The 5 Offensive Strategies that ALL Coaches Should Employ

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  1. Make spacing a priority

    The most valuable commodity on a basketball court is space. When constructing your offense, you should try to be in areas where there is a lot of space to operate. Players bunching together are offense killers. Those little 2-foot passes are turnovers waiting to happen. Proper space opens up driving lanes, gives room for players to come off of screens, allows for creativity and really puts a burden on the defense. Make them play defense over distance.

  2. Best shooters shoot the most

    This sounds basic and simple, but I am amazed at the number of times I watch teams play where this is not the case. Many coaches, to their credit, try to create an atmosphere of sharing and unselfishness. They try to spread it around. However, sometimes that is just bad basketball. Just like in life, people should do what they are good at and they should do it most often. It is true that shooting holds a special place in basketball. Most players create their identity through shooting. Some coaches do a poor job of teaching the value of the other parts of the game. No one complains when a rebounder grabs every rebound or when a defender makes steal after steal but if 1 player shoots too much, it's a problem.

    Teach your players that they should do what they are good at. If you are a good shooter, shoot.

  3. Evaluate your foul shooting

    Just like other skills, not every player is going to be a good foul shooter and not every team is going to be a good foul shooting team. Being a poor foul shooting team is a great disadvantage. When you can't make foul shots, good plays such as getting fouled in the act of shooting, become turnovers. You make a good play, get no points and they get the ball. It is a tough way to succeed on the court.

    Realistically evaluate your foul shooting. If your team is not going to make foul shots, you need to accept that. I am not saying forget about it, I said accept it. While you are trying to improve your foul shooting, prepare your team to convert the misses. Use some foul line plays for offensive rebounding. Keep the ball in the hands of your good foul shooters. Play the percentages. Spend as much time preparing to get offense out of your foul shots as you do in getting your foul shots.

  4. Less is more

    Basketball is not an exercise in showing how much you know. It is the coach's job to try to put his team in a situation where they can be successful. Too many coaches try to outsmart, rather than outplay, their opponents.

    To be successful, as a team and as a player, you only have to be good at only a few things. Pick a couple of things you think your team is good at and become very good at them. Take the time that you use on things you only use once and a while and take more time to work on the things that you use most of the time. Your players will not only get better and more comfortable at them, but they will start making their own adjustments, they will start talking to one another and their team play will improve 10 fold.

  5. Use Screens to Create Mismatches

    At many levels of basketball, screens are used to free up players. At the highest levels, screen areas used to control matchups.

    Running guards off ball screens set by post players will create big-small switches. If you identify a poor defender, use his man to set screens. Their screening defense will suffer freeing up your players for open shots and will enable you to match their poor defenders to your good offensive players.

    Screens can do a lot of things other than free shooters. Use them to control the defensive matchups.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts and comments below...

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Bill Bagley says:
5/30/2023 at 5:13:05 PM

The Legendary Coach Robert Hughes Had a 3 Step approach to win 1333 career games. Master the layup, the free throw, and defense. Fancy plays come after.


Coach Bryant says:
1/9/2016 at 11:27:20 PM

So its been 5 years since this article but some sound fundamentals but I do have some "thoughts" on the ideas.

1 - No doubts on spacing. We work for 12 to 15 feet. But those 2 foot passes are critical skills. Take for example your #5 screening - making those passes off your pick and rolls can mean easy buckets rather than turnovers.

2 - Great value to hold - but in my opinion, your strategy should be to put the players in positions to be successful, leverage their strengths. Meaning the shooters will be shooting and the rebounders will be rebounding within what you craft for them. I think I would suggest more than three passes here.

3 - I have heartburn with this one. In this game, there's no excuse for missing free throws. Its the only play in basketball where you can score with no time lost and nobody is guarding you. I'll stop here but there is a lot to free throws that I don't think you can "accept it". Instead, fix it - its that important.

4 - Violent agreement on this one. We start the year by throwing the book at our players and seeing how much the absorb and seeing what works and what doesn't and then parse it down to the teams capacity to execute. Typically, the younger (less experienced) the team, the less you can do etc.

5 - This is one that we don't do enough and I will take to heart. It is accurate and highlights the point. However the devil is in the details. Teaching and applying screens into your offense is hard. Teaching how to use a screen takes enormous energy and time. But it is a critical skill. It can also help even things some when the other team is more gifted/skilled.

I think this mostly addresses the comments around touches, development and the like. From the context of the article, I would suggest having offense where the heals never touch the ground, or to say it another way, moving without the basketball.

Having created a rec league and and an AAU league and coaching in two AAU national championship tournaments, your job as a coach is to leverage strengths and improve weaknesses at all levels. I don't have Don's credentials, but it's not that complicated. Hope it helps.


Yammy says:
7/14/2015 at 2:44:24 AM

Great article. However, I still believe in team basketball. Everyone should touch the ball. Spurs already proved it.

  1 reply  

Robert says:
9/17/2015 at 1:38:11 PM

Spurs proved it ? They are all nba players and have great abilities this article is touching up on the younger kids so yes bad basketball is trying to get somebody involved when they are just not capable

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
9/17/2015 at 2:45:38 PM

I don't want to speak for Don, but I know he doesn't coach youth teams. He has only coached high school up through the pros. Just knowing him and reading the context of the article, I'm almost sure he did NOT have youth teams in mind when writing this article. Although some parts of it certainly apply to youth basketball.

With young kids, if you try to hide a player because they are not good at something, how will they get better? Youth basketball is about developing players, not keeping the ball out of certain kids hands because they lack the ball skills or telling a kid not to shoot lay ups because he can't make them yet. Youth basketball should certainly be equal opportunity -- everyone should be touching the ball so they develop!

Nothing is worse than the youth coach that camps their biggest player in the post area never to catch the ball outside. And keeps the ball in the hands of their point guard (their best ballhandler) 80% of the time. Sorry but to me that is just a coach looking to win games instead of trying to both develop players and compete (yes you can do both).


Coach Chris says:
8/23/2012 at 9:08:53 PM

Great positive points, timely as we look at the new seasons and preparing


Hope says:
1/1/2012 at 10:18:05 PM

Thanks all those tips are great and i agree with Jo3 and


Ossama says:
10/6/2010 at 7:57:22 AM

Thanks for this ideas ..
Im agreed with spacing importance through the court ..
Fainally im just need help with individual offenceive & defenseive drills (PDF) .

Thanks again


Jo3 says:
9/19/2010 at 5:30:58 AM

I agree, concise articles like this are best, because should a concept highlighted in it really grab your attention, you know where to look in the longer articles.
I found point 5 in this particular article very enlightening. I realised I had seen this at the professional level (on TV for example), but had not realised I was watching it. It makes perfect sense however, and could very easily be integrated into play. I think perhaps, either as a backup play, with just 10 on the clock perhaps, it could be used. A mis-matched one on one is a good situation for a quick guard.



Reginald says:
9/15/2010 at 7:44:25 PM

Good short article thats loaded with good information. I dont have a lot of time to read an article like its a research paper. Some good points that I will follow for the upcoming season.


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