Weekly X’s & O’s – Dribble Penetration Principles

This week, we’re taking a look at our Dribble Penetration Principles and sharing a few ideas of how we work on building the habits and teaching the decision-making components through the use of shooting and small-sided games.

Regardless of what set or action that we run, there will inevitably be a moment when the play breaks down or a player initiates a drive to the basket. As soon as that happens, we want our players to play by certain principles. This is what makes up our Dribble Penetration Principles and form the basis of our early teaching.

There are five key positions that players need to fill when a dribble penetration occurs in a game.

But first, what exactly is a dribble penetration?

We define a dribble penetration move as a North-South Dribble attack or in other words, “a dribble attack that is in a direct line from where the ball starts to the basket“. This is different from Dribble Ats or Dribble Hand-Off moves and sequences.

Wing Baseline Drive Reaction

When this straight line drive occurs, each player on the floor immediately rotates over to fill in certain positions. The below few images show how the players off the ball react and move into windows as the drive happens.

Windows refer to a clear line of vision between the basketball and the player off the ball meaning that if a pass is to be made, there is no defender in between the ball and the pass receiver.

All teams in our Club play from a 4 Out 1 In alignment. The spots filled in this alignment are the two slots and two wings.

We generally use the corners too to stretch out the defense and create double gaps for our drivers. This means that more often than not, any dribble penetration is usually started from one of four spots. Either of the two wings or the slots.

On any baseline drive, the opposite corner player drifts to the corner and the post player moves into the dunking position towards the nail. The remaining two players drag and fill in the diagonal spots.

On a wing middle drive, the post player circles opposite as he moves into a dunking spot behind the driver.

The player below the driver becomes the drag as the other two players drift and fill in the diagonal.

There are times that the #3 man depicted in the image may cut after having made a pass to #1.

In this case, he is still responsible for dragging behind the driver.

On a slot lane drive, the post player lifts up and away from the basket to clear up a driving lane for the driver, the other players immediately drift, drag and get in the diagonal windows.

Finally, we can have slot middle drives where the player directly ahead of the ball drifts in line with the drive, the player behind the ball drags into position and the post player dunks into position.

When these spots are filled consistently, it allows our players to have the confidence and trust that on any drive, these spots are filled. As such, they are expecting their teammates to be there, so when the drive is prevented, they know where to look to find their open teammate.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as knowing these positions need to be filled. These principles need to become instinct and happen subconsciously. This means that we have to constantly put our players in positions where they can develop the habits needed for this to become second nature.

We attempt to do just that through our BIG3 and the breakdowns that follow below.


Depending on what our intent is, we select from one of our chosen activities.

In this shooting drill, we are not trying to develop the decision-making component. Rather, we are just repping out shots, but also getting our players the required game movement patterns.

These drills can also form the basis of our early teaching, where we are working on movement patterns without the players actually knowing that’s what we are doing.

The following few drills also work on the same thing but from the remaining three spots on the floor.

One thing that we have noted is that in this drill, our shooting percentages drop severely as compared to stationary shooting. Initially, our players didn’t prefer to do this as they thought that the drill reduced their shooting percentages, making them worse shooters. Partly correct.

The truth is that in stationary shooting drills, there is less variability leading to an increase in shooting percentages. This drill reduces the variability making the shots come from game movements. However, this drill still doesn’t make the shots game-like, which is eventually where we want to go. We’ll cover how we do that below.

We also replicate these shooting drills from all dribble penetration starting points.


Baseline Extra 1vs1

The offensive player gets in the paint and makes the pass to the diagonal who immediately makes the extra to the corner. The initial driver continues his movement to play defense on the corner player as they play 1vs1. This is a simplified version of the drill that follows.

In trying to bridge the gap between isolated shooting drills and game-like conditions, we go through a series of progressions, adding variability and randomness into our drills until we get to where we want. The below game builds on the one above helps bridge the gap.

Baseline Drive 1vs1

  • #1 drives baseline as #4 drifts to the corner, #3 sprints into the diagonal and #2 drags behind #1
  • #1 makes the pass out to the corner and #4 makes an extra pass to #3
  • #3 takes a dribble towards the middle of the floor as #2 loops back around.
  • At the same time #1 is closing out and the game is now live.

The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1 point (offense) for every basket scored
  • 1 point (offense) every clean three on the catch (regardless of make or miss)
  • 3 points (defense) any steals on the initial pass

This is because we really want to force an aggressive denial of the pass and/or a sharp closeout. The sharp closeout allows us to work on several things.

  1. It allows the defense to get better reps at closing out under control and recovering to take the drive away. As opposed to always closing soft because “I know my teammates and they can’t shoot anyway
  2. It forces the offensive player who is receiving the ball to read whether they can catch and shoot (the rule that gets the offensive player 1 point if he gets a clean shot off emphasises the shot release here), stampede, rip thru or cut back door.
  3. It forces the player who is making the pass to make the correct read as to when and where to make the pass.

This now becomes a game-like shooting drill. The game is chaotic and unpredictable. Players catching the ball do not know whether they are open or not. They have to process the information as it is unfolding before them and make a decision on whether they should catch and shoot it or drive. We do not want our players catching and holding here. It has to be an immediate catch and drive or a catch and shoot decision. This added variability helps players improve the perception-action coupling process they need to become better-skilled players.

As with most of our drills and concepts, we build them up so that we can get into situations that our players experience the most in games. Through our use of stationary advantages and dynamic advantages, we attempt to replicate the situations so that players can get better at reading the game, making decisions and executing the technical movement patterns needed to be successful. Our BIG3 aligns every team in our club so that we are presenting these challenges consistently.

That’s all for this week. I hope you guys enjoy seeing what we do within our practices. If there is a specific action or drill that you would like us to share, just drop us a message and we’ll be happy to do so.

If you have enjoyed this, you may enjoy our Motion Screen Away and Dribble Hand-Off Actions. In addition, we will be looking at our Ball Screen in the coming weeks, so that’s something to look out for.

Until next week.

Coach Nabil Murad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑