Second Cut

The Basketball Second Cut Concept Explained

February 8, 2017
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One of the principles of basketball I picked up from Chuck Daly years ago at a clinic still holds true today. The principle of offense states that, “the defense cannot stop two things in a row.” This means that the defense is focused on stopping the first action. This focus on covering initial actions can result in secondary actions being open.

I still remember the play Coach Daly showed to demonstrate this principle. The play was called “Motion Reverse” and was an action out of a “Floppy” set (Floppy is a traditional basketball set that involves a stagger screen on one block or a single screen on the opposite block).

Chuck Daly
Motion Reverse works because the defender covering the screener must help on the first cut. This limits their ability to help on the second cut, essentially creating a one-on-one situation.

Check Out More Floppy Basketball Set Plays

Floppy Strong Post Action

Floppy Cross Screen Action

I am explaining all this because one of the members of Basketball Immersion shared the Second Cut concept that Villanova head coach Jay Wright talked about in a coaching clinic. He shared this concept in the members only Facebook Mastermind Group. The post resulted in more questions from members, this blog and a video breakdown of the concept.

Facebook Mastermind

Villanova is known for the use of jump stops. Half-Court Hoops provides an extensive video featuring Villanova jump stops – Villanova Wildcats Fundamentals Series (Jump Stops/Pump Fakes/Pivots).

The concept that goes hand-in-hand with the jump stop is the Second Cut Concept. 

What is a Second Cut?

A second cut happens when a dribbler penetrates and an off the ball player basket cuts. The basket cut can happen during the live dribble or after the dribble is stopped. A teammate can basket cut to create a scoring opportunity, and to create space for perimeter player movement. The decision to cut is based on an off the ball player reading their check to see if they have lost sight. Multiple cuts can happen, but only one cut can happen at a time. 

Since the defense is challenged to stop two things in a row, the second cut tries to take advantage of the defense’s focus on the dribbler. A second cut creates a scoring opportunity because the defense is preoccupied with the first offensive action. The first action can be a screen away, ball screen or dribble penetration. In these video examples the primary action is dribble penetration. After dribble penetration the first reaction of the players off the ball is to apply their dribble penetration reaction concepts. The second reaction is to have one player use a second cut. 

Why does a Second Cut Work?

There are three main reasons a stop cut works:

1. The defense is preoccupied with the dribble penetration.
2. A defender loses sight of their check (They see the ball, and not their check).
3. A defender gets two feet above an off the ball player.

What happens if the Second Cut is not Open?

If a pass to a cutter is not open, a perimeter pass out is an effective action. A perimeter pass out is usually open because most defenses shrink as the ball gets closer to the basket. This often results in the off the ball defenders losing sight of their check as they focus on the ball. A helpful fundamental skill to teach your players the concept of using patient pivots to find an open teammate is the Back Pivot. In a Back Pivot, the player with the ball can stop, pivot on their back pivot foot, and create space for a shot or pass. If the defense recovers, then a number of back pivot counters can be used. The move applies basketball footwork and pivoting fundamentals.

How to Build the Second Cut Concept in Your Offense?

The best way to develop the second cut concept is to emphasize it within your small-sided games and 5-on-5 drills in practice. It is random, and completely unscripted, so it is very difficult to break it down. While you can do some on-air actions to get the initial concept of the second cut, including the pass and backdoor footwork, it really needs to be drilled vs. defense. 

Steps to Teach the Second Cut

  1. Choose a small-sided game from A Practical Guide to 3-on-3.
  2. Create a constraint. For example, before the small-sided game is live, the offense must skip the first catch, there must be penetration and a jump stop, followed by a second cut by one player. Learn more about how to use constraints – How to Increase Player Learning by Creating Game-Like Situations.
  3. Emphasis, teach and correct.

The second cut concept can be applied to any offensive system. Players need to be given freedom to make decisions, and that randomness will make it difficult to defend.

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