The Basketball Second Cut Concept Explained

February 8, 2017
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A second cut is an off the ball cut that happens in combination with some type of dribble penetration.It can occur at the beginning, middle or end of any penetration. Most commonly a second cut happens from the weak side off the floor.

At the youth level a second cut is effective as a protection plan to release pressure when the ball goes dead on dribble penetration. In this case it becomes more of a reaction. At higher levels it becomes a proactive attempt to leverage an advantage with an off the ball cut while a dribble occupies the defense’s attention.

What is the purpose of 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. 

One of the principles of basketball 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 the first action can result in a secondary action being open. In a second cut situation, the defense is challenged to stop two things in a row, the dribble drive and the off the ball cut. The defense’s focus on the dribbler can leave them vulnerable to an off the ball cut.

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. Learn more about the back pivot in this video of in-game examples, and this full blog How to Teach the Back Pivot Basketball Scoring Move

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. 

In our membership community we have a number of video examples of how to teach the second cut.

Second Cut

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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