In a recent conversation with a coaching colleague, we were sharing some offensive ideas when he said something that made me pause. Basically, he said that a number of teams that he sees on a regular basis are so intent on executing a play that they lose focus that the idea is to get a good shot and that the play itself (or offense) becomes the focus.
His statement was in reply to my contention that teams often pass up several good shots along the way in trying to feed the post (or an other goal). Often these teams end up taking a worse shot later in the possession than the two or three that they passed up earlier.
Another very common way to “forget” to take good shots is an obsession with ball and player movement just for the sake of it. Sometimes we get enamored with either or both-particularly if we get complimented. When ball and player movement becomes the goal and not the means to the end, we’re really missing the point.
One quick anecdote: I lived this whole argument for two seasons once as a college coach when I ran a lot of player and ball movement type motion and had a high percentage of possessions go down to the end of the shot clock (which isn’t necessarily the wisest course of action). On the flip side, Loyola of Chicago, the best team in the conference those years, ran a 1 guard front with a double stack and would get good looks upon ENTRY with flares and curls. A long possession for them was 3 passes. Granted, they had great personnel those years but they also played that way with lesser talent.
At the very crux of this discussion is whether an offensive system and philosophy is designed to encourage a team’s players to “take the first good shot”. That decision, of course, isn’t as easy as it might seem. For instance, would you encourage your 3rd, 4th and 5th best players to continually take the first good shot at the expense of not having your two best players get a substantial number of looks?
Under normal circumstances, one’s best players usually are the players who CAN get good shots, whether in the structure of the offense or going solo. We all pretty much understand and accept the scenario when secondary players get higher numbers of opportunities because of excessive defensive attention on one’s best players. Our biggest challenge is preventing any player (let alone a lesser player) from taking a marginal shot early in the possession
These decisions get meted out on a daily basis at practice as we coach shot selection. “Who gets to shoot what shots when?” is really the key concept. However, no matter our talent level or style of play, we never want to lose focus that the idea is to get a good shot on every possession. It’s one thing when we have to fight the defense to do so; it’s quite another thing when we get in our own way.