I love the corner cutter in a 5 OUT when the wing drives baseline. There, I said it. It’s out there and it feels so good to get that off my chest.

Why do I love him?

Well, mainly because he is the underdog. He is the most harassed cutter in the entire Read & React system, yet he continues to soldier on, following the Circle Movement principle with a blatant disregard for what outsiders might think of him.

“You’ll clog the middle!”, they yell.

“You won’t make it to the other side in time!”

“You’ll keep the penetrator from getting to the rim, you selfish…”

But, those words of discouragement don’t even phase him. He just Circle Moves like he’s been trained to. Sometimes he’s open; sometimes not, but he knows deep down that he’s doing what’s best for the big picture.

Nicely done, corner cutter in a 5 OUT when the wing drives baseline. Nicely done.

Ok, that’s over. I just had to have a little fun with this issue. In reality, this is probably the most discussed “problem” in the Read and React. We’ve had emails about it, I’ve seen it in forums, coaches ask about it in clinics and I finally want to put it to bed (at least, for now).

The goal of this post is to look at what aspects of this action are seen as problems and examine all the proposed solutions. From there, it’s really up to you.

The Perceived Problem (Yes, I said, perceived)

First, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page by explaining the situation.

In the Circle Movement Dribble Penetration layer, the broad rule is this: if a player drives right, his teammates Circle Move one spot to the right. If a player drives left, the other players Circle Move one spot to the left.

Now, in a 5 OUT, if the wing (player 2 in the diagram) drives towards the baseline, the remaining players should Circle Move one spot to the right. This means that the corner (player 5 in the diagram) must run from corner to corner.

Some coaches find that there is not enough space for both of those players (2 & 5) to coexist. They’ve either seen this in practice or it doesn’t make sense on paper. But, ultimately, that’s the issue.

2 Solutions: 3 Crutches

Over the past 3 years, we’ve come across 5 options for dealing with the corner cutter when the wing drives baseline. In reality, though, there’s 2 solutions and 3 crutches.


  1. Train the habit more. I like this one because it sounds so smug, but this really is your best option.
  2. Discuss Intelligent Drives with your team.

Train the Habit More

The main reason why coaches struggle with the corner cutter is that they don’t give it enough training time. They’ll put in Circle Movement, run it through in practice, and inevitably the wing will drive baseline and the cutter won’t make it through in time.

That is not the time to assume the corner cutter is flawed and the system doesn’t work. It doesn’t work yet. Why? Because your players haven’t been trained to see that first dribble and react instantly by habit. They are still thinking about cutting. This is not a comprehension problem, it is a muscle memory problem. And the only solution is more training.

If the cutter leaves too late, the cut won’t work. If the cutter doesn’t cut with a purpose, the cut won’t work. Both of these problems can be solved with more training (or, maybe with a sub 🙂 ).

Intelligent Drives

Just because the ball handler has the freedom to do anything he wants in the Read & React doesn’t mean every action is an intelligent one. There may be no better example than the corner cutter.

Take a look at the spacing in the diagram. With 2 above the Free Throw line extended, there’s plenty of space for the ball to get to the rim and for the corner cutter to get through the lane without clogging things up.

In fact, with this spacing, a determined North-South drive, and a hard corner cut, we are forcing x5 to make a difficult decision: help on the drive and leave 5 open for the dish or stay with 5 on the cut and leave x2 without any help. My money is on the offense either way.

Now, look at this diagram. If 2 catches the ball below the Free Throw line extended, the spacing gets questionable. x5 is only one step away from helping and the spacing will probably be too tight for an effective dish to a cutting 5. If 2 drives baseline in this situation, he will most likely get stopped and end up passing to the Safety Valve. The offense will not implode if this happens, but the actions will not have achieved much.

This is a situation where you should tell your players that if the spacing is not there, the baseline drive from the wing position is not a viable option.


A crutch is a tool used to assist you on your way to mastery. For some teams, you’ll never need a crutch. For others, you’ll use it for the first month or the first year before letting it go. And, for other teams, you’ll always use the crutch. Any of those choices are ok. You know your team better than we ever could. You know what they are capable of and where you should concentrate your time.

By the way, each of the following options violates the Circle Movement habit (even if it’s just a little bit) that your players already know. This means that they’ll have to think and thinking slows reaction time. That’s why these are crutches in my book and not solutions.

  1. Apply the Baseline Drive rules to this scenario.
  2. Cutter remains in the corner during the drive. This is similar to #2.
  3. Corner cuts baseline before the drive. There are two options for this.

Crutch #1: Apply Baseline Drive Rules to the Wing Drive Baseline

Baseline Drives is another layer that can be taught in conjunction with Circle Movement. A Baseline Drive in the Read & React is defined as a drive around a defender toward the baseline when there are no other offensive players between the penetrator and the baseline. When this happens, the non-driving players must fill four areas: Natural Pitch, 45°, 90°, and Safety Valve. (On the diagram, these areas are indicated by the black dots.)

If these rules are applied to the Wing Drive Baseline situation, then 5 would stay in the corner (no cut at all) as the Safety Valve, 4 would stay in the corner as the Natural Pitch, and 1 and 3 would shorten their Circle Movement to fill the 90° and 45° areas respectively.

The advantage of this option is that if you have already put in the Baseline Drive layer, then your players are already familiar with these habits, you just have to train them that these rules apply to any drive to the baseline, regardless from which spot it originated.

Now, remember that situation from the Intelligent Drives section where the corner cut forces x5 to make a difficult, no-win decision? That’s what you lose by keeping the 5 as the Safety Valve rather than having him cut.

Plus, you lose the 5-player movement since two of your players (those in the corners) are standing still.

I will warn you of this: if you go this route, it will most likely be a permanent decision. Once you’ve taught your players that all Baseline Drives are treated the same, it will be extremely difficult to unteach that habit.

Crutch #2: Cutter Remains in the Corner

This is similar to Crutch #2, but instead of having the entire team treat the drive like a Baseline Drive, you just instruct the ball-side corner to remain in the corner during the drive. Everyone else should Circle Move as normal.

The sacrifice is the same as that for the Baseline Drive adjustment. You don’t put pressure on 5’s defender, who is freed up to help on the drive. Of course, if 5 can shoot the 3, then x5 still has to make a decision, but there is still an opportunity to help and recover before the shot.

But, the real problem with this option is that it teaches the corner player a habit that is not taught anywhere else in the system. Standing in the corner violates the Circle Movement habit and again forces that player to think and make a decision, “Do I cut or do I stay?” This may slow his reaction time down in a situation when he’s not in the corner or when the wing drives middle and the answer is, “Circle Move!”.

Clearly, teams and players with higher basketball IQs may not find a problem with this inconsistency, but it may wreak havoc on a younger or more inexperienced team.

Crutch #3: Corner Cuts Baseline Before the Drive

In this option, the corner cuts baseline prior to the drive from the wing. This can happen on a variety of cues, but the two that come up most frequently are:

Of these, I prefer the wing waving the corner through. This should only be done, however, if the wing really wants to drive baseline – maybe that’s his strong hand or maybe he sees something in the defense that he can exploit. Regardless, this wave through should be done for a reason, not just because coach said it was ok.

If this cut before the drive is done immediately after the wing catches the ball or if it is done after a negligent wave through, the ball handler loses all of his East-West options toward that corner – pass, power dribble, speed dribble. And, if the wing ends up driving middle instead, he is left with no Safety Valve. That seems a little too limiting to me.

Also, with the wave through, you aren’t really violating any read habits since in this situation the corner isn’t reacting to the ball, he’s reacting to a teammate’s signal. I mean, I don’t really care what offense you are running, if a teammate is looking at you and waving his hand to go away, you should defer to that decision. That’s just common sense.

Can’t the Cutter Stop in the Short Corner?

For the specific situation that we are dealing with in this post (5 OUT, wing drives baseline), I don’t see stopping in the short corner as a viable option. Think about it, the ball-side short corner is extremely close to where the penetrator is heading. The cutter will be bringing his defender to the ball, then stop being a threat to the goal which will effectively let the defender help without consequences.

Now, let me be clear because the short corner is a viable crutch for the baseline cutter for almost any other penetration:

Why is it ok for these drives, but not when the wing drives baseline?

Good question.

Since the short corner is a Post Slide spot, let’s look at it from a 4 OUT perspective.

The Basic Post Slide layer states that if penetration comes above the post, the post must slide down into the short corner. Conversely, if penetration comes below the post, the post must slide up the lane to the elbow.

If a corner drives middle, a wing drives middle, or the point drives, the penetration is coming from above the post; therefore, the post must slide to the short corner. That means the short corner is a familiar Read & React spot for any of those drives, even if we remove the post and go back to 5 OUT.

If the wing drives baseline in a 4 OUT, however, the penetration is coming from below the post and he must slide up the lane to the elbow. That means the elbow is the familiar Read & React spot for that drive, not the short corner. So, when we go back to the 5 OUT and the wing drives baseline, not only is the spacing bad for the cutter to stop in the short corner, but it is also puts him in an unfamiliar spot for that particular drive.

So, if you must use the short corner as a crutch for your other drives, don’t use it for the wing drives baseline. It probably won’t work out in your favor.

And if you do use it for your other drives, please remember this. As reaction times speed up, the cutter should be getting farther and farther through the cut before the penetrator reaches the lane until eventually you can throw this crutch away. Or, maybe put it in the attic since that seems to be where all crutches go to die anyway.


The Read & React is an Operating System. How you operate the Read & React will depend on your talent or lack thereof, your opponents, and your own coaching philosophy. These are the things that influence whether you play 3 OUT 2 IN or whether your offense has a screen in every action, or whether you take a shot in the first 7 seconds or whether you use the entire shot clock. These are the things that will also dictate which of the above crutches you will use (if any).

The Read & React allows for flexibility and adaptability, but it doesn’t determine it – you the coach will determine those types of things. Ultimately, you know your players. You know your philosophy. You know your opponents. And every decision you make in how to implement the Read & React should take that knowledge into consideration.

If it were my team, though, I’d skip the crutches and just drill more! What I might lose occasionally by sticking to Circle Movement in this situation, (and I’m not sure that I concede that anything is lost if a team will simply practice it more and emphasize the right spacing), I gain much more due to the simplicity of “one rule for all situations”; when it comes to training players to be decisive and aggressive, less is truly more.

But what about you? Has this action been a problem for you? Have these crutches worked for your team? Have I missed any? Tell us your thoughts Read & React coaches and help those coaches who might be struggling.

13 Responses

  1. We have found the same problem in the 4 out set when the left top guard drives right and pitches to the wing after circle movement. Our rule is if the wing catches the ball below the fee throw line the player in the corner cuts automatically. This helps spacing and rebalances the floor.

  2. We found that, in the five out, the baseline cutter when the wing drives baseline usually takes the longest to learn by habit in circle movement(layer one). However, it is very effective and opens up the driving lanes. As we know in coaching, what we stress eventually happens. Please don’t give up because we noticed that by drilling and repetition, the baseline cutter on the wing drive became very effective.

  3. I’m a little bit confused. I purchased the read and react offense a couple of months ago so I haven’t yet seen it on a court. I thought that all baseline drives require the baseline adjustment regardless of whether it is initiated from the corner or from a wing. On a 5 out the weakside corner on a baseline drive from the wing would have to relocate back to the corner as the natural pitch. Therefore, I would assume that the strongside corner, not knowing whether the drive is a north south drive or a baseline drive when the wing puts the ball on the floor, would begin the circle movement but would have to adjust and relocate back to the corner once it was determined that it was a baseline drive. As the result, the strong side corner would be the safety valve.

    1. Hey Dave,

      A “Baseline Drive” is defined in the R&R as a drive on the baseline side of the defender with no other offensive player between the penetrator and the baseline.

      That means in a 5 OUT, the only players capable of a “Baseline Drive” are those players in the corners. In a 4 OUT or 3 OUT, the two wings are capable of a baseline drive (since the corner spots are vacant).

      So, if the wing drives North-South to the baseline side of the defender in a 5 OUT, the ball-side corner runs to the opposite corner as the Natural Pitch, the weak-side corner Circle Moves one spot to fill the 45 degree window, the weak-side wing Circle Moves one spot to fill the 90 degree window, and the strong-side guard Circle Moves one spot to become the Safety Valve.

      By the way, with enough training, the strong-side corner should know within the first dribble whether the North-South drive is to the right or to the left and instantly react accordingly.

      Hope that helps.

      1. “A “Baseline Drive” is defined in the R&R as a drive on the baseline side of the defender with no other offensive player between the penetrator and the baseline.”

        I was really confused by many diagrams that showed a wing-baseline drive and the opposite corner moving to the opposite wing instead of staying in the corner in a 5-out. This certainly explains why that would be the case.

        Was this stated on the dvd’s?


  4. Scott I am leaving you this message here but it should probally be under the def adjustment one. If i was to run a 4 out 1 in, with the one in being at the high post, similar to Iowa, what defense would that work best against in your opinion? pressure or sagg man?

    1. Hey Coach K,

      I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and I think that it could be equally effective against pressure defense or the sagging man. (How lame is it to answer a question like that?)

      Anyway, here’s what I mean:

      Against a sagging man, your post player could be a permanent Pin Screener and constantly hunt Pin Screening opportunities. All your perimeter players would have to do is line up the screen with the ball and they’re good to go. And, no, you don’t always have to shoot after receiving a skip pass so you don’t necessarily have to have great shooters for the Pin & Skip to work. Just the fact that the defense has to shift so drastically will open up lanes of penetration.

      He could also set a bunch of screens for players cutting through the lane to try to free up cutters as they exit the lane.

      Since a sagging man functions a lot like a zone, your post player could constantly be seeking post position in the gaps. This will force the defense to collapse even further and leave perimeter players open for the shot or to attack a recovering defender.

      Against pressure defense, your post player could set back screens on cutters to help them get open on their way into the lane. You saw this work quite a few times for Iowa. It would also be a good time to set screens for cutters, then shape up and ask for the ball. If he’s a good back-to-the-basket scorer, pressure defense is the perfect time to get him the ball in posting position since there won’t be a lot of help.

      Also, against pressure defense, I would use the Laker cuts a lot. Feed the high post and laker cut. You’ll probably catch the defense off guard at least a few times.

      Generally speaking, though, I would choose my formation based on my personnel rather than the defense. Of course, this personnel and the formation could change with every sub.

      Once I’ve decided that formation, the weapons that I emphasize out of that formation will be dictated by how the defense plays and the strengths and weaknesses of my players.

      Hope that helps – if not let me know and I’ll try again.

    1. Hey Blue,

      Actually, the only time that a player would stay in the corner is in a 5 OUT (since that’s the only formation that the corner spot will be filled on a regular basis).

      In a 3 OUT or 4 OUT baseline drive, the weak-side wing will have to shift from the wing to fill the corner spot. Does that make sense? Let’s use 3 OUT as an example: If the right side wing drives baseline, the two posts slide up (filling 45 and 90 windows), the point Circle Moves right to the Safety Valve, and the left wing must slide down to the Natural Pitch window in the corner.

      Ultimately, the Baseline Drive spots (see the fourth diagram) are the same in any formation. In 5 OUT, the Natural Pitch location is already occupied by the corner and thus that corner player can just stay put, but in 3 OUT or 4 OUT, the weak-side wing must slide to that spot.

      But, let’s be clear, this discussion is separate from the wing drive baseline in a 5 OUT discussed in the post.

      Hope that clears it up,


  5. Thanks for the explanation, but if a right wing players drives baseline in a 5 out I imagine that the corner player right next to him must circle move to the opposite corner and then become the receiver of a natural pitch. I gotta watch the R&R DVD again, it’s been so long.

    1. That’s absolutely right.

      My previous comment to you was referring to the “Baseline Drive” which I defined for Dave as: A “Baseline Drive” is defined in the R&R as a drive on the baseline side of the defender with no other offensive player between the penetrator and the baseline. So, in a 5 OUT, the corner player would stay in the corner only if the ball were driven baseline by the opposite corner. Make sense?

      When the wing drives baseline with a player in the corner, I don’t consider that a “Baseline Drive”, sure he’s driving in the direction of the baseline, but it’s not classified as a “Baseline Drive” in the Read & React. These are two different scenarios.

  6. Aaah, a baseline drive in r&r is something that starts only from the corners. Drives from the wing are not baseline drives, just a right or left drive. That clears it up, never thought about that before. Thanks!

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