Trouble with Pressure D?  Radicalize Your Sets and Spacing

At or near the top of frustrating situations for players and coaches alike is not being able to run one’s offense against man pressure-especially upon entry. This problem is usually no more complicated than personnel oriented-your players’ abilities aren’t sufficient enough against the defenders pressuring the ball or the entry target players.

While there are no magic answers in any phase of the game, sometimes using radical sets and spacing can help players enter the ball and get the offense going, at the very least. Continued radical spacing can further help the offense after entry with the room necessary to threaten pressure with backdoors, strong side cuts and weak side cuts.

Let’s first look at some radical sets which can act as deterrents against strong man pressure:

2-3 High

1-4 High



4 player Stack


1-2-2 High


Of course, the sets alone won’t solve all of one’s problems but combined with some key teaching points that follow, they can perhaps serve as options for a team to contend with pressure:

  • The primary ballhandler has to try to get an edge upon entry, or at the very least a “tie”.  A possession that starts well has a much better chance to end well than a possession where the primary ballhandler is rocked back on his heels at the onset.  The ballhandler has to use BOTH change of direction and change of pace to achieve this.
  • The primary ballhandler has to ATTACK not just BRING THE BALL UP THE FLOOR.  Mind-set is the key.
  • The receivers of the entry pass must be available and ready when the primary ballhandler is in position to enter.
  • With all of the sets that are at 28’, the second pass is likely to be more of a conventional entry pass.  The first pass at 28’ or higher is likely to be more a pressure release.
  • Speaking of pressure release, the more a team’s members understand that concept, the more they will work to get open to help any teammate in trouble, let alone the primary ballhandler.  For instance, any time a teammate picks up his dribble for any reason (good or bad), all 4 teammates should be coming back to the ball aggressively.
  • Generally, an opponent doesn’t have 5 defenders who are great at pressuring.  Finding weaknesses in this regard in opponents is a coaching tactic that should be in every coach’s repertoire.
  • Generally, #4 and #5 men can be great pressure releases.  These players are often overlooked and under-utilized within offenses this way.
  • After the ball is “entered” either with one pass or two with these high sets, the player with the ball has to be “on the attack” to maintain the edge or tie.
  • After entry, above all spacing must be maintained as the offense executes its ball and player movement of choice.  

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