Team Struggling to Score?


small-rimI’ve always contended that if an offensive or defensive possession starts well, it has a good chance to end well-maybe not with a basket or a stop but with a good chance for either.  Today we’ll concentrate on the offensive side of the equation.

There are numerous reasons why an offensive possession can start poorly but it obviously begins with the point guard.  Let’s examine a few common reasons and counters:

  1. Against a man defense, the point guard fails to either get his defender back on his heels (advantage) or at least a tie.  If the defender’s aggression and position gets the point guard back on his heels, the offensive possession is immediately in danger.  Coaching the heck out of this aspect is the single most important factor in getting a good possession going.  The offensive guard first of all has to be in attack mode and then needs to change direction and pace so as not to give the defender a pattern.   Keep in mind that if your point guard beats his man off the bounce and gets into the lane a few times early with good results, that will go a long way in getting the defender to soften.

One may ask. “What if a certain team’s defensive point is going to dominate my point guard regardless?”  The answer may lie in having other players like your #2, #3, #4 or #5 man initiating the offense in those situations.  When presented with this dilemma, there is often a matchup in which the offensive man can get an advantage or tie and not be dominated by his defender.

  • Next, if the point guard has gotten the ball to a good spot on the floor to enter and the players responsible to be open haven’t done their jobs, the edge will immediately go back to the defense. This is usually a timing issue and is the 2nd key factor to a possession’s good start.  The wing has to “time up” his motion to coincide with the point guard’s ability to hit him with the pass.  Breaking too early or too late will put the point guard in a bad spot.
  • Third, the wing who catches the entry pass must aggressively pivot and square to the basket and be a threat to drive, shoot or pass. If the defender on him suspects a casual approach from the wing, the defender can ratchet up the pressure and regain the edge. The wing can make his life and the possession easier by driving to get respect.  Like the point guard, if the wing gets into the paint successfully early, he can predicate the amount of defensive pressure.
  • Fourth, the offensive action must threaten the heart of the defense, whether by screen/roll, post-up action, strong-side cut, weak-side cut or flash or screening action away from the ball.  This action will should give the offensive an “edge” that they’ll strive to keep the rest of the possession. These maneuvers are clearly mandated by the coach.
  • A real key to getting the offense going are pressure releases by post men.  Many post defenders are inadequate, ill-prepared or reluctant to step away from the lane to pressure entry passes.  The best teams effectively use this simple tactic.
  • Backdoors can be effective but only if spacing is sound and another player becomes immediately available as a backup option (generally a post-man).  
  • Some offenses try to run screen/roll or pop as an entry.  This is not impossible but it is very difficult as the defense is entrenched.  Screen/roll is generally more effective after the defense has been moved around a bit.

There are some other devices one can use to get the defense to soften on entry so as get a better start on possessions:

  • Make the entry pass to a wing above where the 28’ hash mark is located on NBA courts.  Usually, defenders won’t pressure entry passes above the top of the key extended.  Actually, this maneuver tends to soften the defense as they don’t practice against it; therefore, it’s foreign.  Then the wing who receives the first pass is, in effect, making the real entry on the next pass.
  • Make the entry pass to a wing man who is actually posting up and getting the defender on his back.  Many teams are using this technique against pressure on many passes in their offense, including reversal passes.  It looks weird, but it works.  
  • Try to score on the very first pass by setting multiple screens for your best player, who can either flair or curl depending on the coverage.  While he may not actually get a good look doing this, he will likely get open to get a good start and edge to the possession.  If he indeed gets a good look, that’s a bonus.

The whole point is starting each possession with the intention of getting an edge with the minimum goal of at least getting a tie.  Losing the edge at the beginning of a possession is a recipe for disaster and is difficult to turn around in the course of a possession-especially if there’s a shot clock.  No matter the offense, setting an early tone is of vital importance.   



  1. Excellent article! Too many times I have heard of or seen teams struggle offensively and think the answer is to run something different when most of if not all the time the answer is not to change what you are doing but rather to do it better. It’s the, for lack of a better word, “little things” that make the difference and making adjustments in how you are doing those things is more productive than trying to something else. Sometimes i’s just a matter of the wing putting more effort into getting open, or the point guard protecting the ball better. It might be a matter of transitioning into offense better, or setting better screens. Often these adjustments can be made by pointing them out and maybe getting on your players a little. Sometimes a time out to settle them down i or maybe setting a kid down for a minute s all that is needed. Maybe the adjustment needs more time and needs to be addressed at half time. There are also times when it means going back to basics and working on it in practice. .This article does a good job of pointing out these adjustments and giving a nice guide or outline for this.

  2. I thought our problem was “offense” so I brought in my buddy to run the offense. We scored the same amount. It came to me the offense was fine. Many good shots. My girls just can’t finish. At the rim or outside shooting. Despite spending copious amounts of time on shooting. Signed, frustrated.

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