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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Core Beliefs on Transition

"Good artists borrow; great artists steal." - Picasso

Success in basketball often correlates with the capacity to apply and to withstand pressure. And the transition game (fast break, running game) pressures defenses to get back, to communicate, to shape up, and to defend both the basket and perimeter, and can defeat zone defense.

What core concepts belong to transition? What are the defense's goals and how can we overcome them? 

Transition means having a commitment to running (and superb conditioning), to scoring in transition, and acceptance of the 'lack of control' (team independence) during transition. There may be a trade off between higher risk (occasional errant passes) in return for higher reward (layups). Transition teams need a transition mentality. 

Fastbreak efficiency (per possession) 2015-2016 NBA season. There is an association between fastbreak efficiency and offensive efficiency, but you see teams with good offensive efficiency (San Antonio, LA Clippers, and Cleveland) that are not strong fast break teams. 

NBA Offensive efficiency (2015-2016 season). 

The defense wants to deny the 'easy' shots meaning layups and, in today's world, uncontested threes. That means to delay, to deny penetration, and to react as quickly as possible to the open perimeter shooter. They would like to force the offense to make more passes to allow the transition defense to get back into the fight. For zone teams, that also means to set up their defense as quickly and completely as possible.

You need to match your team's personnel and personality with your offensive philosophy. 

In general, you might divide the fast break into initiation, mid-break, and finishing. Some might also add 'early offense' out of transition, but I don't choose to do so. 

You can break off the miss, off turnovers/steals, and after scores (made baskets and free throws). 

Initiation: zone defenses are well-primed to initiate the break, generally out of 'triangle' rebound, no break. I favor getting the outlet pass somewhere between the foul line and hash. Two guard front zones have two players in ideal locations to break. 

I teach guards to receive the ball with their backs to the sideline (so they can see the court), with the goal of 1) pivoting on the lead foot and 2) getting the next pass to midcourt. Just as the defense wants to beat their man to midcourt, the offense should have the symmetrical goal. 

Mid-break. Spacing stresses the defense. In the "Laker 'Showtime' break", wings were taught to run with their outside foot at the sideline. 

Whenever possible, advance the break from the middle, allowing the ballhandler choice to attack either side. We teach the ballhandler to 'open the side' of the best shooter. If the better shooter is on the left, then the ballhandler would drift slightly right. In the 3-on-2 situation, this should afford the shooter more space. 

Finishing: With a 3-on-2 attack, I teach the priority for the wing recipient as 1) open perimeter shot, 2) touch pass for layup, and 3) upfake and drive against the overaggressive closeout. I don't teach wings to 'cross' under the basket. I'd rather space them in the corners and run early offense from there (often horns or motion options). 

I cannot improve on Herb Brown's Preparing for Special Situations and STEAL directly some of his principles!

1) Ballhandlers protect, push, and keep the dribble in front to prevent the steal.
2) Look ahead. 
3) Pass ahead. 
4) Teams that only run on misses are vulnerable because they don't expect opponents to run on makes.
5) Decide on a designated inbounder versus nearest big man after a make. 
6) A wing crossing on the baseline can curl, post, go strongside corner, upblock the high post in UCLA action, or diagonally screen the trailer. 
7) Consider inbounding from the left side as teams expect the opposite. 
8) Run wide and spread the defense. (If I had a dollar for every time I've yelled "run wide", I could probably retire.)
9) The middle man should step toward the elbow in the direction of the pass to make room for the trailer basket cutting. 
10) Consider the first big man run middle to get post position in the middle of the lane (Kevin Eastman's "homeowner" concept). 

Offensively, our success correlates with our ability to score in transition. Defensively, as a "press team" we sacrifice occasional fast breaks in return for points off defense. 

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