Unlocking the Triangle: Breaking Down Basketball’s Most Famous Offense

Written by Coach Peterman

I have coached at the NCAA Division 2 (Southwestern Oklahoma State University), NAIA (USAO), and JUCO Levels (Blinn College and Carl Albert State College) as well as high school. I just felt that fellow coaches especially young coaches need to constantly work on their “game”. Just like the basketball players that we coach. We as coaches need to improve ourselves. That is my story and why I do this blog.

March 30, 2016

With all the hubbub surrounding the Golden State Warriors and their attempt at catching the 1996-1997 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10, it’s the perfect time to have a look at just what made those Chicago Bulls teams so effective – the Triangle Offense.

Developed by Tex Winter and Phil Jackson, the Triangle Offense uses a unique spacing alignment, designed to always maintain a triangle on one side of the court, while leaving the remaining two players in space on the other. And with all the passing and movement in this offense, it does a great job of keeping every player on the floor involved and a threat to score at all times.

It’s also a versatile offense – you can adjust the triangle offense so as to best display your team’s strengths while hiding what may be weaknesses.

To begin, have your guards start off up top, above the three point line, a little bit wider than where the foul lane line would be if extended. The shooting guard will start on the left side, with the point guard on the strong side alone with the small forward, out on the wing. The center will be on the strong side block, with the power forward spacing out into the midpost on the weak side.

triangle offense 1There are quite a few ways to enter the Triangle offense at this point as well, giving you the flexibility to easily get into your set regardless of how the defense is playing you.

Triangle Offense – Point Guard Fill

The first of these entries is the point guard fill, where the point guard will simply pass the ball to the small forward and follow his pass, filling into the ball side corner. The shooting guard will also slide over, closer to the middle of the floor, so the small forward has an easier pass should he choose to go back up top.

triangle offense 2Power Forward Fill

Instead of having the point guard fill through after making the pass, on the power forward fill, the point guard will slide over to the shooting guard’s position on the weak side, with the shooting guard filling the power forward’s spot in the mid post and the power forward sprinting along the baseline to fill the ball side corner.

Dribble Entry

Lastly, we have the dribble entry. This is very simple – the point guard will simply dribble at the small forward, pushing him down to the corner and taking his spot on the wing.

While this is a very easy entry to pull off, it is best used as a last resort, as the lack of movement will make it much easier for the defense to load up and prepare for the next action.

Once the ball is in the hands of the wing, the next action will depend on where he passes the ball.

Corner Pass

triangle offense 3When the first pass made is to the player in the corner, the small forward will sprint along the baseline immediately after, filling the corner on the weak side.

The shooting guard will also slide over to the weak side, and the power forward will move down to the block – re-creating a new triangle on the weak side of the court.

As soon as the player in the corner receives the pass – the point guard in this instance – the center will come over to set a ball screen on the high side of the defender. The point guard will use the screen, penetrating to the middle of the floor, and looking to score, dump off to either of the big men down low, or hit a man outside for the three if the defense crashes.

Two Man Game

triangle offense 4The two man game is another great way to get your team some high percentage scoring options, especially if you’ve got a dynamic perimeter player who you want to put in space and give a chance to make plays.

After the ball has been passed to the small forward, he will swing it right back to the two guard at the top of the key. The power forward will flash up to the left elbow, where he will receive a pass from the two guard.

Now the two guard will run hard off the power forward’s outside shoulder, looking to take the handoff and go right to the hoop for the layup. If the defense begins to overcommit to defending the handoff, the power forward can keep them honest with a reverse pivot into a jumpshot.

triangle offense 5The option is also there to run a pick and roll instead of a handoff. The decision is up to the guard – if he puts the ball on the floor, the power forward should know to come set the pick, otherwise, they will run the handoff.

Flash

If the defense begins to get aggressive and deny hard, you can use their aggressiveness against them. One of the best ways of doing this is by having the power forward flash over to the free throw line.

When the two guard sees the pass being made to the power forward, he will cut back door behind him, with the power forward looking to either make the quick pass for the layup or use the cut to create his own scoring opportunity.

Post Feed

triangle offense 6If you want to feed the ball into the post, it’s important to continue the ball movement, as otherwise your big man will have to deal with pesky guards coming in and swiping away at their dribbles.

So when the first pass made is into the post,  the small forward will immediately head to the top of the paint to set a screen for the two guard, who will cut over to the wing looking to spot up for three. After the screen has been made, the small forward will cut down through the middle of the paint, then fill out to the weak side corner.

The point guard will sprint along the baseline, filling over to the weak side wing – once again recreating our triangle and isolating the other two players with a whole side of the court to themselves.

That’s it for today’s look at the Triangle Offense. Remember, there is no rush – you can always reset the triangle and go back through an of the options. And also – don’t just run blindly jog through the motions. This is not only because every cut is a chance to put two points in the hoop, but also because just by cutting that hard, you will create opportunities for yourself and your teammates.

If you’d like more help with your half-court offense, make sure you check out our selection of downloadable Basketball Playbooks.

Or if you need help with skill development, check out our Basketball Drillbooks – packed with fun and effective practice ideas your players will love!

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