Troubleshooting a Transition Offense

Transition Offense is a valuable part of any team’s processes to move the ball and score quickly. Many team’s however struggle at different stages to be able to create an effective transition offense so they can achieve these two most basic goals. The reasons can be varied in regards to the possible issues affecting a team’s transition offense, but there are also few common characteristics.


Pass it Ahead in Transition (Source: JMR_Photography)
Pass it Ahead in Transition (Source: JMR_Photography)

When reviewing the possible reasons for a team’s lack of transition offense the first aspect to look at is the play itself. Some of the more straight forward questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does the strategy put players into receiver spots ahead of the ball?
  • Are there a number of different passing options and opportunities from each position the ball is passed to?
  • Does the primary transition provide high percentage shots at is conclusion?


If your response to any one of these questions is not affirmative then you probably need to reflect on the design and flow of the transition offense as it stands and make some changes as needed.


Another common problem experienced by teams in their transition offense is the tendency to over dribble in the backcourt. To quickly move the ball ahead of the defence, the ball needs to be passed through hands so it may finish with a player around or in the keyway for a high percentage shot. If a team looks to use more than one dribble at anywhere in the transition offense before the ball reaches a scoring position then this will result in a slowing of the offense and provide valuable time for the defence to recover.


Pre-meditating what the defence will do is also an issue with offensive players. Each offensive player should always be looking to create “leads” away from the desired receiver spot and therefore move the defence away from the intended position. By doing this offensive players will always be working to create the best possible situation for them to receive a pass and continue to advance the ball within the team’s transition offense.


Passing to a player under pressure is another common problem seen in a team’s transition offense. This is usually because players either are not used to playing at the required speed, do not establish good vision early of the receiver and their situation, or do not acknowledge all the possible options available to pass to. When players are first asked to play at pace they will find the quickest way to pass the ball and then form a habit of only looking to make this pass to a particular position. This will have an adverse effect as defences become aware of the play and try to take away this option. For this reason, the ball handler at each position needs to be aware of the other passing options available if the first option is defended.


This point also highlights the need for at each receiver spot in the transition offense to have more than one passing option. This alternative passing target can then become a counter for defensive changes.


When the ball reaches a scoring position a commonly seen mistake is to overpass the ball instead of looking to exploit presented driving lanes. Those perimeter players who receive the ball at the end of the movement from one end of the floor to the other have to look to exploit the advantage of broken play established through the effort of their teammates. By making an aggressive drive to the basket, the defence must make choices and this is where opportunities can be created for other forerunner players at the front of the transition offense. In many cases this will play-out as a 2 on 1, 2 on 2 or 3 on 2 scenario.


In the situations where driving lanes happen within the transition offense players off the ball will need to be able to make a “read” and then react to the ball handler as well as the defensive players. It is a coach’s role to present these scenarios to their players in training sessions to ensure when they happen in games that each and every player has the best opportunity to make to right choice.


In all aspects of transition offense there will need to be adequate time provided for practice and refinement of the speed, timing and movement of players within the play. It is therefore only natural for players to struggle with the pressure of playing within this style, but once the earlier mentioned characteristics of a good transition offense have been mastered, a team can always go slower, but few teams if they practice at a lower speed can then “turn it on” when they are needed to go faster.

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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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