Weekly X’s & O’s – Chaser Lay Ups Build Up

On this week’s edition of our X’s & O’s, we decided to look at a practice from last week. This is an example of how we can use one start to structure our entire practice. From this, we were able to work on various concepts and things that we wanted to emphasise.

Our primary objectives were as follows:

  1. Attacking the basket looking to score (offense)
  2. Rotate to help as secondary defender (defense)
  3. Pass the ball under pressure out of the paint (offense)
  4. Closing out strong (defense)

Secndary Objectives:

  1. Dribble Penetration Principles (offense)
  2. No help from strong side (defense)
  3. Seamless flow from one action to another (offense)
  4. Scramble Defense (defense)

Those may look like a lot of objectives. For us, it was a signpost to move on to the next, when the first one was consistent (within the practice). If it regressed, then we went back to the first point again.

This is the first thing that we did in the warm-up, using a quick set format. We didn’t go full speed here since the guys were not warm yet.

Instead, we used this segment to emphasise attacking the cones tight and cutting off the defender early.

Personal Note: (If there are any new concepts that we want to introduce, we would also do it in the warm-up in a blocked or isolated fashion)

The quick set format allows us to include various activities in short spurts in our warm up. As such, we only spent about two minutes here. We then moved on to Loaded Shooting, Dribble Penetration Shooting, Defensive Zig Zag and mobilisation before coming back to this.

Since we’d already introduced the key rotations in the warm-up, this progression took less time to get started.

With the 1vs2 set up here, the offensive player needs to come off the cone aggressively and attack the basket for a score.

Our help defender is live when the coach gives a signal. This means that the coach controls the advantage that the primary attacker has.

Our attacker is looking to finish based on the position of the secondary defender as he should already be in front of the primary defender.

Next, we added two extra players on offense.

Points of Emphasis:

  1. Offensive player should look to attack the basket strong and finish at the rim.
  2. Help-defender needs to rotate over and take this drive away.

If the offensive player is not aggressive, then we don’t get a chance to work on our secondary help defense. In addition, this soft attack on offense doesn’t give us the dominoes that we are looking for on offense.

Personal Note: One of the benefits of building through games is that we get a chance to work on both offense and defense at the same time.

As the drive is happening, we are also getting in reps with our dribble penetration principles and getting the attacker to read where the pass should go.

Offensive player on the right slot can choose to drag or diagonal. This keeps the defense off balance and the game stays unpredictable.

Once the pass is made, we want the defense to close out strong.

There is a catch-22 in terms of how we practice. On offense, we teach our guys to shoot the ball on long closeouts (especially, if they are shooters). Defensively, we don’t want to give up rhythm threes. When we do this drill correctly, especially with the built in advantage, the offense finds itself in long close outs time and time again.

Therefore, it is important that we let the defense know that they are doing what is expected. Otherwise, if players get caught up in only seeing the outcome, they begin to take short-cuts in the drill, and now we’re not working on what we need to.

Certain limitations such as time constraints or maximum passes means that the offense has to make quick decisions and the defense has a chance to score points regardless of whether they get an actual stop or not. This re-inforces the idea to the defense that they are doing a good job.

E.g. On the 3vs2 above, we will say two passes maximum. Therefore if the defense takes away the initial drive and closes out hard on the first kick out, they’ve done their job and get a point, regardless is the offense scores or not.

The 4vs3 helps us emphasize our strong side defensive principles. That is, we don’t help from this side. We want our corner defender to stunt and recover. This defender should not allow his marker to receive the pass.

All other movements are staying the same.

One thing worth noting is that we’ve scripted the initial action. It’s always been a lane penetration from the slot throughout this build up.

Personal Note: In order to go game like, we may make it a read situation or start from neutral, instead of giving up the advantage as we have done so far.

If players really struggle with getting an advantage, then we regress this action and modify the same set up to give them the bigger advantage. We do this because we are working on being aggressive with our initial drive and also working on rotating to help. If either one of these actions is not coming through, then we adjust it to get it back.

Next, we moved on to playing 5vs4. It is still important for us to keep the main thing the main thing, meaning that the initial drive and secondary help is always there. Players tend to start moving away from this when we add more players. They begin to get caught up in winning the drill, instead of getting better at the drill.

  • Initial attacker is trying to get to the rim and score, which means the secondary help has to rotate over. This is the main thing that we’re working on.
  • Next is passing the ball out of this situation when the defender takes the shot away. I like our players stopping on two feet and being able to be balanced, however, the two foot stop may slow them down, so we let guys figure out what works for them.
  • Once the ball is passed out to the perimter, we are now working on closing out and scramble defense situations. This is tough for the defense.
  • Important to note that decision-making isn’t only applicable on offensive situations, it is also needed defensively, so we give our players some leeway here.
  • Finally, once we’ve closed out, we’re looking to see if our offense can keep the ball moving whilst hunting for another big advantage. we don’t want the ball to stick.

As mentioned above, we work on both the offense and defense simultaneously. This presents us with some issues as good defense can make our offense look bad and vice versa. We are also conscious of getting quality reps in, competing and working on our principles of play.


Two things worth noting:

  • With most of our advantage starts we have a shot clock. This puts the shot into context and we can facilitate the shot selection discussion. If there is two seconds on the clock on the initial drive, the decisions available are vastly different as opposed to there being fifteen seconds. The shot clock adds this context for our players as they begin to look for better shots.
  • The second thing we have started doing with our disadvantage drills is allowing the offense to keep playing until a score or the defense gets the ball. We do not want poor shots and we also don’t want the defense to remain at a disadvantage. Therefore, when the offensive team grab an offensive rebound an additional defender jumps in, so as there is no numbers advantage. This puts some pressure on the offense to get the highest percentage shot that they can within the shot clock. If they are unable to do so, then they have to work harder to get a quality shot. In addition, it also puts our guys in positions where they have to play after an offensive rebound. Whilst we are averaging 60% OREB, our shot selection and seamlessness following offensive rebounds isn’t that great.


FIBA 3vs3 is a favourite of ours and fits in well with our BIG3. (Side-note: the 3vs2 above also counts as a 3vs3 game)

We can also work on the same thing from FIBA 3vs3 with players playing by the same rules, but on any change of possession, we want the ball handler to dribble the ball around the first cone attacking outside the lane from the slot and we want the other two players to split immediately going to opposite sides.

Within our advantage type games, we do not allow players to steal the ball until it goes around the first cone. The shot clock still counts down so it makes sense to have a sense of urgency.

To give our guys the advantage that we want, we have a second cone, which the defense has to go around. They can go as soon as the offensive player picks up the ball after a score. This helps maintain the sense of urgency in being quick around the cone and sprinting to the spots.

The idea is to build up our concepts, so we will play with the same key points (depending on what we are working on during the week).

  • No help from the strong side
  • Secondary help has to take away the initial drive
  • Scramble and close out hard

Cutthroat is another favourite of ours and we tend to do it in every practice. We like this better than we do Shell drill.

In this version of cut-throat, we’re playing 4vs4 and the defense gets points for getting stops. New teams will come in on offense. If the offense scores, they get a chance to play defense. This helps in building our defensive identity.

After every stop or score, the ball needs to be passed back out to the coach. Both offense and defense goes around the coach which gives the offense the advantage needed.

Basic Defensive Rules of Cut-throat:

  • All four players must be communicating
  • No Help from ball side
  • Stop the first penetration

Even if the offense scores, but the defense doesn’t do one of the above, then it doesn’t count as a stop. This means that the defense rotates out. We’ll dive into how we play our cutthroat in a later post, including some other rules that we use on defense and offense to keep the emphasis on the things that we want.

Cutthroat is one of the best drills that you can use in practice. It gives you a chance to keep every player active. In addition, you can really work on the key principles and actions of your team. Combining cut-throat with some of our advantage starts or even other drills works really well for us, and we’ll sometimes go from cutthroat into 12 man rotation or cutthroat into 2.5 (we’ll dive into this in a later post).

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 Concepts and Transition Offense Rules in the coming weeks, so that’s something to look out for.

Until next week.

Coach Nabil Murad

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