The Many different Phases of Offense

There are many different Phases of Offense within a game of basketball. These phases of offenses define the structure and follow the natural progression of the offensive flow involved in basketball. These different phases as a coach help to fill the “gaps” that can appear in your strategic thinking about game tactics. For coaches this is a valuable way to analysis your own thinking about coaching and what you need to prepare in delivering a complete and whole basketball knowledge and program to your players.


The journey for many coaches begins with knowledge of offense and defence as two all defining phases of play. But the sport of basketball is so much more than this. As the diagram below states there are many different phases to basketball.


Functional Basketball Coaching's Phases of Basketball Offense
Functional Basketball Coaching’s Phases of Basketball Offense

It does not matter if your team is examining offense or defence the different phases of offense and defence are sandwiched by rebounding. Rebounding in basketball is the one undeniable laws that your team must come to terms with in order to be successful in every phase of the basketball game. At the start of the phases of offense is the long drilled Loose Ball Phase of Defensive Rebounding. This phase occurs when your opposition shoots the ball. To help frame this phase for your players you need to sell this as the spark in your engine for the team’s offense to be ignited. No single offensive phase is more important than defensive rebounding. Without it your offense never gets a chance to fast break from live ball situations.


The Fast Break Phase is one of the most exciting of all phases of basketball offense. It is basketball at its most pure with players attacking the basket in the full court and making plays instinctively from what they see before them on the court. Fast break basketball needs to be high intensity, but played with a controlled and guiding deliberate hand. Teams that fail to plan adequately run the risk of death by structure and relying on the impossible equation of perfect half-court basketball to generate all their offense.


The first of the structured phases of offense is the Primary Transition Phase. This phase introduces planned movements to the progression of your team’s offense up the floor. Players can be running to specific positions, executed by numbers or rules of movement into deliberate positions. Primary transition can sometimes be substituted by the Press Breaker in times of need. Your primary transition will often start from a dead ball situation or slow outlet scenario so a fast break is not possible. Your Primary Transition should still be quick enough to create high percentage shooting opportunities before a zone defence can be established, but lack the look and feel of the ordered chaos which depicts a fast break offensive attack.


The Secondary Transition Phase looks to link your primary transitions final player positions to your half-court offense. In your primary transition once you have reached your attacking quarter of the court the player movements can pull you out of your teams desired half-court set-up formation. This is especially true if you allow your players to make choices and will also happen if trying to beat a zone defence and a shot does not present itself. This is then the phase of offense where secondary transition is utilised. Secondary transition is used to bring players to specific positions. Teams can utilise multiple secondary transition plays to bridge gaps in formations.


It is important to note that many secondary transition plays are not used only as a linking plays but are quick hitters or options in their own right.


The Half-court Offense Phase is probably the most focused on phase in basketball offense. Do a quick search on the internet and millions of hits will result from the web search “half-court offense”. This phases looks to create scoring situations that provide the best shots for your team. There are hundreds of different systems which can be undertaken in this phase, but coaches should be aware that creating a good half-court system can take many years of practice and refining their understanding about the mechanics of a system. Whatever the tempo and core principles of your half-court offense, the underlying theme of its implementation is that it helps your team develop control and advantage over your opposition. Anything less and you sell your team short of success.


The half-court offense phase usually sees your opposition and your team playing five on five in the half-court and this characteristic alone sometimes is the best way of defining your change from transition (primary or secondary) into half-court offense.


Next within the phases of offense is the Terminal Offense Phase. This phase is called upon as the final offensive movement in the half-court to gain a scoring opportunity. At its core this phase must finish with a shot. Take note, a shot must be the end result, not a shooting option, not a scoring opportunity but a shot. This is an important point to focus on with your players as no offense should finish their shot clock with the ball in their hand only to give it to the opposition from the sideline.


The terminal offense phase often minimises the structured five man movements of the half-court offense phase into two or three man breakdowns. Examples of this might be on-ball screening, hand-offs or high low post offense. The terminal offense phase looks to bring order to an often pressure filled situation when the shot clock is in its dying seconds. Without this phase players can become tense and overcome by the moment. The terminal offense phase acknowledges the increased need for a player to make a play, but also brings a change in the cognitive focus of the player to performing a specifically designed play to deal with this need.


The concluding phase in offense is the Loose Ball Phase of Offensive Rebounding. This unfortunately is one of the most underutilised phases in basketball. Very rarely is it drilled as a team and even more rarely are the technical aspects of the technique explained to players with purpose or meaning. With even the best teams shooting below fifty precent, offensive rebounding should be an aspect that every coach needs to apply with their team.


The golden rule for the offensive rebounding phases is your team must expect every shot to miss. Offensive rebounding should be a must and not under coached to the point of being a choice of non-effort.


The phases of offense in basketball are very useful to coaches, but seldom examined in detail outside of elite basketball programs. The phases of offense examine the teams output and performance and this applies a significantly different perspective to statistical analysis or individual scouting. By focusing on the phases of offense when reviewing your teams game tape you will gain a different appreciation of their performance and the needs required for the next stage in their development.


In your professional development as a coach if you are unsure about what to work on next, examine your offensive philosophy within the guidelines of phases of offense and you will be sure to expose your own short comings, gaps and limitations.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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