Regardless of the style of basketball you play-full court, half court, motion offense, or a structured continuity type of offense, man defense, zone or match up, I believe there are 12 ABSOLUTES (6 defensive and 6 offensive) you need to accomplish at both ends of the floor if you wish to be successful in that phase of the game. I believe these ABSOLUTES need to be clearly communicated to your players and they need to learn these ABSOLUTES and be able to tell you these without hesitation as they apply to your system or style of play.
- NO EASY BASKETS whether in transition or the half court. Make the opponent work and ear everything they get.
- NO 2ND SHOTS of any kind. Too may good defensive efforts are wasted because of failure to get the defensive rebound. This can be actually demoralizing in many situations.
- NO UNCONTESTED SHOTS- this goes back to #1 somewhat in that we don’t want to allow easy and free looks at the basket. Don’t allow mediocre shooters to become good ones because you don’t contest the shot.
- NO PENETRATION into that paint/post area. This means no penetration off the pass as well as the dribble. When the ball enters the middle of the floor and in particular the post area there are too many options available for offense. Try to limit the thins they can do by keeping it out of the middle. If it does get in there then attack the ball and dig it out as quickly as possible. Offensive rebounding is also a way a team can get the ball in this area and we have already said in #2 that can’t happen.
- PRESSURE THE BASKETBALL as much as possible. #3 certainly implies pressure on the shot. Pressure the dribble, the pass, and the catch as well in order to take the individual or team out of their comfort area. Making the people dribble, pass or catch going away from the basket is a good rule of thumb. How much you are able to pressure may vary from game to game or year to year depending on your personnel, but going back to #1 were the opponent must earn everything they get is critical. Make them work!
- COMMUNICATION kind of pulls it all together. It lets you know that your players understand what it is you are trying to accomplish. It creates a team cohesiveness and promotes unselfish play. It says you are in this together and it takes everyone doing there part to be successful.
- BEFUNDAMENTALLY SOUND in the basic skills of the game of basketball. This means the ability to dribble , pass, catch, shoot and rebound the ball without mistakes. It also means to ability to cut and screen, and space yourself properly. If you cannot execute the fundamentals of the game it makes no difference what you try to do offensively, you won’t be successful. John Wooden has always said you need to “quickly and properly execute the fundamentals of the game.”
- GET EASY BASKETS whenever possible. This would apply to both transition basketball and half court basketball. This can have a devasting effect on the opponent if you are able to get easy baskets time and time again and then they have to work to get any thing at the other end of the floor.
- SHOT SELECTION is a critical importance. Take the shots you want, when you want, where you want, and who you want to take them. Players need to know their roles, accept their roles and fulfill there roles to the best of their ability. Basketball is not an equal opportunity sport!
- OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING can make up for a lot short comings. Crash the boards with aggression and get at least 50% of all offensive rebounds available to you. It will have a demoralizing effect on the opponent. Rebounding is how you win championships.
- GET THE BALL INSIDE for the higher percentage shot. The obvious way to get the ball inside is to feed the post. However, driving the ball to the basket, getting into the lane area in transition, passing the ball to a cutter cutting through the lane, offensive rebounding are other ways to get the ball inside. All are excellent scoring opportunities that put constant pressure on the defense.
- MAKE YOUR FREETHROWS whenever you get to the free throw line. Many coaches make it a goal to make more free throws that the opponent gets. There is nothing wrong with that, but regardless of whether you are able to do that or not, you have to make your free throws when you get to the line. It’s been said that 20% to 25% of a teams scoring opportunities come at the free throw line. This is especially true at “crunch time” of the game.
These ABSOLUTES are not met to be a system of play. They are meant to guide your thinking as you put together your system or style of play at both offensive and defensive ends of the floor. As I have studied and watched teams and programs play over the years, it has become apparent to me that the successful programs, regardless of “style” incorporate the above ABSOLUTES into their offensive and defensive thinking and the result has been good, sound, successful basketball.