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How to Choose the Best Offense for Your Basketball Team

Several factors come into play when a basketball coach is faced in selecting the best offense for his team. Foremost consideration must be given to the players at hand. Will your team be composed of tall, or short, quick, or slow, good, average, or poor ball handlers. He must select the system and adapt the good parts to fit his, or her, own philosophy. Keep in mind that you must get the most out of the players who try out for your team.

The coach should never use players at a position where they show no ability. He should assign duties that best utilize the abilities of each player. The offense should keep the best rebounders in position to rebound, and the good shooters should take the most shots. All the others should understand proper screening technique to be able to screen for the better shooters.

Each candidate's ability to hit the bucket will determine the type of shot each player be allowed to take. Practice makes perfect; therefore, you accomplish this using:

  1. small groups of two or three, using station drills incorporating various aspects of the team offense.
  2. team groups, using slow motion, then speed up stressing the importance of timing and deception.

A coach should always be a student of the game. He should read basketball books, magazines and attend clinics. From this constant learning process, he can adapt any new tactic that fits his personnel. Offenses that I have seen, or read about, are rarely original. Odds are good that a popular offense ten years from now, will be an adaptation of something used twenty years ago.

Know the abilities and talents of your personnel before choosing a system. More players made coaches than coaches made players.

Personnel at Hand

Find the best combination of players as quickly as possible. Coaches should practice their five best players together as a unit as soon as their greater ability becomes apparent.

Usually, two or three subs are needed in most teams to operate at their highest efficiency. You will need changes at the center position, the forward position, and the guard position.

These subs must have as much practice time and game time as possible. This allows them to better harmonize their movements with the starters.

What Type of Offense Suits the Personnel?

In reality, there are only two types of offenses:

  1. free-lance - players create 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 one-on-one, two-on-two, and three-on-three plays are practiced over and over.
  2. controlled - a system whereby a team maintains control of the ball until a player gets open for a high-percentage shot. Any basic system can be used to implement a control-type of basketball.

Physical Makeup of Personnel

Basketball Concepts and Techniques by Bob Cousy, tells us, "The type of offense to be chosen is determined by the physical makeup of the team. In general, a team falls into one of the following groups:"
  1. Five Taller Than Average Players. A team composed of this group should not use the fast break unless two players are quick and one of the five qualifies as a ball handler. This team should use a set offense, shooting over screens. If they have one good ball handler, I would recommend the stack offense. If they have two good ball handlers, they could use a two-three offense, with the low men screening for each other and watching for the easy inside shot.
  2. Four Bigger Players and One Small Player. Assuming that the small man has good or better-than-average speed and ball handling ability, this team should use a controlled fast break with a set offense. The set could be a two-three if one of the taller men can handle the ball. It could also be an unorthodox offense devised by the coach, taking advantage of the overall team size and using low double screens for the bigger players.
  3. Three Bigger Players and Two Small Players. This is normally the ideal type of basketball team. The team can use the fast break and/or a set two-three offense in which the three big men stay in close for offensive rebounds.
  4. Two Bigger Players and Three Small Players. The fast break is recommended for this team. They can use a three-two offense with the two big men as a double pivot, side by side, or in tandem. They could also use a one-three-one set offense.
  5. One Big Player and Four Small Players. This team should use a controlled fast break, followed by a good quick-shot secondary attack, transitioning into a good set offense. A good set offense could be a four-man weave, using the one big man as "big dog" and a moving pivot. You can also use a one-three-one offense with the big man as the high pivot and the next tallest player as an inside man moving toward the corners. Another good offense for them is a three-two with flash pivot players.
  6. Five Small Players. This team's offense should incorporate aggressive defensive tactics as an offensive weapon. Depending upon the player's speed and ball handling ability, their offense should be designed to penetrate toward the basket quickly as possible. They can use a three-two moving offense or a five-man weave offense. The players should only take good high-percentage shots from within the eighteen-to-twenty foot area.
The coach chooses the offense to be used by his team, based on his, or hers philosophy and the material available. The coach can adapt the good parts of any system to fit his, or her, own philosophy. Keep in mind that you must get the most out of the players who try out for your team.

It would be rare if all players on a starting team to possess the same abilities; therefore, the coach should use the positive abilities of each player into his offensive planning."

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