How To Run The Basketball Fast Break Offense and Transition Offense - Philosophy, Offenses, Drills

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The fast break and transition offense occurs when you gain possession of the basketball and push the ball as quickly as possible up the floor via the dribble or the pass. You can gain possession of the ball by a turnover, rebound, blocked shot, or an attempted shot. Like Don Kelbick likes to say in his Transition Offense and Four-Second Fast Break DVD, "The operative word in fast break is 'fast.'"

You always want the fast break to be your first offensive option.

Why should you fast break?

  1. To get easy scoring opportunities - Many teams have great half-court defenses when they are set. Whether it's an advantage fast break 2v1, 3v2, etc or 5v5 transition offense situation, the fast break allows you to attack the defense before it can get set which can lead to many easy baskets for your team. If an easy basket does not present itself, they transition directly into your offense to keep the defense on their heels.

  2. Control tempo & force bad decisions for your opposition - Some teams are not used to playing a fast tempo. Due to your opponents' lack of repetitions running the fast break, this can lead to more bad decisions for your opposition which would be advantageous for you.

  3. Wear teams down - If you practice the fast break every day during practice, chances are that your players will be in pretty good condition. Your opponents may not spend as much time running the break, so when you pick up the temp, this will wear on your opponents. It may not happen right away, it may not happen until the last 4 minutes of the game. Paul Westhead's teams were known for wearing teams down, then going on enormous runs in the second half.

    If you have 9 or 10 players, this can also be a great way to wear the teams down. It is also a great way to develop your underclassmen.

  4. Beating zones and pressure - Many coaches will say that your best offense against a good zone or defensive pressure is your fast break and transition offense. As mentioned before, you want to get the ball up the court for easy scoring opportunities before the defense can get set.

  5. Aggressive mentality - When taught properly, the fast break can lead to an aggressive offensive mentality. If you watch the best players in the world, they usually have that "attack" mindset. Quite often, the difference between average players and good players is their mindset. If you can get all of your players with the same mindset, it could lead to a much better team. This doesn't mean that everybody on your team is jacking up 3's or the first open jump shot, your players should just do what they do well with assertiveness.

  6. Offensive rebounds - Many rebounders are not good at running the floor. When you big man is conditioned, it will lead to many more opportunities. Danny Miles will sub his post players more frequently than his post players because post players have to cover more ground on each possession. This helps keep his post players fresh. Danny typically subs his post players every 4 minutes.

  7. Players enjoy it - Players are more likely to buy in and want to participate if you provide a style of play that is enjoyable to play.

Are there situations where you should not run the fast break?

Against talented, athletic teams, you may choose to slow down your offense, but I don't believe that you want to completely dismiss fast breaks because they could lead to some very easy baskets. In this situation, you may enforce a "lay up" only rule. If you get an advantage, take a lay up.

If no advantages are presented out of the fast break, you could set a rule that you only take lay ups until a specified time or number of passes. Some examples are:

  • No jump shots until 30 seconds have passed.
  • No jump shots until 10 passes have been made.
  • No jump shots until the ball has been reversed 5 times.
  • No jump shots until the ball has touched the post twice.

Running Your Transition Offense

Running a transition offense, at least a good one, is a lot more than just running up and down the floor as fast as you can. For a break to be truly effective in a transition system, the break must fit seamlessly with which ever half court offense you have chosen to run.

The purpose for a transition system is to take advantage of your opponent's break downs while they are changing from offense to defense or from defense to offense. It is designed to take control of and lengthen the transition period. Openings will exist as your opponent is making the transition giving your team a great opportunity to take advantage of openings. It would be counter productive to your goals and objectives if you had to hold the ball out to reset your offense and give the defense a chance to organize and defend.

When running a transition game, I think the single most important things to establish are your break objectives. What do you want to get out of your break? Coaches do it with the offense. Coaches do it with the defense. How many coaches address it with their break?

Are you going to be a coach who looks for 3-pointers off of the fast break? Are you going to say lay ups or short jumpers only?

Do you want to create a frantic pace even at the risk of giving up easy baskets like Paul Westhead used to do with his Loyola Maramount teams?

Do you want to slow things down if you do not get a lay up and force the opposition to play defense for extended periods?

Are you going to run a numbered break or a free flowing fast break?

These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself.

Types of Fast Breaks

The Numbered Break - In a numbered break you assign numbers to each player.

1 is the point guard and can bring the ball up the left side of the floor or the right side (not the middle, we want the point picking a side). You can allow the point guard to choose a side or if you prefer, you can specify that point always goes up a certain side (ex: right side).

2 sprints to the spot in the right corner.

3 sprints to the spot in the left corner.

4 inbounds the ball and trails filling the wing opposite the ball (in this example it's the left wing).

5 sprints to the strong side block.

The numbered break is easy to teach because players always go to the same spot.

Motion or Free-Flow Break

The best and the simplest break I have ever experienced did not have multiple cuts or transition options. I have learned that it gets you up the court quickly and fits with any transition offense. It is simple and you can teach it in a minute. I recommend that everyone try it, at least for a little while.

The break is simple: If you are ahead of the ball, run wide; if you are behind the ball, run down the middle. Everything else pretty much takes care of itself.

You can figure out the trailers, you can figure out where the wings go. You can even have players run in the same lane. As long as they finish in spots where your offense can continue, there is no harm. In fact, if you have 2 players run in the same lane, as long as they are properly spaced, the first cutter will strip the defense for the second cutter and you might find opportunities where none were present before.

Here are some sample fast break offenses and secondary break offenses

Paul Westhead - Loyola Maramount Transition Offense

Carolina Secondary Break

Phoenix Suns Fast Break Offense

Foul Line Fast Break

Fast Break and Transition Offense Basketball Drills

Competitive 1v1 Attack
This fast break drill improves your ability to finish at the basket in a break situation.

5 on 3 + 2 Fast Break and Transition Offense Drill
This transition drill improves your team's ability to score out of the break or transition seamlessly into your offense.

1v1 Attack With Narrow Cones
This is another great fast break drill that works on breaking down a defender with a dribble move before attacking the basket in transition.

View all of our fast break and transition drills.

Want to learn how to build your fast break and transition offense step by step?

Don Kelbick's Transition Offense and the Four-Second Fast Break
This DVD shows you how to build your fast break and transition offense step-by-step, so you can easily teach it during practice. It will also show you how to seamlessly transition into your half court offense to keep the defense scrambling. As every great defensive coach will tell you, they play their best defense when they have their 5 players back. This DVD will show you how to take advantage of the defense when they're not set and currently in transition. It also includes many fast break and transition drills that build mentality, aggressiveness, decision-making, and basketball skills. This DVD is 110 minutes long and neatly organized ... (more info)

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Brady says:
12/11/2015 at 1:12:29 AM

We always ran our fast break by having our pg catch the outlet at the wing and look to push straight up that sideline to the 2 in the corner, like you mentioned. But if that wasnt there, our 1 was taught to "cross main street" as soon as they crossed halfcourt meaning he was to cut diagonal to the other wing and look for the 3 there or a backdoor cut to the rim if the defender overplays. 4/5 still inbound or run to the block but the inbounder just follows the point guard up the floor and when pg crosses main street the 5 stays in that lane.

  1 person liked this.  

Allen Morrissette says:
2/11/2015 at 11:57:38 AM

In a free flow fast break, who inbounds after a made basket, designated player or player closest to the net??

  2 replies  

Jeff says:
2/11/2015 at 2:19:33 PM

I think it's a matter of the coaches preference. Both methods work well. Either way, it's a matter of practicing the details to make sure players get it in quickly and get open quickly.


Brady says:
12/11/2015 at 1:03:22 AM

4 or 5 always inbound on any team I played on. They should be under the hoop boxing out anyway. The one who doesnt, runs to the block. The inbounder is the trailer


Ken Sartini says:
6/3/2014 at 10:23:53 AM

That was for zone pressure... against m2m, we just got the ball to our best ball handler and cleared out for him.

Something I added to things I saw other teams do.... take the ball to one side of the floor, use a hesitation/crossover dribble and now you have the rest of the floor to bring the ball up. IF he starts chasing you from behind,...... cut in front of him and he will spend a lot of time avoiding you.


Ken Sartini says:
6/3/2014 at 10:20:09 AM

Take a look at this page -


Tayo says:
6/2/2014 at 7:23:09 PM

My aau teams plays up and they seem to have problems with teams that apply full court man pressure. They get rushed into making mistakes. Do you know of any pressbreaking plays that they could run against aggressive man defense.


dominick says:
2/8/2014 at 8:33:03 PM



Lito Libbrodo says:
7/26/2013 at 8:51:52 PM

If you have an average player in terms of height, what best example of drills to let these players maintain their athleticism inside the court? What offense and defense can they will do during training?

Like says:
7/18/2013 at 4:14:27 PM

One of the hardest things for a defense to guard is an offense that is able to sprint the floor, maintain spacing, and then quickly get into their transition or semi transition offense. Great article and keep up the good work with the site.


Tom Kalfas says:
1/23/2013 at 1:06:09 PM

Naturally, off the rebound on defense, the bigs are going to look to outlet the pass to the ball-side wing. So, the ball is going to start wide. Ideally, you would like to have either an up-line pass to your ball-side guard in the corner or a cross-court pass to your weak-side guard, all happening with less than a couple of dribbles (depending on age).

If a wing defender manages to slow the ball on either the outlet pass or in the point's hands, the other big can be a quick alternative around mid-court to get the ball to 2 or 3, but spacing needs to be right (middle or opposite lane line). Zig-zagging the ball down court is most effective as defenders (especially at younger ages) tend to follow the ball, leaving the shifting "weak-side" player unguarded.

As for the point guard, if a defender(s) prevent the long/quick pass, the point can attack with the speed dribble headed toward middle of court (top of key) to create 2 passing/scoring options for the wings as is typically taught with the 3-man fast break.


Jeff Haefner says:
11/28/2012 at 8:19:10 AM

Joe - The biggest reason for the point guard to pick a side is for spacing. You also have to think about where players end up at the end of their break. In the transition offense explained above, players end up in a 4-out 1-in formation. If the point guard sprinted down the floor in the middle he would be 8-10 foot away from the left wing player. This results in poor spacing in the secondary break / transition offense. The transition above is based on sprinting the floor, and if the is no immediate advantage, going directly into your half court offense without any hesitation. This puts a lot of pressure on the defense to get back and get set. So where guys end up on their break is pretty important so you can immediately go into your half court offense without resetting. It's a little hard to explain in text but hopefully that makes sense.

  1 reply  

Joe says:
3/13/2024 at 5:04:46 PM

TKS Jeff

Another issue is my point guard out runs his team on the break. So I have PTg out front with the other team right behind him then his players are out of the play??


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