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Basketball Concepts and Techniques, Selecting an Offense

I found this article while searching the internet one night in January, 2000. The following excerpt is from the article I thought was written by Kenneth Lindsay. Actually the article was taken nearly verbatim from the book, "Basketball Concepts and Techniques" by Bob Cousy and Frank Power, Jr., published by Allyn and Bacon, Inc, Boston, MA in 1970.

Winning offenses are many and varied as there are winning coaches. To be successful, any offense must create high-percentage scoring situations from the basic offensive set and secondary options while maintaining adequate rebound coverage and defensive balance. Those involved in the primary aspect must attack the defense to immobilize it. Meanwhile, the other players must use decoying tactics to divert their opponent's attention away from the focal point of attack. At the same time, they must be prepared to carry out their other team functions of rebounding, defensive balance, secondary shooting, etc.

Many different approaches to offense may be used. Each should be carefully thought out and skillfully taught, based on talents of available players who have been, or are being, instructed in the individual fundamentals.

Selecting An Offense

The coach chooses the offense to be used by his team, basing his decision on his own philosophy and his player's abilities. He should adapt the good parts of any system to his own philosophy, striving for maximum efficiency within the framework of the total abilities of the players involved.

Seldom do all players on a starting team possess similar abilities; therefore, the coach should use the positive attributes of each into his offensive planning. He must blend his player's talents as a team.

At the same time, he must take measures to protect players who lack talent in certain areas. He should assign individual duties that best utilize the personal abilities of each player. Good ball handlers should handle the ball most of the time, and good cutters should be exploited. The best rebounders should be in position to rebound, and good shooters should be constantly screened for by knowledgeable teammates.

The types of shots each player takes should be determined by his basic shooting ability. Perfection of the offense comes from constant practice of correct techniques. This is accomplished, first, in small groups of two or three, then in team groups using drills incorporating various aspects of the team offense. Speed, timing, and deception of movement are important factors in the effectiveness of the offense.

A coach should be learning constantly. He should read books and magazines on basketball. He should attend clinics and swap ideas with other coaches, integrating into his own offense any new tactics that are suitable for his personnel. Offenses are seldom entirely new. Chances are that one used ten years from now, will be an adaptation of something that was in common use five years ago.

The coach should know his material before installing a system. If he is new and doesn't know his material, his pre-season practice will be essential in determining the system.

The success of any system is due more to the personnel than to the coach. If it is the wrong system, regardless of the coach's ability, it cannot succeed. For example, if a coach has slow players, they cannot fast break effectively. If he has tall, uncoordinated players, he cannot use a four or five man weave efficiently.

As a rule, coaches should not change their offense in mid-stream. When change is essential, they should adapt from the existing structure so that the change will not be too radical. All offenses should be adaptable for use against the three types of defense: man-to-man, zone, and combination.


While coaches should try to have the best combination of personnel as quickly as possible, they should not be too hasty in their selection. It is best to keep players on their toes and unsure of their position for a while so as to obtain maximum potential from each man.

The best teams have set starting combinations; therefore, coaches should practice their five best players together as a unit as soon as their superior ability is evident. The more compatible the players are off the court, the better they will function on the court. Through bull sessions, they will obtain a better understanding of their individual characteristics.

Necessary changes must be made decisively. The team will probably know before the coach that changes should be made. Coaches normally need two or three replacements at most. He will need changes in the center position, in the forward position, and in the guard position. If there are only two replacements, the change might be to a forward-center combination or a guard-forward combination. Starters may be moved to new positions, but it is not advisable.

Replacements must have as much practice time and game time as possible. This allows them to coordinate their movements with those of the starters. Coaches should never wait until pressure situations to insert a first-line sub.

Type of Offense

There are two types of offense: free-lance and controlled. In a free-lance type of offense, players make their own offense, depending on the defensive deployment and the ability of the opponents. Free-lance is not as free or uncontrolled as the term implies, because all two-on-two and three-on-three plays should be drilled completely.

Control basketball is a system in which a team maintains control of the ball until one player is in an unguarded high-percentage area. Any basic system can be used to implement a control-type of basketball.

There are several basic offensive systems that teams may use in their attempt to obtain high-percentage shots. All must fall into one of the following classifications, based on the position of the offensive players in relation to the basket and to the defensive players guarding them.

1.Five Offensive Players Outside.

If five offensive players are eighteen to twenty feet from the basket, all defensive players are closer to the basket than the closest offensive player. Offenses that begin from this structure are a three-two wide and a five-man weave.

2.Four Offensive Players Outside and One Inside.

Four offensive players are farther out than their four opponents, and one player is nearer the basket. Normally, this is a four-man weave system or a single pivot type of offense in which the corner men are approximately eighteen or nineteen feet from the basket.

3.Three Offensive Players Outside and Two Inside.

Three offenses start from this structure.

1.A double pivot places the two larger men closer to the basket than the other three. A three-two offense may have three front men moving while the two inside men work a buddy-system in closer to the basket.

2.A one-three-one offense uses a tandem pivot, one high and one low.

3.An overload offense overloads one side of the court, passing the ball to the side that has only one player and having a teammate away from the ball cut off a post man toward the ball.

4.Two Offensive Players Outside and Three Inside.

This is a standard two-three offense in which the forwards are within eighteen feet of the basket.

5.One Offensive Player Outside and Four Inside.

Considering the type of defenses used today, this is a very effective primary offense. Designated the stack offense, it has four players in close to the basket.

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