As you get deeper into the playoffs, you’ll certainly find yourself coming up against better defensive teams. They’ve studied your footage, drawn up a defensive game plan to stop that crazy offense you run, and are ready to play. You need to be ready too. Here are some thoughts to tweak your Read and React Offense to attack improved defenses.

A good defensive team cannot be broken down with straight-forward-one-dimensional attacks. They are what I would call a Level 2 Defensive team. They can guard the ball (Level 1) and they can help and rotate effectively (Level 2). The best might even be Level 3 – able to guard “situations” that demand switching and rotating more than once.

I would challenge these teams to guard multiple layers of the Read & React. Here’s where you could tie this concept to a “call” by the coaches. (It also allows you to practice it.)

GREEN (for Go!): Pass & Cut as hard and as fast as possible. Try to avoid contact with your defender. You might score on a give-and-go, but the real goal is to create driving opportunities. When the drive occurs, Circle Movement and Post Slides must be demanded. This will make the defense guard the North-South basket cuts, maintain ball-side/weak-side positions, and help and rotate on a drive. That’s a tall order.

BLUE (for bruises): Use as many screens as possible with the following layers: Back Screens, Post Screens, Power Dribble, Ball Screen. This creates multiple “situations” for the defensive team. Perhaps they can guard one, but can they guard several in a row? Of course, Back Screens and Post Screens will only occur if there’s lots of passing and cutting and changing sides of the floor.

RED (stop in the Post): Use a lot of Dribble-Ats to send cutters to the basket. If no one is in the post, then the cutter turns back and posts up. If a player is in the post on the weak-side, then the cutter screens for the post. If the post is ball-side, then the post screens for the cutter and shapes up. Try to feed the post and, of course, if the post feed is successful, the passer must choose a cut.

First of all, the Dribble-At makes everyone on the perimeter change positions (I’m thinking about the defense). Then, while the defense is changing their defensive positions (denial, help, one pass away, two passes away, etc), an action takes place in the post. Can the defense guard this situation in the post in the middle of changing their perimeter defensive positions?

GOLD (two in a rows): Combine two actions in a row before anyone has a green light to shoot: Two Pin & Skips in a row; Two Dribble Attacks and Pitches in a row; Two Feed the Post & Cuts in a row; Two Back Screens in a row; Two Dribble-Ats in a row. Again, you’re challenging the defense to deal with two defensive situations back to back. Good teams can guard one, but it stretches them to guard two.

I could go on with stuff like this, but you can probably come up with combinations that you like. And, if you have any, let us know in the comments.

By the way, if you use these calls in practice, they can also work as a diagnostic tool for evaluating your own defensive weaknesses.


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  1. Mike says:

    Great stuff Rick! In a certain way this primes the mental model “pump” of the players without shackling them to plays (the dreaded “p” word).

    Often times my team gets into what I call “pass and cut mode” where we forget about all of the other tools especially north/south penetration. To “remind” my players of what penetrating feels like I will call either 32 Short or 32 High. In 32 Short we preset two post players in the short corners. The guard will pass to the wing and make a “short cut” (aka corner) to the side of the pass. The wing must penetrate off of the cutter’s butt and towards the basket. Since we preset the posts to the short corners the penetrator is not concerned about the timing of the post slides. He is free to read the post defenders or focus on the basket.

    In 32 High (looks like a 1-4 set) we preset the post players to the 45 and 90 degree windows. When the wing receives the pass from the point he must attempt baseline penetration. The guard follows his pass to the safety valve position and the opposite wing slides down to the natural pitch position. Again, no concern about the timing of the post slides due to the preset so the penetrator is free to read or focus on finishing.

    The next problem I need to resolve is “fill out mode” after a pass and cut. If I happen to give a “backscreen your way out” reminder they will completely forget about filling out to an open space and everyone will backscreen. Have any colors for this? :) I would look forward to a Next Best Action discussion. Thanks!

  2. Hunt says:

    I just wrapped up my first season with the read and react. We ran it from a five-out look, and often got in to this pass and cut rut as well. One reason we were not getting open as much was because of the defense, in anticipation of our cuts, played our non-shooters very softly. I instituted a call of “PC”, where I might call something like “44-PC”. This would tell #44 to “post-cut”, which is the term that we use to describe a basket cut with a plant and reverse pivot to quickly post up on a soft defender. This would often give us a post touch, and that would trigger a different reaction in the defense, leaving a nice Laker Cut, a nice post move and score, or even a kick-out to someone in the circle movement.