Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
Getting Your Team to Move the Ball and Create Space

April 20th, 2021

In today’s newsletter, we’re going to address some comments and questions we received over the past couple of weeks…

  • Readers Challenge the Myth of the Triple Threat Concept

  • Didn’t Oregon State’s 1-3-1 Zone Defense Get Killed on the Boards?

  • Getting Your Team to Move the Ball and Create Space

Readers Challenge The Myth of the Triple Threat

One thing I love about our annual educational series on the Attack & Counter Skill Development System is that it gets conversations starting on different ways to teach basketball!

Here were a couple of responses to our The Myth of the Triple Threat video.

Reader Comment: There is no myth of the triple threat. When you catch the ball ready to shoot - you're in triple threat position, and ready to read and react to whatever is in front of you. This is not rocket science!

- Patrick

Reader Comment: The myth of the triple threat position? Sent all 3 of my kids d1 with that move. 1st thing I taught them and have a triple threat stance drill in my camp. Wow times are changing, Joe.

- Mike

Nice work, Mike! I bet you're a proud Dad.

Note, this video is less about triple threat POSITION and more about triple threat MENTALITY.

The beauty of basketball is that there are so many ways to teach and be effective.

Below is an excerpt from this article which offers a more-detailed written explanation:

Don Kelbick wrote this:

Ever since I was young, I have heard about triple threat, triple threat position, be in position to shoot, pass, or dribble. While it is true that you have to be prepared, the reality is only one of those actions is a threat. When was the last time that your defensive game plan was to leave the shooter alone and guard the dribbler? How about, "this guy can really pass, make sure you play him and if you have to leave a shooter to do it, then leave the shooter"? That would, and should, never happen. For that reason, I believe that the 3 threats of a triple threat position are SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT!

First and foremost, nothing happens on offense without the threat of a score. When your defense thinks that you can score on every touch, it forces him into very uncomfortable positions. Attacking and constantly putting pressure on your defense will force him to break down over the course of a game. It will destroy his help intentions, making additional opportunities for your teammates, and have a negative impact on his offense.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, it immediately goes into shooting position. The ball goes right into your shooting pocket, your knees are bent and you are in an athletic position. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, you face the basket. It sounds elementary (of course you face the basket!) but how many times have you seen players turn their back to the basket? How many times do you see players face the corner or the top, cutting off large portions of the court from their vision?

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, your eyes go to the rim. By looking at the rim, from any position, allows you to see everything that happens on the floor.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot means every time you catch the ball, your feet get in position and your footwork improves. You get quicker because you are in a better position. Your pivoting violations (like traveling) go away because your feet have more of a purpose.

Lastly, shooting is a skill that can't be a second thought. You might be able to recover FROM a shot, but YOU CANNOT RECOVER TO A SHOT. You can think shot and recover to a pass, you can think shot and recover to a dribble, but you can't go the other way. How many times do you see a player get a pass in the corner and start looking for someone to pass to? Everyone on his team, everyone in the stands starts yelling, "Shoot, Shoot!" While he is looking for someone to pass to, he didn't notice that he is wide open. Eventually, he gets around to shooting the ball and it NEVER goes in. That is because you can't recover TO a shot.

So, every time you catch the ball, your first thought is SHOT, your second thought is SHOT and your third thought is SHOT! Now that is really a triple threat.

Also, here are a few more of my (Joe Haefner) thoughts:

When you first read the "Shoot. Shoot. Shoot." mentality, you might think it sounds a bit crazy. I know that I did.

But after I saw Don teach it and incorporate it, I thought it was genius.

After using it for over a decade, I would not teach any other way now. My players are just better. They're more confident and more assertive.

This is an example of how you can introduce it to your players and it also helps clear up some misunderstandings if you have any:

After introducing the new triple threat, you can ask them, "What happens to your feet when you think shot?"

After a few player responses, you can say, "Yeah. You aggressively face the basket. You turn as fast as you can under control."

After that, you can ask "Now, why is this important?"

This is usually where you might lose them. If you're lucky, you might have a few bright players that figure it out. So if they don't answer in 5 seconds, you can say to them, "If you turn slowly, it allows the defense to get set and you lose your initial advantage."

"If you aggressively turn and face the basket like you're going to shoot the ball, it puts pressure on the defense. If they do NOT sprint out to defend and it is a good shot for you, you can shoot the ball."

"Now by thinking 'Shot. Shot. Shot' and getting into your shooting position as quickly as possible, the defense has to cover more ground to contest your shot. Now the defense has to rush out and defend you. If the defense is flying at you at a fast speed, you have the advantage because their momentum is coming towards you and it will make it difficult for them to guard the drive."

Next, I'll ask them, "If you Think Shot, what happens to your eyes?"

Most groups usually get this one right away, "Your eyes are looking at the hoop."

"Yes. And when they're looking at the hoop, this does a couple of things for you. Eyes are one of the greatest weapons for fakes and the defense might jump and create a driving or passing lane for you."

"Two, if your eyes are up, you can see what?"

"Yeah. You can see the whole floor. You can see the defense. You can see your teammates."

"Now should you still think 'Shot. Shot. Shot' if you are outside of your shooting range?"

"Absolutely! Even if you would never shoot the ball because it is a poor shot for you, just by looking like you are going to shoot the ball will put more pressure on the defense and pull them out of position. Defenders instinctually will fly out of position if you look like you're going to shoot the ball… even if you're a terrible shooter from that spot."

As you can see, this mentality can be a great tool to instantly make your team better at offense.

Didn’t Oregon State’s 1-3-1 Zone Defense Get Killed on the Boards

Reader Comment: I read your recent article about Oregon State’s Cinderella run to the Elite 8 utilizing the 1-3-1 zone defense. But didn’t they get killed on the offensive boards too?

- Natatlie

You bring up a great point! In general, some teams that play zone defense might give up more offensive rebounds.

Like 1-3-1 zone defense expert Will Rey told me, “Bottom line, you’re always going to ‘pick your poison’ with each and every defense. There’s no perfect defense and you’re not going to pitch a shutout.”

However, this surprised me quite a bit when I went back and looked at the Oregon State/ Houston game!

First off, Houston is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. They ranked #3 out of 350 teams!

So zone or man… Houston is going to rack up their offensive rebounds.

And if you watched the game, you’d know that Houston had a bunch of offensive rebounds against both man and zone defense. Houston ended up with 19 offensive rebounds for the game… slightly above their 15 per game average.

However, during Oregon State’s second half 17-3 run in which they tied the game at 55-55 with 3:48 left, Oregon State only played 1-3-1 zone defense and gave up just two offensive rebounds.

In the final four minutes of the game, they did give up four offensive rebounds over two possessions. But I couldn’t remember or find if they were playing zone defense or man to man defense during those possessions.

And it was quite obvious that Oregon State’s 1-3-1 zone defense did exactly what it was meant to do…

It disrupted the offense’s rhythm and resulted in defensive stops. That’s why Oregon State almost pulled off a miracle comeback victory against one of the best teams in the country.

While there certainly is the possibility of more offensive rebounds for your opponent, the 1-3-1 zone defense can still be a great defensive weapon to disrupt rhythm or use as a primary defense.

Getting Your Team to Move the Ball and Create Space

Reader Comment: I coach a 7th-8th grade boys team. My biggest problem is that they don't move the ball to create space for themselves. However as I am saying it I can see what I can do to be better and do better. However please send any suggestions you have.

- Winston

Thanks for reaching out, Winston.

Yeah..if you figure out a quick cure for that problem, just let me know.🙂

I think just like with all facets of basketball, it just takes time and constant emphasis to improve ball movement and spacing.

However, if there is a concept like passing the ball and creating space, it never hurts to spend a little time explaining and demonstrating visually the importance of this concept.

Ask them questions and let them ponder. And don’t be too quick to break the silence. The silence or a pause after you ask a question is often when they're thinking. Us coaches tend to want to provide the answers right away or continue if there is any silence. I know that I've made this mistake.

You could say to them...

“Moving the ball is important because it gets the defenders moving and scrambling.”

“Is it easier to attack the defense when they're scrambling or when they're already set?”

“Is the defense more likely to be called for a foul when they're scrambling or already in position?”

“When you play other teams, do you like to play against a patient team that is constantly passing and moving? A team that makes you play intense, focused defense for 20 to 30 seconds? Or do you prefer that the offense tries to dribble into traffic and force a shot after 1 or 2 passes?”

Next, it’s important to give them a visual representation, since people learn in a multitude of ways.

Show them what the defense looks like after a pass to the wing when initiating the offense.

Then show them what the defense looks like after a couple of ball reversals wing to wing.

Then ask the offense... “What's easier to attack? After one pass or after three to four passes?”

Also, here’s another demonstration to really drive home the point that a pass moves faster than the dribble.

You can tell them that "I guarantee I could beat the fastest kid down the court."

Then line up on the baseline. When you start, you simply throw the ball down the court. The ball should beat the player dribbling down the court by a significant amount. Then you can ask them, "What's faster? The pass or the dribble?"

I also love to do some scrimmages where dribbling isn't allowed. It really forces them to be strong with the ball using pivots and rip throughs, keep their head up, and move without the ball. This will always look awful at first, but you'd be surprised how much they improve over a few practice sessions.

I hope that helps!

All the Best,

- Joe Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball