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How to Help You Decide Which Offense to Run for Your Basketball Team

Updated on January 9, 2011

It doesn’t matter if you are an offensive or defensive minded coach, the single most difficult and important philosophical decision you have is what offense to run. It’s difficult because it may change from year to year based on the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Also, you will have to decide on possible set plays you will want to run and what offense you want against certain defenses. There are a lot of components of an offense and each need to be thought of before developing your basketball offensive philosophy. Here are some important questions you need to answer before you decide on an offense.

1. What is Your Team's Skill Level?

You should continually try to improve each individual’s skill level, but don’t try to fit your players in an offense fit your offense to your players. If you are evaluating your team and find that they don’t attack off the dribble well then don’t put them in a Dribble Drive-type offense. If they are a good passing team you may want to go to a more cutting or screening offense. You should work on the skill of how to attack off the dribble, but don’t try to make them something the are not. Very rarely do you have a team that can do everything well. Find what they do well and try to emphasize that in your offense.

2. Who Are Your Best Offensive Players and What do They do Best?

 The fact is your best players should take most of your shots so find what they do well and put them in a position to succeed.  If you have a good shooter or a good post, find what spot he is most comfortable and productive from and get him shots at that spot.  If you have a good break down guard, then you will want to get him in one-on-one situations.  After finding what your best players can do, you need to find ways to get them open.  The next thing to determine is how you can use the other players to get your best players open shots where they are most efficient.  Decide whether your team would be more effective as a screening team or a pass and cut team?  Both have their advantages and have the potential of getting your best players open shots.  Games are usually won by teams that can get their best players more quality shots than their opponent’s best players.  

3. What is Your Defensive Philosophy?

Tempo is a very important part of deciding the outcome of games. After you evaluate your team you will decide on your offense and your defense. When deciding on both you should keep in mind that one philosophy should be a reflection of the other. If you want to press on defense don’t expect your players to be successful in a Princeton-type offense. If you want to slow the tempo with a zone defense then you won’t be successful in a transition oriented offense.

4. What is Your Team's Basketball IQ?

There are certain offenses that require a higher basketball IQ than others.  A pass and screen motion offense requires players to set a screen, read a defender, and cut off the screen based on what the defender does.  It allows every player to be a threat on offense and can be very successful, but does require a high team basketball IQ.  A pass and cut offense doesn’t require a high basketball IQ but can be limited in what it can offer.  It requires offensive players to make one read based on where the ball goes.  Each team may be different so your team’s basketball IQ may differ from year to year, but just as you should continually try to improve your player’s skill level, you should also attempt to enhance their basketball IQ.

5. What Can I Teach Effectively?

Your team won’t be effective at an offense you can’t teach effectively. That doesn’t mean you run the same offense you ran in high school just because you are comfortable with it. It means when you find what your team can do then find the offense that fits your team and you are comfortable with. It may be that you need to research and get to know more about a certain offense or it may be that you just need to adjust what offense you have been running. A mistake young coaches make is running the “flavor of the month” offense that is popular at that point in time such as the infamous Dribble Drive offense or the Read & React Offense. Don’t run it because it is the new thing, run it because it fits what your team can do. Then become an expert in that offense in order to put your players in a position to be successful.

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