In the game of basketball as in most team sports, the most productive scoring opportunities arise from mismatch situations. An effective fast-breaking team can beat its opponent down the floor. This does not mean it hopes to out-run all five players, but it does hope to come down the floor quickly enough to momentarily outnumber the defensive players. This will increase the chances of scoring by carefully taking advantage of the 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 situations, thus nullifying any height disadvantage.
Below are some prerequisites for developing an effective Up-Tempo/Pressing Style of basketball:
The Up-Tempo/Pressing style of offense also needs to be extremely balanced. Teams using this style will need to attempt to push the pace of the game and look for the high percentage shot off the fast-break.
When a scoring opportunity is unavailable in transition, teams will then shift into a half-court offense predicated on the following principles and key teaching points:
Simple Motion Offense
Defensively, in the Up-Tempo/Style, teams will need to apply as much pressure as possible to take their opponents out of what they have been working on and probably do best.
Being outsized can easily demoralize any team even before the opening tipoff, but only if the team allows it to happen by allowing the taller opponents to get into good positions and make easy shots. What coaches need to remember is that (1) aggressive low-post play and good-help defense can be altered in your defense, and that (2) while lack of size is not always fatal, teams cannot put all their trust in speed and quickness every trip down the floor.
Teams can aggressively press or trap before the”big player” gets to touch the ball, but even big teams have athletes who can handle the ball and beat the press. One way to defend superior size is by playing an aggressive player-to-player defense inside the paint. To do this, the team will need to place two of its taller players on the blocks as low post defenders, and have the next best defender cover the opponent’s best scorer. This defender must set up in a full denial (fronting) position facing the ball with their back and back-side as well as arms and hands “maintaining contact” with the player behind them. Being able to see the ball and the possible pass will enable defenders to deflect or intercept the entry pass, taking away the direct pass and only allowing the lob pass in this stance.
This kind of strong-side, low-post defense calls for a player with a strong upper and lower body in order to hold his defensive position and to reach in and go after any incoming passes. The weak-side low-post defender must be prepared to help out on any lob pass to the strong-side post player. He or she must be able to anticipate well and time his or her move to help out. Mutual trust and commitment to leaving your player are also important when playing help-side defense. The post players do not necessarily have to steal the pass every time. A good strong move may cause a tip or mishandled reception and turnover, a deflection or altered entry pass from the wing or point.
The defensive mindset of all players needs to be that of being disruptive as possible. Teams should try to force the offense into difficult trapping situations, to rush the offense into taking quick low-percentage shots and continually confront the opposition with an aggressive defense. The team defensive objective is to initiate as many fast-break situations that will produce layups or other high-percentage shots (defensive play creating offensive opportunities).
In addition to the disruptive half-court player-to-player defense, teams can utilize any series of full and three-fourths court presses to create turnovers and scoring opportunities. Teams believe in pressing because it:
To make any defensive “press or front-court pressure” effective, teams must play aggressively, anticipate “the pass” and communicate when providing any “help” defense and play physically. Players also need to avoid committing the senseless fouls in the front court. Playing against a team with superior height is a challenge, but it can be countered to a degree with superior team conditioning, aggressive front-court pressure and strong, quick help-side post-play in the paint.
Carl Normandin is the executive director of Section 10 of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. He also serves on the NFHS Coaches Education Committee and is a former member of the NFHS Coaches Publications Committee.