I have a goal that one day the game of basketball will be seen through the lens of Puncture Defense and Rhythm Offense.
"To Cause to Collapse"
The above definition of puncture is the one I like to use when describing how we apply the term. There are other definitions that can be used to help explain the point.
Origin of Puncture
I started using puncture to describe what we wanted vs a 2-3 zone defense. As most coaches already know, one of the main ways to beat a 2-3 zone is to get the ball to the middle of the zone. When the ball is either passed or dribbled to the middle of the zone, the defense has to collapse or the offense will get an easy shot in the lane.
Here are some example actions that cause a 2-3 zone to collapse (Puncture)
There are plenty of ways to puncture a 2-3 zone. Since there are many options to choose from, I want to encourage coaches to teach puncture first and then add actions. Starting with the importance of puncturing the zone establishes the "why" for the actions you select to run.
Applying Puncture to Man Offense
After creating the term to deal with zone offenses, I started noticing how it could also be applied to man offense. In a way, using it vs a man defense is easier for players to understand the idea. Puncturing a man defense is a simple concept to understand. A offensive player performs an action that requires another defender(s) to stop them from scoring.
Image Below: Simple way to describe puncturing man to man defense.
All defenses want to keep their expanded shape. Zone defenses want to keep the expanded shape of the zone they are running. Man defenses want to keep the shape of the offensive alignment. Against all defenses, the goal of every offensive action should be to puncture and collapse the defense. (Other than to score) **Punctures lead to points**
Puncture - Collapse - Weaken
Before we move on to simplifying, we need to cover another important aspect of puncturing. The obvious goal on each offensive possession is to score points. Offenses that focus on puncturing the defense will only be able to score consistently if they make the correct "puncture read".
Image Below: Once a player punctures the defense, the correct decision needs to be made.
Players will quickly realize: Puncturing the defense = Multiple defenders on me = A teammate is open
Once a player has punctured the defense, the offense needs to focus their attention on taking advantage of the puncture. In the diagram above, 1 beat x1 with an attack dribble. The offense took advantage of the puncture when 1 passed to 2. Player 1 could have continued their dribble attack towards the rim, but that's not the best decision for that sequence. Player 1 did their part by drawing x2 towards the ball. Now it is up to them to continue the possession by making the correct puncture read. Coaches at all levels get frustrated when a player performs a selfish act by shooting a difficult shot they have no business taking. Player 1 would create a difficult finish, turn it over, or pick up a charge if they would have held the ball vs the puncture. What happens if the defense stays expanded and does not puncture? Layup after layup after layup.
Since the offense wants to puncture the defense on every possession, players need to be able to make the correct puncture reads. Coaches need to use drills daily that train this skill. In order for every offense to be successful, it requires correct puncture reads.
As many of you already know, I am a big believer in coaches simplifying. In all areas of basketball, I believe there is value in simplifying. Throughout the years, I have complicated things to the point of "paralysis by analysis" and "tornado brain". (Tornado brain is when a player's head is spinning with all the options available at any given point in a game.)
Ways to Simplify
Use keywords or cues that have a deeper meaning
What do you think of when someone says "Flex"? A coach automatically thinks of the basketball offense that relies on screen the screener action along the baseline and lane line. We think of the ways a team can score out of the offense and the counters needed to be successful. We have associated all of these details with one word. We need to look for keywords or cues we can use with our teams.
Start small - Only add when needed - Establish your minimums
I like to start with the defensive rebound when I talk about offensive philosophies. Starting with the rebound makes a coach think about their transition offense, flow offense, and half court offense as a whole. Thinking of all three phases as a group helps a coach determine how much information they are throwing at their players.
Transition - Outlet, 3 players sprint the floor, pitch ahead, & flatten the defense. Only add when your players are comfortable with these actions AND when you need more actions to help you score.(Drags) **Don't add actions just for the sake of adding actions**
Go through the same process with your flow offense and your half court offense. We don't need as many actions as we think we need. If your team is good, you don't need a lot of actions to be successful. If your team is bad, you don't want load them down with action after action when they can't perform the basic fundamentals.
There is definitely a line line between too simple and too complicated. I encourage coaches to be aware of the amount of information you are giving your players. They are already loaded down with information from school and the other areas of their life. Make sure everything you add is essential to the success of the team. Once your team masters the minimums you established, there is nothing wrong with adding a wrinkle here and there as the season progresses. Just don't add to the point of "paralysis by analysis" or "tornado brain". **Remember actions are designed to puncture - How many do you really need??**
Focus on simple actions that will allow your team to puncture the defense.
The Rhythm Offense concepts were originally created to help our players simplify the decision making process after a catch. Over several years, our players went from being confident and aggressive to players who were hesitant and timid. It was all my fault. I started to overload them. I thought I was helping, but in reality I was just creating problems.
We use the concepts to simplify.
For more information on the Rhythm Offense concepts check out the Ebook page.
Thank you for reading.
Part 4 - Poor Execution
After the ball is centered, there is an attempt at a down screen. On the centering pass, the screener does a good job of anticipating the action. He also clearly communicates a screen is coming to his teammate by showing a raised fist. The passer is also prepared to reverse the ball to action. The problem is with the cutter. He doesn't anticipate the screen coming at all. He is to slow with his movements which causes the screener to abandon the action. The passer has to throw back to the same side. Passing back to the same side is the action we want to avoid at all cost. The offense ends up having to reset the action which causes them to lose the flow they had established.
In our second example, we have three players who are not abiding by the offensive principles. The first pass in the video leads to the ball being centered around the top of the key. The player who has the ball centered needs to automatically turn his attention to the two players on the bottom of the screen. The player with the ball doesn't make any real attempt to reverse the ball and ends up throwing back to the same side. We also have the two players at the bottom who are just standing there and not helping the situation. On the catch, they should have went into some cutting or screening action to reverse the ball. There very easily could have been a down screen or a flare screen set. The possession ends with a player having to take a very difficult shot off the dribble. Most youth and high school teams don't have players who can consistently make these types of shots.
Part 3 - Cutting and Screening
We want to reverse the ball to players who are cutting and screening.
Below are ways teams use cutters to create action while the ball is centered.
Wing player cuts through to open up space for a ball screen
Wing player cuts through to open up space for the DHO
Examples of down screens while the ball is centered.
Wide Pin Down
Another Wide Pin Down
Slip on the down screen
We want players to anticipate when the ball is going to be centered, so we can start the action on the weakside. We want this action to lead to Rhythm Offense opportunities or punctures.
Part 2 - Dribble-At
Using the "Dribbling-At" is an effective way to center the ball.
A "Dribble At" is used to initiate a "Dribble Hand Off" to center the ball. Once the ball is centered, the player looks to reverse the ball to the other side of the floor. He finds a teammate for a open #OneCount three.
After centering the ball, using the "Dribble-At" is an option to reverse the ball into action.
Here it turns into a Dribble Handoff
Another Dribble Handoff
Here it leads to a back cut that punctures the defense
The "Dribble-At" is a simple teaching point that can be used to center the ball and create some action during the reversal phase.
Part 1 -Basic Action
"Center-Reverse" is a simple way to teach players how to play within a motion offense
The idea is based on three main actions