Learn all the breakdown drills for the Single Post Offense
Michael Murphy, Revolution Basketball
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The game of basketball is continually evolving, and as coaches, we must evolve along with it. Currently, “position-less” basketball is the latest movement. Often the phrase “pace and space” is associated with this style of play. Being able to play multiple positions on offense and guard various positions on defense regardless of size increases your value as a player. A team that has several players that fit this description becomes a nightmare to prepare for. I am going to share with you an offense that illustrates many of the concepts above. If you wish to incorporate this offense, player development will be instrumental in the success of your program. Teaching all players how to pivot, pass, dribble, shoot and post-up are critical elements of this offensive system. Additionally, I do not believe in labeling a player based on their position. For example, I do not have a ‘point guard’ or a ‘power forward.’ I divide players into two categories: perimeter players and post players; all team members will spend time in each group for skill development. I do label areas on the floor, which we will get into when discussing specific actions and concepts.
Speaking of concepts, let’s discuss a few along with similar advantages of a single post offense. First, by having four perimeter players and only one post, with proper spacing, the floor is open for dribble drives as well as backdoor cuts. Shifting the defense is one of our primary goals; player movement and ball movement are essential if this goal is to be reached. We want the ball to change sides of the floor. One of our mantras is, “first side – second side – money side.” Research indicates that when the ball changes sides of the floor twice (money side), defense becomes more vulnerable and your shooting percentages will skyrocket based on the field goals your team attempts. A term to help reinforce this concept is, “don’t be a ball stopper.” When you catch a pass, either shoot the ball, pass the ball, or dribble the ball. Villanova head coach Jay Wright believes that a player is never more open than when he first catches the ball. Install this ideology into your players and make sure they are cognizant of this. Do NOT hold the ball; keep the defense on their heels. Holding the ball allows them to recover and reposition themselves correctly. Another offensive trait that I emphasize is cutting versus screening. We rarely screen when executing this offense. I prefer the pass and cut philosophy as opposed to a pass and screen away. Both can be successful. However, I have discovered that executing an offense that relies heavily on the use of screens takes an absurd amount of time to teach. Things like, setting up the screen, proper angle of the screener, reacting to how the defense plays you, responding to what the cutter does if you are the screener, the majority of your practice time will be spent addressing these concepts. I would rather spend this time teaching what to do after you catch the ball. For example, developing offensive footwork so that all players are prepared to shoot the ball on the catch, or, attacking an aggressive closeout with a shot fake. The one screen that is a significant part of our offense is the ball screen. The use of the ball screen, when and where, will be discussed extensively throughout the remainder of this article.
Single Post Offense: Initial Alignment (Diagram A)
As previously mentioned, we will have four perimeter players and a single post. I like to call these players Slots (#1 and #2) and Wings (#3 and #4). I think this reinforces our anti-position theory by avoiding the use of the terms ‘guard’ and ‘forward,’ etc. The Slots and Wings should be spaced 15-18 feet apart. This will provide driving angles and spread out the defense. The Wings should not bury themselves in the corner; notice they are initially lined up between the block and the free throw line. This action puts them in a good position to feed the post or drive the ball to the baseline or the middle of the floor once they receive a pass. The Slots will be wider than the lane line but not too close to the sideline with roughly 15-18 feet between them. We love to keep our post (#5) opposite of the ball. The rationale behind this will be explained throughout the following diagrams. To initiate the offense, the ball side Wing (#3) must get open to receive a pass from the ball side Slot (#2). This can be accomplished by posting up the defender or making a v-cut.
Single Post Offense: Slot to Wing Pass (Diagram B – E)
After the Slot (#2) makes their pass, they will cut to the weak side of the floor. The weak side Slot (#1) and the weak side Wing (#4) will space over and up accordingly so that all four initial spots are occupied. When a Slot to Slot pass (Diagram D) is made, the weak side Slot (#1) and the weak side Wing (#3) can exchange with one another. This movement forces the defense to constantly reposition them. Diagram E illustrates a Slot to Wing pass (#4 to #2) and the ensuing cuts made by the players.
Single Post Offense: Counters to Attack Pressure (Diagram F – I)
In Diagram F, the ball should be passed from the Wing (#2) to the Slot (#3) that is spacing over. What if the team you are playing is aggressive and emphasizes passing lane defense? You will see why keeping the post opposite of the ball serves many purposes. If the Slot (#3) is denied, he/she should plant on their outside foot and immediately cut backdoor. The unoccupied post allows #3 to receive a pass going to the rim for a lay-up. If this pass is not available, the Wing (#2) dribbles up and now becomes the Slot. On the Slot to Slot pass (#2 to #1), the post (#5) will get opposite of the ball. If the ball side Wing (#4) is denied, there are two options that can take place; since the post is unoccupied, the Wing (#4) can cut backdoor if he/she is overplayed. The second option is for a dribble hand-off (DHO) to occur between the Slot (#1) and the Wing (#4).
Single Post Offense: Chicago Cuts and Logo Cuts (Diagram A-C)
When the ball is in the Slot, there are some wrinkles I feel if executed correctly, will make your offense unpredictable and keep the defense from anticipating your next movement. The first wrinkle is called a Logo cut. We call it a logo cut because almost every court has the conference or school logo just below the foul line in the middle of the paint. This is the area of the floor that the player will be cutting through. Years ago, this cut was referred to as a ‘shallow’ cut. In Diagram A, the Slot with the ball (#1) dribbles at the other Slot who then makes his/her Logo cut. From there, #1 can enter the ball to the Wing (#4) or pass it back to the other Slot (#2) and play from there. Another favorite Slot to Slot action is what I call the Chicago cut. In Diagram B, #2 will cut on an angle in the direction towards the Slot with the ball (#1). It is important that #2 never stops their cut and shows their hands to the referee by placing them over their head. By doing this, you are communicating to the referee that you are not setting a screen; you are simply cutting. The Slot with the ball (#1) must time his dribble and drive the ball right off the back of #2. If timed correctly, the on-ball defender may collide with the Slot cutting. The Slot with the ball (#1) can shoot a pull up jump shot from the elbow area, make a kick-out pass to the ball side Wing (#4), OR if the post defender steps up to stop the dribble penetration, the Post (#5) can circle behind the defender, essentially getting opposite of the ball. This creates a great angle for the drop-off pass by #1 and makes it nearly impossible for post defender to stop the drive and contest the shot. The last Slot to Slot action is a simple dribble hand-off (DHO) between the two slots. The Slot receiving the hand-off (#2) can turn the corner and look to get a ‘piece of the paint’ with his/her penetration, or they can pass the ball to the Wing (#3). Additionally, they can continue the DHO action by dribbling at and handing the ball off to the Wing (#3).
Post Action (Diagram D – I)
I discussed earlier one of the advantages of keeping the post opposite of the ball is to allow for backdoor cuts, and easy drop-off passes on dribble penetration. Further rationale to keep the post opposite is illustrated in Diagrams D-F. A good defender will be on the help line if the player he/she is guarding is on the weak side of the floor (X5 is guarding #5). As the ball is being reversed, X5 will attempt to re-position himself and deny #5 the ball. The Post (#5) will step in front of X5 and seal his defender as he receives the post entry pass from the Wing (#2). I cannot stress enough that ANY player can and should post up regardless of size or ‘position.’ If there is a mismatch that can be exploited, it should be taken advantage of. I am currently coaching a team where our best post player is 6’1, and our best perimeter player is 6’5. Historically speaking, most coaches would have inverted these two players based on size alone. The core of our offensive philosophy is skill development. Essentially, we want every player to be a threat whenever and wherever they catch the basketball. Diagram F again takes advantage of fundamentally sound defensive teams. If the weak side wing defender (X4) is on the help line and staring at the ball, the Post, by staying opposite of the ball, is in perfect position to set a flare screen and signal for a skip pass to his teammate ((#4).
What happens when the ball is entered into the post? We have two options as illustrated in Diagrams G – I. In Diagram G, #4 enters the ball to #5. He will then set a ‘split-screen.’ This action was a staple of the Utah Jazz offense when Jerry Sloan was the coach, and John Stockton was the point guard. The wing will screen the nearest teammate, in this case, #3. After setting the screen, #4 will ‘dive’ down the middle of the lane. The Post (#5) can obviously make a move and try and score, or he can hit #4 on the dive cut, #3 for a jump shot or #1 for a jump shot. All of this movement makes it very difficult to double team an effective post player. Our second option after feeding the post is to make a ‘cut’ (Diagram I). Once #4 makes his pass, if the defender guarding #4 turns his head as the ball is entered into the post, #4 sprints along the baseline side of his teammate (#5) looking for a return bounce pass for a lay-up. The other three perimeter players naturally space over and up. Similar to the split-screen, the go-cut shifts the defense and makes it difficult to double team the post player.
Single Post Offense: Slot Ball Screen (Diagram A – F)
The ball screen is an integral part of our offense. Once the ball has reached the money side, and we have not entered the ball into the post or attacked off the dribble, we ask our post player to set a ball screen. The perfect scenario is for this screen to be set as the ball is being reversed (Diagram A). We demand that our post player (#5) sprint into his/her screen and either screen the Slot (#2) or the Wing (#3). The sprint will cause separation from his/her defender making it more difficult for them to hedge or trap the ball screen. I do not give the ball screener (#5) options – he or she must roll hard to the front of the rim. The pick and pop option is not suitable because there are currently four other perimeter players. More importantly, if the ball screener sprints to the front of the rim, he/she will receive a pass for a lay-up or collapse the defense which will create a shot for a teammate. As the ball handler (#2) uses the screen (Diagram B), his/her looks will be: the screener (#5) on a roll to the rim, a lay-up or jump shot for themselves, a penetrate and pitch pass to the Wing (#3), or a throwback pass to the weak side Slot (#4) who loops behind as the ball is being dribbled away from him/her (Diagram C). All the same, actions occur if the ball screen is set on the other side of the defender (Diagrams D-F). The ball handler (#2) looks for the screener (#5) sprinting the front of the rim or for a shot for themselves. If those looks are defended, he will look to penetrate and pitch out to the Slot (#4) who gets away from the ball as it is dribbled at him. As the ball screener rolls hard to the rim, the weak side Wing (#3) rises to receive a throwback pass from the ball handler. Often #3’s defender will ‘tag’ the roll man to prevent a lay-up which subsequently leaves him susceptible to the rise cut by #3. Additionally, if the pocket pass is not available (#2 to #5 on the roll), the passing angle may be improved by throwing the ball to #4 and having him/her quickly look at #5 who is still in the midst of his/her roll to the front of the rim. This action is prevalent throughout the European basketball community.
Single Post Offense: Wing Ball Screen (Diagram G – I)
The offensive post player is not limited to setting only a Slot ball screen. He or she can also screen for the Wings when they have the ball. Depending on what side the ball screen is set, this could be the perfect opportunity to reject the ball screen as demonstrated in Diagram H. As the Wing (#3) refuses the ball screen and drives the ball to the baseline, the weak side Wing (#1) drifts to the corner making themselves available for a catch and shoot jump shot. If the ball screen is used (Diagram I), normal pick and roll options will be explored.
After Time Out (ATO) Options
The points of emphasis that are discussed during time-outs will vary from coach to coach. Other factors must be considered as well; what are the time and score situation? Did the opposing coach call the time out? What events recently transpired on the court? I believe this is a perfect opportunity to identify who you want to attempt your next field goal and to organize the movements of your players that will create what is hopefully an uncontested shot for your designated shooter. Moreover, if your alignment and initial actions are similar to what you typically execute, you can lull the defense into a false sense of security and then surprise them with a wrinkle or twist.
Single Post Offense: Fire (Diagram A-C)
Once a Slot to Slot pass has been completed, the Post (#5) will flash to the ball side elbow area to receive a pass (Diagram A). As soon as the post catches the ball, the strong side Wing (#3) immediately cuts backdoor (Diagram B); this is the Post’s first option. If that pass is defended, the weak side Slot (#1) sets a flare screen for the strong side Slot (#2). The Post will make a skip pass over the defenders to #2 for a jump shot (Diagram C).
Single Post Offense: Reverse (Diagram D –F)
The Slot dribbles at the other Slot (#2) who cuts backdoor. The Wing (#4) rises to receive the DHO (Diagram D). The Wing (#4) dribbles at #3 who cuts backdoor and #2 cuts to the wing for DHO from #4. As #2 dribbles the ball to the middle of the floor, appearing as if another DHO will take place, he/she will spin dribble and hit #3 coming off a stagger screen by #5 and #4 (Diagram F).
Single Post Offense: Hammer (Diagram A & B)
In Diagram A, the Wing (#3) enters the ball into the Post (#5). The Post turns to the baseline and looks for the Slot (#2) drifting to the corner using the weak side Wing’s (#4) screen (Diagram B). Most defender’s eyes will turn to the ball and be in a position to help their teammate out if they offensive post player makes an aggressive move. This hinders their ability to anticipate a screen coming or to fight through the screen. Simple, quick, effective.
Single Post Offense: Knockoff (Diagram H & I)
The ball is passed to the strong side Wing (#3). The Post (#5) sets a UCLA screen for the strong side Slot (Diagram H). After setting the UCLA screen, the Post will step back to receive a return pass from #3. On the flight of the ball to #5, the weak side Slot (#4) screens away for the weak side Wing (#2). The Wing (#2) curls hard off #4’s screen and runs into (knocks off) #4’s defender. As this occurs, #4 steps back to receive the pass from #5 for catch and shoot jump shot (Diagram I).
Single Post Offense: Drills to Reinforce Concepts
Almost all of our team shooting drills will incorporate actions or concepts out of our single post offense. Practicing the field goal, you attempt in a game will only increase your shooting percentage. Furthermore, the proper execution of these breakdown drills requires focus and attention to detail and will also enhance your conditioning. Improvement in all of those areas will increase your chances of being a more efficient offensive team.
Single Post Offense: V-Cut to Rip and Go (Diagram A & B)
Our first drill emphasizes the necessary footwork that is needed for the Wing to get open and receive the entry pass. The assistant coach or manager will play token defense and hold a blocking pad. The offensive player will step into the defender and physically make contact with the pad before breaking out to the wing. After catching the pass, the Wing (#6) will rip or sweep the ball below his/her knees and execute a 1-dribble pull-up jump shot. The passer (#1) and shooter (#6) will change lines. The coach needs to incorporate as many different shots as you like (i.e., step-back jump shots or different finishes at the rim).
Single Post Offense: Logo Cut to Chicago Cut (Diagram A-C)
Form two lines at both Slot positions, so they are occupied. The Slot with the ball dribbles at the other Slot who makes a logo cut. After the Slot to Slot pass is completed, the passer will follow his pass and make a Chicago cut. The recipient of the pass will time his dribble, dribbling right off the cutters back and into an elbow area jump shot. Next, we add a third line to incorporate the Post (Diagram C). The coach will initiate the drill with a Chicago cut, as the Slot (#1) dribbles the ball to the elbow, the Post (#3) loops behind the defense for a drop-off bounce pass from #1.
Single Post Offense: Fire Action – Backdoor Cut (Diagram A & B)
This is another 2-line drill with the ball side Wing and Post filled. Coaches can make the entry pass for this passing exercise. The Post will flash to the elbow and receive the entry pass from the coach or manager. On the catch, the Wing will cut backdoor and receive a bounce pass from the Post. Some teaching points to stress: make sure the Post leads the Wing with his pass. A pass to a teammate making a backdoor cut that is thrown behind the cutter will inevitably be stolen. The Post doesn’t have to pivot at all to complete this pass. He needs to twist their torso and execute the pass as soon as they catch the ball. When the timing is accurate, the success rate of backdoor plays increases dramatically.
Single Post Offense: Fire Action – Flare Screen (Diagram A & B)
This is our final 2-line breakdown drill with the Post and the ball side Slot lines being filled. The Post will flash to elbow area, and the Slot will hit him/her with a pass. A coach or manager will then set a flare screen for the Slot. The Post will hit the Slot with an overhead throw. Since this passing drill simulates our Fire action, have your post player look for the backdoor cut first before making the overhead pass for a jump shot off the flare screen.
Single Post Offense: Swing/Swing/Swing Attack Drill (Diagram A-C)
This 4-line drill reinforces the “don’t be a ball stopper” notion and allows your team to practice many different shots and actions. When you reverse the ball, the guards can shoot the ball, or They can drive the ball to the baseline and pass to the off-side Wing (#2) on the drive and drift action or the ball side Slot (#4) who will follow the ball as it is being dribbled away from him. If your team is skilled and you have a manager, you can attempt both of these shots simultaneously by merely placing a manager with a basketball right on the baseline in the exact spot the guard will drive the ball to. Whichever pass the Wing does not throw, the coach/manager will make that pass. This drill will increase the awareness/concentration levels of your team as well as the number of repetitions your players attempt. If the Wing (#1) drives the ball to the middle of the floor, he can shoot a pull-up jump shot or penetrate and pitch to the weak side Slot (#3) for a jump shot.
Single Post Offense: Step-Up Ball Screen Drill (Diagram A-C)
This is a 3-line, two shot drill. The coach will start the action by passing the ball to the Slot (#1). Next, there is a Slot to Slot pass; on the flight of the ball to the Slot (#2), the Post will sprint into a ball screen for #2. As the Slot (#2) uses the ball screen, there is a second coach or manager with a basketball that will always hit the Post (#5) rolling hard to the front of the rim. The Slot without the ball (#1) will follow the ball as it is driven away from him/her. The slot player with the basketball will make the backward pass, and #1 will shoot a jump shot. The coach can make the overhead pass, and the Slot with the basketball (#2) can hit the Post player going hard to the rim.
Single Post Offense: Slot is Denied Drill (Diagram A-C)
In this final drill, we prepare for those teams that will attempt to play passing lane defense. This is a 4-line drill, and quick ball movement with hard, sharp cuts are emphasized. The Slot (#2) enters the ball to the Wing (#1), and he/she makes their natural cut to the off-side of the court. The weak side Slot (#3) spaces over, realizes they are denied and then makes a backdoor cut. Your coach standing right next to the Wing with the ball (#1) can complete a pass to the Slot making a backdoor cut. Regardless if you choose to exercise this option, the Wing with the ball (#1) dribbles up to the Slot area and makes a Slot to Slot pass to #4 who has spaced up from the weak side wing position. On the catch, #4 executes a sweep and go move and attacks the defense by dribbling into the gap. The ball side Wing (#2) reads his/her teammate and drifts to the corner making it more difficult for their defender to help and recover and prepares to shoot the ball if it is passed to them. A different version of this drill would be for #4 to pass the ball to #2 and have that player dribble the ball for baseline drive and drift action with #3 or middle drive the basketball for a penetrate and pitch jump shot to the weak side Slot (#1).