How To Play Basketball: Offense

Basketball is a team sport; a team sport comprised of players who must all have talent and skill to contribute in order for the team to reach the highest level of success possible. An effective offense requires players to be able to sprint, stop, and pass and shoot a basketball. Basketball coaches must use basketball drills that are both productive and reinforcing of these skills. The old adage holds true, "Player's will play like they practice." Continually practicing drills and offensive plays that will be used in game situations is essential for success.

The objective of a basketball offense is to score points. This is achieved through running a series of designed plays. The number of offensive basketball plays runs the gamete, both in simplicity as well as complexity. This is where coaches need to be knowledgeable and realistic. They need to look at the player's they have to work with, assess the strengths and weaknesses of each and design plays that will work within these areas, resulting in positive outcomes on the floor.

Basketball offense, as well as defense, is comprised of five positions on the floor. Let's break it down and look at these positions strictly from an offensive point of view.

  1. The Point Guard: The point guard runs the offense and watches the backcourt. This player needs to have the following qualities:
    • quick
    • strong in transitions
    • a good passer
    • excellent both-hand dribbler
    • ability to read defenses
    • can take the ball to the basket or dish it off
    • unselfish player
    • can consistently score both jump shots and free throws
    • leadership

    Of all of these qualities, leadership is perhaps is the most important characteristic of a point guard. They must be able to inspire their teammates, be passionate on the floor, take control of a game and want the ball in pressure situations. On the flip side, their ego must be held in-check and not over-inflated; a big ego leads to selfish play and ineffective offense.

  2. The #2 Guard: Also referred to as the "off-guard" or "shooting guard", this player is usually the better shooter of the two guards. This player needs to have the following qualities:
    • a consistent jump shot, particularly within the 3-point range
    • utilizes and reads screens and shoots well coming off them
    • shoots well off the dribble as well as the fake
    • shoots well in jump stops from transitions
    • must be a "student of the game" -- in the event the point guard is overplayed or has to leave the game, he must sometimes run the offense
    • ability to go to the offensive boards
    • ability to feed the post
    • must know how to move without possession of the ball
    • shooter, shooter, shooter
  3. The Small Forward: The small forward position, the vast majority of the time, is the most gifted player on the team. This player needs to have the following qualities:
    • consistent shooter from a minimum of 15 foot range
    • quick and fast
    • a good passer
    • have good post-up abilities
    • able to run the length of the court on fast breaks and take it to the hoop
    • can shoot/score with either hand
    • aggressive on offensive boards
    • ability to box out
    • good leaping ability
    • capable of shooting from anywhere from the wings, around the key, and under the boards. The best small forwards can score at will and simply take control of the game with their exceptional athletic abilities.
  4. The Power Forward: The power, or strong, forward does not receive much recognition. He is usually the key who does the "dirty work" and is taken for granted. This means he is doing his job and playing his role well. This player needs to have the following qualities:
    • solid rebounding
    • capable of fairly consistent shooting and scoring from the 12-15 foot range
    • consistent free throw shooter
    • gutsy dribbler and a hard-nosed driver
    • good runner who can go the entire length of the floor on a fast break
    • be the "enforcer" -- stand up to the defense
    • can draw fouls on inside scoring attempts
    • adequate passer
  5. The Center: The center is normally the tallest player on the floor. This position is usually the most recognized player position. This player needs to have the following qualities:
    • quickness
    • good post-up skills and back to basket moves
    • ability to hit 8-12 foot jumpers
    • steady free throw shooter
    • ability to take the ball strongly to the hoop and stay after it
    • ability to go to the glass, rebounding and shooting
    • streak of arrogance that makes him "ruler of the paint", holding his territory
    • strong hands, good jumper, good upper body strength
    • make good outlet passes

As the game of basketball continues to evolve, offensive alignments and plays must keep up with the rule changes as well as the competition among the great coaching minds of the game. Basketball coaches must be aware of every strategy and resource that is available for them to draw from in order to produce the most successfully designed offensive plays on the floor. Basketball is not a sport where you, as a player or coach, can sit back and think you have arrived. Doing so will most certainly lead you to mere waving as the successful teams pass you by.


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