SPACING. HOW TO PLAY WITHOUT THE BALL?
OFFENSE = SPACING & SPACING = OFFENSE.
Useful advice for amateur players and young basketball players who study the game of basketball.
Before I start this article I want to tell there’s no absolutes in basketball and we talk about PRINCIPLES not RULES.
Overall, it only matters who’s winning games but sometimes you can also play without optimal strategy and win because opponent simply is not good enough.
If NBA, Euroleague and CBA league players play that way that means it’s the best way how to play this game also for amateurs. Poor spacing makes defensive teams’s life easier.
- HOW FAR FROM THE BASKET I SHOULD STAY?
- HOW FAR FROM MY TEAMMATES I SHOULD STAY?
MOVING WITHOUT THE BALL
- DIRECTION OF MOVEMENT (CUT).
- MOVE (CUT) WITH A PURPOSE.
DISTANCE: HOW FAR FROM THE BASKET I SHOULD STAY?
How far from basket? Position yourself at the farthest possible spot on the court from basket where you can be both a threat but at the same time able to keeping proper distance from other teammates + not violating basketball rules (“3-second rule” for example).
poor spacing great spacing
Basically that means for perimeter players to stay behind three-point line. If you constantly stay closer than three-point line:
- you bring your defender with you so he can effectively help other defenders if needed and recover back to you and at the same time not letting you to shoot quality shots (the worst scenario for offense);
- you discourage your teammate to drive or cut to the basket if both you and your defender stay in mid-range area (diagram).
- You won’t get opportunity for 3-point shot attempt (3 points>2 points). Long 2’s = low % shots.
Post players (PF/C) can position themselves both inside and outside the arc. It depends on team’s offensive system. Nowadays post players are able to be very effective farther from basket. If non-shooter post player is behind the three-point line without the ball most of the time he will set a screen for his teammate.
5-OUT. Milwaukee Bucks “modern center (in this line-up)/power forward” Giannis is about to drive to the basket while 4 of his team-mates who can shoot well from outside (career field goal 3PT %) is “stretching the floor”. For this line-up he can be a ball-screener and post player as well if he doesn’t have the ball at that moment.
4-OUT/1-IN. Capela is not a threat from three-point line and he’s more effective near the basket (alley-oop) or roller (after setting a screen).
Another option is to switch from 4-OUT/1-IN to 5-OUT if Ryan Anderson (38.0% career 3PT) was on the court instead of Capela (0.0% career 3PT). As you basketball fans understand this is an example from 2017/18 season but it doesn’t change the idea about spacing that I want you to explain.
PROBLEM! PERIMETER PLAYER must stay behind the three-point line but can’t shoot three-point shot with high%.
SOLUTION #1 – IMPROVE YOUR SHOOTING ACCURACY!
Players shouldn’t be too surprised if they have been left open often! Good defensive teams will find opponent’s weaknesses. Worst shooters from opposite team will be encouraged to take shots they are not comfortable with.
How to improve your shooting accuracy? That’s not the topic of this article.
SOLUTION #2 – OFFENSIVE STRATEGY CAN HIDE YOUR WEAKNESSES. Play less half-court offense, play fast.
SOLUTION #3 – DEVELOP OTHER BASKETBALL SKILLS. Of course, if perimeter player is below average three-point shooter it negatively affects team’s spacing. There will 2 good examples of great perimeter players in NBA who can’t “stretch the floor” but because of other skills they have they can compensate lack of outside shooting:
1.Rajon Rondo (career 31.1% 3-PT shooter) probably is one of the worst perimeter players WITHOUT THE BALL in the league but at the same time he’s one the best PASSERS in NBA and guy with extremely high basketball IQ and also great defender (steals). NBA champion (2007-08 Boston). 6’1” tall point guard with 6’9” wingspan… “According to Vinci’s calculations Rondo’s hands are proportionate to a man taller than Yao Ming” (ESPN America, Sporta Science – Rajon Rondo).
2. Ben Simmons (0/12 3PT NBA career) haven’t made three-point shot in his NBA career so far but because of his versatility, athleticism and court vision he is able to be effective at the same time not badly affecting 76ers offensive spacing. He can be point guard (career position estimate 77% PG position) who can also be a ball-screener + 76ers 2nd best offensive rebounder + play with back-to-the basket + defend multiple positions + drive and cut to the basket very effective. 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year.
- They both world class athletes;
- They both fitting better in fast-paced basketball;
- They both need the ball in their hands to be effective.
These 2 very talented NBA athletes are just a rare exception of point guard or scoring guard position players who can be among the best in the NBA without ability to shoot from outside.
Very often Rondo is left open behind 3-point line…
All the things applies on amateur players as well despite huge difference in skill level and athleticism. We are talking about basics of basketball offense from tactical standpoint not skill development. Learn from the best players in the world!
Even if you and your friends rent a half-court on Saturday evening + play without 3-second rule + as I see it in most of the amateur pick-up basketball games and streetball pick-up games in China the value of every scored basket = 1 point (most of the time).. The same principles of spacing still applies to any basketball game!
DISTANCE. HOW FAR FROM MY TEAMMATES I SHOULD STAY?
PRINCIPLE #1. Again… if you stay too close to your teammates you bring your defender closer as well. Don’t find yourself in situation where 1 defender can defend 2 offensive players at the same time! Defender can HELP/RECOVER/ROTATE/TRAP much easier if he has to cover shorter distance back to you after helping his teammates.
Poor spacing = shorter distance to cover for defender/Great spacing = longer distance to cover for defender.
Poor spacing Great spacing
Example of poor spacing.
Example of great spacing.
PRINCIPLE #2. Don’t stay on someone’s way! If you are already on someone’s way = move out of the way. Even you are post player who most of the time plays near the basket. The same principles for every player.
1 (player with the ball) wants to drive to the basket but teammates are on his way also bringing their defenders with them…
Ball-handler wants to pass to rolling big man after he set the ball-screen for him but 3 other teammates staying under the basket… Very common situation in amateur basketball games. If teammates decide to move behind three-point line but their defenders still stay under the basket ball-handler will not pass to roller but to his teammates behind the three-point where they can get wide open 3-pointer.
Great example. Player rolls to the basket and no teammate is on his way.
MOVING WITHOUT THE BALL: DIRECTION OF PLAYER MOVEMENT (CUT).
There are two type of directions for players without the ball (we talk about playing by principle not about organised team basketball):
1. TOWARDS THE BASKET & AWAY FROM THE BASKET.
2. AROUND THREE-POINT LINE. Not every movement (cut) should be towards the basket. There will be plenty of examples later in this article.
MOVING WITHOUT THE BALL: MOVE (CUT) WITH A PURPOSE
I have seen thousands of basketball games in my life – from U-6 (young basketball players under age of 6) to NBA level of basketball.
In this article my focus is on helping amateur players (95% of all basketball players) who never had quality coaching in their life before so basically their (I will use “us”) decisions during basketball game are based on some kind of instincts rather than understanding the game (basketball IQ).
Basketball is very popular game in China especially. I see full basketball venues every day. People rent basketball venues to play for fun. I see the passion for this game that’s good but what it’s very obvious that these fanatic players never played organised team basketball before and that means there’s no basic concept about how to play without the ball. It’s everywhere in the world in amateur level. For every movement without the ball we should have an answer – WHY?
I really appreciate to see people that instead of going home after a tough day at work and do anything else are choosing to play basketball with friends at least once a week.
Before I am showing examples of when it’s good idea to move somewhere or cut to the basket we have to remember one important thing – TO STAY AT THE SAME SPOT FOR FEW SECONDS OFTEN IS BETTER THAN MOVE! Before any MOVEMENT we should know the answer of questions = WHY? WHEN?
Again, we are not talking about organised team’s offense but about situations that occurs in any level basketball games. OFFENSIVE BASKETBALL PRINCIPLES. Read the defense!
NO! SITUATIONS WHEN THERE’S NO CUT TO THE BASKET OR ANY OTHER MOVEMENT NECESSARY.
***These all situations are real life situations on basketball venues every day***
- You are driving to the basket but your teammate decides to relocate to the same spot at the same time. Don’t relocate in someone’s way! Stay where you are!
2. Roll (after pick-and-roll) and cut towards the basket at the same time.
3. ISO. Let the best player of your team to play 1vs1 against weaker defender or take advantage of speed advantage if there was SWITCH. Unnecessary cut towards the basket can discourage him to drive to the basket. STAY AT THE SAME SPOT but at the same time be ready to for the catch-and-shoot 3-pointer (drive-kick)/offensive rebound/cut towards the basket if your defender helps too much and not pay attention to you.
Before ISO situation it’s good idea cut to the basket to ”take your defender away” if he wants to help his teammate to defend ISO situation (trap for example). PATIENCE and TIMING.
Harden 1vs1 = no cuts to the basket, players stay at the same spot.
4. Weak-side. If you find yourself on the weak-side – OFTEN JUST STAYING AT THE SAME SPOT is the best idea! This is a principle not rule. There are exceptions of rules but don’t cut towards the player with the ball not knowing why. Smart player with good court vision already see you if you are open on weak-side. Worst scenario is when all players from the weak-side cut towards the ball at the same time…
YES! SITUATIONS WHEN THERE’S CUT TO THE BASKET OR ANY OTHER MOVEMENT NECESSARY.
Few of many examples in basketball when any type of player’s movement or cutting to the basket is necessary :
1.Back-door cut. Defender is focusing on helping too much that he lost his own offensive player out of his sight.
2. Back-door cut. If defender plays too aggressive = cut to the basket.
3. Drive. One-pass away.
4. Pick-and-roll. Ball-handler DRIVES to the basket. Fill the empty spot he left behind him if he drives away from you.
5. Baseline drive. Every time your teammate drives toward the baseline and you or any other teammate of him should fill opposite corner. Also cut towards the basket from middle was good idea. Read your defender.
6. Clear out. Rondo clears out the corner and take his defender with him leaving Lebron 1vs1 with his defender. Two examples.
6.Offensive rebound. If your teammate is shooting the ball or you anticipate him shooting the ball very soon – go for offensive rebound.
7.Feed the post + relocate/screen to nearest perimeter player/cut to the basket.
Feed the post + screen to nearest perimeter player.
Feed the post + relocate.
Feed the post + cut the the basket.
8.Feed the post – fill the weak-side SPOTS. There are lot of different options what teams are doing after the ball is passed to post player in the low post area (5) but most often these are spots that must be taken. Very often players on the weak-side stay at the same spot (reading the defense) while post player (5) plays 1vs1 with his defender.
9.Ball in the low post: 1vs1 (no double team) cut from the weakside.
10. Ball in the low post: double team cut from the weak-side.
11.High-Low. X4 front the post player 4. 5 flash cut to the free-throw line.
12. Screen. Read the defense and roll or cut the basket if you see scoring opportunity.
13. Cut from weak-side to free-throw line area. Good option against zone defense. If it’s not possible to receive the ball move behind 3-point line again and at the same time maintaining good spacing.
Thank you abouthegame.com readers for your reading! I hope this article helped you to understand the game of basketball better !