Fast Break

How to Run the Modern Basketball Two Side Fast Break

November 17, 2017
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A conversation this summer with Detroit Pistons video coordinator TJ Saint sparked my interest in the two side fast break. According to Coach Saint, 14% of corner three-point shots from four NBA teams he studied (Cleveland, Houston, Boston and Utah) were created out of the transition to the two side via passes out on the fast break.

With access to Synergy, I immediately dove into researching this concept. I, like many coaches, have traditionally trailed a player (most often a forward) to the trailing spot (free throw lane extended on the weak side of the floor) on the fast break. I was never a fan of this trail post concept on the fast break, but it was what I knew so I used it.

I didn’t like using a trail player off the lane line because my point guards were usually my most effective players at penetrating to the basket. Having a player 15 feet away created only a single gap for my best dribble penetration match-up. The problem with a single gap is that a player on defense is one pass away from help. This takes away space. Learn more about single and double gaps from a John Leonzo’s post on the topic: Creating Double Gaps

Fast Break

Single Gap Bad Spacing on the Fast Break

A single gap spacing on the fast break also limited our ability to skip pass on the fast break. Why is a skip pass advantageous in transition? The main reason is because most transition defensive systems encourage players to recover to the ball side, and to load the middle of the floor with the rest of the recovering defenders. To take advantage of a defense’s tendency to recover down the middle of the floor, a fast break offense needs to move the ball as quickly, and directly as possible, to the weak side. Running two players to the weak side of the floor and filling the two side on the fast break gives us this opportunity. Learn more about defensive transition: Defensive Transition: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About

Transition Skip to the Two Side

Since the goal of the offense is to create space, we were helping the defense achieve their goal of taking away space. Our preference on the fast break is to create double gaps for potential dribble penetration, cutting and ball movement opportunities. Double gaps cause a defense to space out more to cover a gap, and a check.

Another problem with using the trailing spot for spacing is that it unintentionally seemed to emphasize a secondary fast break, over a primary fast break. Our fast break more often than not lead to us running offensive actions rather than attacking. I largely attribute this to the fact that our players recognized there was little space for attacking actions off the primary fast break so they settled for the secondary fast break.

The two side fast break works for me. It can work for you if you want to:

  1. Space the floor to the three-point line and encourage the three-point shot as a primary option.
  2. Play fast by encouraging, and accepting, shots in the first 8 seconds of the shot clock.
  3. Believe in a zero seconds, and basketball decision training, philosophy. 
  4. Allows players to play positionless basketball.

I understand this concept is not for every coach’s philosophy. I read a quote from highly successful Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale about challenging your thinking as a coach. Coale said that as coaches we should, “Stay fresh as a coach with the game. It is easy to get busy….that you don’t change and expose yourself to different things. It works for me, and other coaches, who want to.”

Also, I would like to add that she is a Basketball Immersion member – and that her thought process is what I hope Basketball Immersion provokes as well.

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