Ideas on Building a Fast Fast Break Offense

All solid offenses run breaks that are fast up to a point. In this entry I’m trying to see how we could accelerate the offense beyond the point set by conventional wisdom. This is where the title comes from: “fast fast break offense” refers to an offense that is visibly faster than a solid, reasonable offense on the average.

I am writing and posting entry this piece by piece, chapter by chapter. The fourth chapter Get the Players in Shape was posted on Friday July 21. Please let me know if you spot loopholes in my thinking or if you want to share some of your ideas.

1) Run All Out

This sounds obvious: of course players need to go all out when running a break. Yet most attempts to build a fast fast break offense start and end right here.

Please take a quick look at a random game tape. Do all your players consistently run all out when there is a slight chance for a fast break? Be brutally honest. Do not make one single excuse. Give the players no benefit of doubt. Pay attention to all the plays and players.

My guess is that your players don’t run all out consistently. That is the case in most basketball teams around the world.  Regarding our own teams, this is painful to notice. It undeniably shows that we’ve been unable to teach the players the most basic element of the game: full effort.

So, if you get your players to run all out your fast break offense will be accelerated. However, this improvement will not happen overnight. That is because the players must start running all out in practices, too. It is the only way to learn the tactical and technical skills necessary to run a fast fast break offense in games.

So please, take a quick look at a random practice tape. Do all your players consistently run all out when there is a slight chance for a fast break? Be honest, make no excuses and so on.

2) Use a Deep Rotation

Why then don’t players run all out? An obvious reason is the playing time. Given the team’s substitution pattern, the players figure out that they are better off reserving energy.

That is a natural tendency – and a beneficial one. It makes sense to get any job done with as little effort as possible. That is an important skill.

However, if you want to build a fast fast break offense your players must sprint full speed in transition more often that they used to sprinting. It is not going to happen if they play too many minutes. If they do, they will either reserve energy or end up exhausted and non-effective. In other words, you must use a deep rotation.

It is not just about the total amount of playing time but also about distributing the minutes. With a seven-player rotation in a 40-minute game, players will get 29 minutes on the average. However, it’s difficult to distribute minutes that evenly so someone will end up playing way over 30 minutes.

Another problem with a seven-player rotation is the length of the stretches on the floor. You will rotate three players in two spots (e.g. inside players #4 and #5) and four player in three spots (outside players #1, #2 and #3). Rotating four players in three spots creates problems. Say your starting #1 is the last player to get a breather. At that point he may have played eight to ten minutes continuously – and that is too much in a fast fast break offense.

With an eight-player-rotation you will be better off with the substitution pattern. That is because you only need to rotate three players in two spots. Your depth chart will be something like:

  • Two point guards rotating at #1.
  • Three outside players rotating at #2 and #3.
  • Three inside players rotating at #4 and #5.

An eight-player rotation still leaves your fast fast break offense very vulnerable. If just one player misses a game or gets into foul trouble, you’re in a seven-player rotation – and it doesn’t fit your offense.

If you want to run a fast fast break offense, you need at least ten capable players for the season. Then you have some protection against injuries and foul trouble. Eleven capable players is better, twelve is luxury.

3) Make Your Transition Offense Tactics Simple

Besides too short a rotation, another thing that keeps your players from running all out is complicated transition offense tactics. So keep them as simple as possible. Radically simple. The rules for players could be something like this:

  1. Run all out in a straight line from our basket towards their basket.
  2. If you have the ball, get it up the court as quickly as possible, either by passing or dribbling.
  3. If there’s no defender in their paint, cut or drive hard to the basket.
  4. Otherwise stay behind the 3P line and away from our other players.
  5. Create an advantage over the defense.
  6. Score at any opportunity.
  7. Initiate the half court offense.

And that’s it.

This type of approach accelerates the fast break for three reasons.

  1. At the start of the break there’s very little tactical thinking required.
  2. Because they run in straight lines, the distance from basket to basket remains as short as possible.
  3. Covering a certain distance in a straight line is quicker than covering the same amount of meters if you are taking turns.

4) Get the Players in Shape

Most often, having well-conditioned players is mentioned as a prerequisite for running fast break effectively. And it is.

However, sometimes the basic idea behind this seems to be misunderstood. Having well-conditioned players allows you to run the break effectively, or fast fast – not to use a short rotation. No matter how hard the players can go for 28 minutes, after the 28 minutes they’ll be tired.

If you want to run a fast fast break, there’s no way around using a deep rotation.

To be continued.