner spotting up, and 2 slides opposite his pass also spotting up.
With the ball in the wing area, 1 can play a two-man game with 4, if he does not shoot, or pass inside. If there is not a shot, he looks to pass to 3 coming off a staggered screen set by 5 and 2 at the top of the three-second lane (diagr. 16).
1 passes to 3 at the top of the three-second lane as 3 looks for his shot. 5 and 4 go to the lane, looking for offensive rebounding position, and 2 slides to the wing area (diagr. 17).
3 swings the ball to 2 and cuts away to the opposite side. 2, when he receives the ball, can look for his shot, or pass inside to 5 posting up, or play the two-man game with 5 (diagr. 18). 4 positions for a possible offensive rebound while 1 spots up in the corner(the same movement as diagr. 4, but the opposite side).
At this point we have the same options as diagr. 5, but on the opposite side of the floor with 1 coming off the staggered screen set by 3 and 4 (diagr. 19).
We fell that this play gives to all three of our perimeter players a chance to shoot the three-point shot, or run a two-man on the ball pick-and-roll situation with the low post. It also gives our players a chance to play one-on-one, while spotting up on the weak side when and if there is defensive help. Also, we have good general floor balance, and weak side rebounding positioning. It becomes a continuous play action if we want to have ball possession while constantly having low post, and perimeter threats. It is important that our players read the defensive situations, and it has brought us a great deal of success not only against man to man defenses, but mixed defenses (box and one, triangle-and-two, etc.), as well.