Proven methods for attacking full-court pressure By Kenneth Edwards, formerly of Princess Anne High School, Virginia

Photo: Brad Ward, Flickr

Today’s game of basketball is often played with a wide-open, pressure style of defense. An effective pressure offense must contain the following characteristics:

  • It must provide a versatile method of attacking both zone and man-to-man traps.
  • It must provide high-percentage scoring opportunities.
  • It must stretch the defense and exploit weaknesses.
  • It must always provide three near outlets, as well as one long outlet.

When diagramming and explaining the three-lane, slide-and-fill pressure offense, it’s important to remember that the quickest and best ball handlers must be involved in the slide-and-fill action. This puts those players in position to attack the basket or flow into the half-court offense. It also puts the post players on the wing, where they are free to catch and finish at the rim.

On each inbounds pass, the offense has three options — sideline, middle and reverse. Each option will be diagrammed and discussed in detail throughout this article.

Inside the press break

DIAGRAM 1: Initiating the press break. The offense begins with the most basic and important element: Inbounding the basketball. There are two primary methods that the point guard may use to get open and receive the inbounds pass. In the “seal-and-release method” (shown as A or B in Diagram 1), the point guard would first read that the defender is overplaying to one side. He or she would then respond to this defensive maneuver by sealing the defender to the middle and then releasing to get free.

If the offense still had difficulty inbounding the ball, the other guard would move to the opposite elbow, and the two guards would then screen for each other and step back to the ball.

DIAGRAM 2: Sideline option. In this diagram, the ball has been inbounded to the point, who immediately turns and looks to execute the sideline option. 5 V-cuts back to the ball and should receive the pass on the same side of the half-court line as the passer. As 5 receives the pass from 1, 2 cuts hard to the ball-side sideline. 1 immediately cuts to the middle to fill 2’s position, thus illustrating the first slide-and-fill action. 3 (inbounder) now steps to the middle of the floor and serves as the reverse outlet.

The off-side post (4) slides down the sideline and looks for a gap on the offside. 4 serves as the long outlet. 5 should continue to look at the options:

  • Sideline (to 2).
  • Middle (to 1).
  • Reverse (to 3).

DIAGRAM 3: Middle option. The ball has again been inbounded to 1, but the sideline outlet is not open, 1 immediately looks to the middle option (2).

   » ALSO SEE: Critical lessons for beating the press

Our rule is as follows: Whenever the ball goes to the middle of the flow, we are in a fast-break situation. 2 must turn and attack the defense, while 4 and 5 fill the outside lanes. Meanwhile, the best perimeter shooters (1 and 3) fill the gaps on either side, but stop at the 3-point line.

DIAGRAM 4: Reverse option. This option is used if the sideline and middle options are not available. As 1 receives the inbounds pass, he looks at 5 (denied) and 2 (denied). As this is happening, 3 steps inbounds directly in front of the opponent’s basket. 1 immediately reverses to 3. Depending on the skill level of 3, he is allowed anywhere from one to three dribbles to clear the middle. 3 is now looking at his/her options:

  • Sideline (to 4).
  • Middle (to 2).
  • Reverse (to 1).

In this diagram, 3 passes to 4, who V-cuts back to the ball. Again it is important the 4 receive the pass on the same side of half-court as the passer to avoid a backcourt violation. As 4 catches the pass, 2 cuts hard to the ball-side sideline and 1 fills the middle. 5 now slides down the sideline into a gap and serves as the long outlet.

If 4 were to pass to 2 down the sideline, 1 continues his or her cut and 2 may pass to 1 in the middle. If 2 dribbles to the middle, 1 continues his or her cut and curls to the wing that 2 just dribbled away from. 5 continues to attack the rim as a cutter in the offside lane. 3 fills the gap at the 3-point line.

   » ALSO SEE: Creating a pressure mentality in your program

DIAGRAM 5: Reverse-sideline combo action. This diagram illustrates how the reverse option can be combined with the sideline action. If 1 passes sideline to 5, the slide-and-fill action dictates that 2 cut to the sideline and 1 cut to the middle.

On 5’s catch, if the sideline and middle are not open, 5 then reverses to 3. On the catch, 3 would either dribble once or twice to clear the middle. 4 would V-cut hard back to the ball, and 3 would look to pass to 4 immediately (sideline option).

On 4’s catch, 1 would slide to the ball-side sideline and 2 would cut at the same time to fill the middle. 5 would then slide down the sideline as the long outlet.

There are many other options to the attack that a coach may use to take full advantage of the team’s personnel. The key points that pertain to this pressure attack are that it’s versatile, spreads the floor, offers great shot opportunities and also provides the necessary balance required to flow directly into your half-court set.

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