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01 Ноября 2004 Журнал "FIBA Assist Magazine"

Виды спорта: Баскетбол

Рубрики: Профессиональный спорт

Автор: Spahija Neven

Transition Offense

Transition Offense

Transition Offense

Neven Spahija coached Cibona Zagreb (Croatia), Krka Novo Mesto (Slovenia), Saratov (Russia), and now Roseto (Italy). He was coach of the Croatian Under 22 national team, which won a silver medal at the FIBA U22 World Championship in Japan. He currently is head coach of the Croatian National men’s team. His Cibona team won two Croatian club titles, while Krka Novo Mesto won one Slovenian league title.

Modern basketball cannot be seriously analyzed without paying special attention to the transition offense. Every coach, at least during one part of his daily practice, covers the fast break, transition offense or quick-hitters offense. All these words symbolize one common goal that every modern and successful team is trying to achieve: scoring as many easy points as possible during the game.

There is one very important technical aspect that puts even more importance on the transition offense, and that is the new 24-second shot clock. When this rule was first adopted, the time for offense decreased by six seconds, which gave the defense a greater chance to succeed. Teams that put a lot of emphasis on transition defense have become a real threat to the opponents that depended exclusively on a set offense.

Therefore, the importance of quality and effective transition offense started to play a crucial role in modern basketball. The coaches now put countless hours in practicing this transition offense, and this phase of the game. This phase occurs when the defense turns into offense. This phase becomes a crucial factor in determination of the success of team transition defense and/or offense. The team that accepts and learns how to quickly transform from one phase of the game to another is the team that has a chance to become what coaches call “a good overall team.” Watching today’s basketball, it’s possible to notice that there are not a lot of easy baskets that are being scored during the game. The reason for this is that there are players that possess great athletic ability and through their athleticism, they manage to completely dominate the game. There are teams that have players that are capable of putting pressure on the ball at three quarters or even on the full court. That kind of energetic and athletic defense makes is really hard for a slower or more passive offense to function.

This is another reason why we are now experiencing the evolution of the transition offense and a quality fast break. Due to all reasons mentioned above, coaches have started to use all means necessary to bring their transition offense to perfection.

I would like to now detail one of the transition offenses and all of its possible options. It is important to notice that there are plenty of options that come out of this set, but I will offer some of which I most frequently use with teams that I coach. Without any special introduction, it is important to mention that every transition offense or fast break starts with a successful defense. After our team fulfills all the defensive requirements necessary to limit the offense, starting a potential fast break is that much easier, quicker, and effective. There are several defensive criteria that we always emphasize to our teams:

  • Strong ball pressure.
  • Stopping the easy ball circulation.
  • Putting constant pressure on the shot and not allowing easy shot selection.
  • Boxing-out.
  • Control of the defensive side of the ball.
  • Outlet pass after the control of the defensive rebound.

These factors are crucial and later lead to the successful fast break situation. Other situations that can lead to a successful fast break are free-throw situations or even after the opposing team scores a basket (the so called quick-entry situation if the team that has just scored a basket did not recover well or if they were slow running back on defense). The classic outlet pass of the fast break occurs when the big man (4 or 5) takes the ball out-ofbounds. At that time, the other big man runs the floor as the so-called “first trailer.” The small forward and the off-guard are running wide on both sides of the court, and the point guard is responsible for bringing the ball up the court. After the ball is inbounded, the inbounder comes down the court as a “second trailer” (diagr. 1):

  • Post player, 5, takes the ball out-of-bounds, and passes to the point guard, 1.
  • Point guard is moving to free himself to receive the outlet pass.
  • Off-guard, 2, and small forward, 3, run in the lateral lanes.
  • Power forward, 4, runs as a first trailer.


After the initial pass, the post player runs down the court as a second trailer, behind the point guard and the power forward (diagr. 2). Usually the point guard, after he catches the ball, can pass directly to the forward, without a dribble or after a couple of dribbles. The forward passes to the off-guard or a small forward sprinting down the court on both lateral lanes. These two players can get open for a pass using two classic techniques:

- A regular “V-cut”.
- Crossing, switching sides by running near the baseline.

Both of these techniques are shown in diagr. 2.

  • The off-guard is getting open to receive the ball, using a V-cut technique.
  • The point guard passes to the off-guard.
  • The point guard clears the side by moving toward the baseline.
  • The power forward cuts to the ball side.
  • The small forward and the post fill the lanes.


Here are two possible options.

a. If the defense is out of balance on the side of the power forward on the low post, then the pass goes from the off-guard to the power forward.

b. If we decide not to pass the ball down to the low post, then the small forward cuts to the ball, and post player fills the lane (diagr. 3).


In diagr. 4, we describe the use of the screen (big player for small player), and the importance of a cut to the ball motion.

  • The pass goes from the small forward to the post player.
  • The power forward sets a back screen on the off-guard.
  • The off-guard tries to cut to the basket.
  • The pass goes from the post player to the off-guard, if he is open.


I will now describe how players with sound fundamentals can take advantage of the defensive weaknesses, mistakes, or miss- matches. They must read the defense and use one of the following options.

  • If the defender of the power forward bumps the off-guard on his cut to the basket on the outside, than the power forward, who sets the screen, has to read the situation: he must makes a strong step to get in the front of the defender and receive the ball from the post (diagr. 5).
  • If the defense does not bump the offensive player to stop the cut, the power forward (after he set the screen) has to read the situation, and use the pop-out move on the outside. He has to be ready to receive a pass and make a jump shot (diagr. 6).
  • After a pass from the small forward to the post, the post fakes a hand-off pass between the small forward and himself, and then executes a hand-off pass between himself and the guard. Finally, the small forward cuts to the basket (diagr. 7).


This phase of the fastbreak offense offers several options.

  • If the defender guarding the small forward follows him behind, then the post can pass to the small forward for the lay-up (diagr. 8).
  • If the defender guarding the post with the ball goes for the bump, or if he decides to help on the cut of the small forward, the post can read the situation and go the basket himself (diagr. 9).
  • If the defense denies the cut and prevents the small forward to go for the hand-off pass, then the post and small forward have excellent opportunities to make a back-door play (diagr. 10).
  • If the defender follows the point guard closely behind, he has an opportunity to make one strong dribble, right after the hand-off pass, gaining an advantage and going to the basket (diagr. 11).
  • There are also screens set by the small forward, the power forward, and the post for the off-guard. At this time, the off-guard has the option of deciding which side to come out on, either after a single screen set by the power forward, or after a double screen set by the small forward and the post on the other side (diagr. 12).

The point guard passes to the off-guard or to the small forward for a shot or penetration. This is an entry pass into the last phase of the offense (diagr. 13).


Here are just few possible endings for this offensive motion (diagr. 14).

  • The ball is passed from the off-guard to the post.
  • The power forward fills the high post position.
  • After the pass, the off-guard clears the side by setting the screen for the point guard.
  • The point guard is open on the strong side for an eventual back pass (from 5 to 1).
  • The small forward keeps good offensive spacing.
  • The post plays one-on-one.
  • There is the possibility of the pass for an open shot by the point guard or a similar pass and shot by the power forward (diagr. 15).

This is just one of the many examples of a fastbreak offense. Modern and successful basketball teams must have this weapon in their offensive arsenal. A fast and dynamic up-tempo style of basketball is what makes this game interesting and what brings fans to the arenas.

We, as coaches, have a great responsibility on our shoulders: we have to respect all aspects of this great game but, at the same time, we have to keep the game developing into right direction. Gone are the days of the slow, controlled offense game. Today the game is dominated by teams that can run, that can defend, and have great offensive potential. We have to do our best and teach the methods of modern basketball to the teams that we coach.

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