You can have 100’s of out of bounds plays, but in a game, you only get to run one of them once.
The number one mistake that basketball coaches is make is assuming that what worked for one team will work for your team. You can’t just pull plays from the NBA/college/youtube/your rivals and expect them to run smoothly.
There are many factors that you have to consider when it comes to picking the right plays to teach and run and after drawing up hundreds of plays.
I’ve broken down 3 key imitations below- time left on the shot clock, the score, and whether you have a time out to call or not. Keep reading to learn how to pick the right play.
How much time do you have left?
Time left on the clock is the most important factor when it comes to deciding what kind of play to run. The clock can beat any play if you’re not prepared.
Here’s how to break the clock down to let your players know what type of shot they should be looking for in a half court situation:
- Greater than 8 seconds- with more than 8 seconds left, I would trust my team to run their motion offense. If the defense was guarding closely, I would run a play to get the ball inbounded, but after that, I’d expect them to use motion principles to get a good look.
- Less than 8 seconds left- we have time for either a pass to a quick isolation, or up to 2 quick passes for a catch and shoot.
- Less than 4 seconds left- the player that catches the ball can take up to 2 dribbles before shooting, or make a pass for a catch and shoot.
- Less than 2 seconds left- this is a catch and shoot situation. We’d need to use off ball screens, hard cuts or misdirection to get someone open for a look at the basket.
- Less than 1 second left- the only option is the lob play.
Sharing this information with your players in practice does them a world of good when it comes to getting better shots from them. Many mistakes happen because they simply don’t know what their options are and so either hold onto the ball for too long, or take a rushed shot with too much time left on the clock.
However, if a good shot is available before the play is completed, your players should not hesitate to take it. For example, if a screener who’s meant to set a cross screen at the low block found himself unguarded, then the inbounder should pass the ball to him for the layup. A sign of a well-coached team is one that reacts to the defense and doesn’t just run the play the coach drew up for them.
What’s the Score?
As a coach, you need to look at the scoreboard and decide whether you want you want to run a play to get the best shot possible (BSP) or if you absolutely need a 3. Here’s what you need to consider:
- If you’re tied or down by 1, or you’re not in the final quarter, going for the BSP is the best option every time.
- If you’re down by 2, normally going for the BSP to send the game into OT is the best option. However, if your team is fatigued and/or has a busy schedule ahead you may want to consider going for the 3 to win the game. Note that this isn’t just a “cop out” but a legitimate strategy used by even NBA teams.
- If you’re down by 3 or 4 points you must decide whether you can score the BSP quickly, foul and score again. This threshold for doing this is around 8 seconds- provided you can advance the ball after a time out.
- If you’re down by 5 or more points with 14 seconds left, you need a 3 to stay in the game.
Whether you have a time out or not?
One way coaches can help players win games is by knowing the rules of the game- one of which is the time out.
If you don’t have a timeout or don’t want to call one (for example, during the first half of regulation), then your team should be running a play out of a “series”. A series is a stock set of plays, normally starting off in the same alignment, such as a box, stack or flat, that flows into several options, depending on the play call from the bench. One example of a series would be the 5 box plays that I shared with you.
If you have a time out to call, you may want to run a “special” play that you’ve prepared for the situation. Most youth leagues follow either the FIBA or NCAA rules. Take a look at this handy table to work out the differences in rules:
|Rules||FIBA||NCAA (Electronic Media format)|
|Number of full time outs||2 in first half, 3 in second half. But only 2 allowed in last 2 minutes of a game.||1 full time out|
|Length of full time outs||60||60|
|Extra time outs per overtime period||1 extra full per overtime period||1 extra 30 second TO per overtime period|
|30 second time outs||None||3. First 30 second timeout in the second half is extended to an electronic media timeout (don’t need EM for this rule to take place).|
|Timeout carry over||No carryover between halves/OT||Only 3 time outs can be carried over. One 30 second TO will be lost if no timeouts are used in the first half.|
|Who can call a time out?||Coach only, through scorer’s table||Either player or coach|
|When can a time out be called?||On next stoppage in play, after a made field goal or free throw.||A coach can only call a timeout when the ball is dead, such as after a made basket, free throw or foul. A player can also call a timeout if he is in control of the ball.|
|Advancing the ball||Calling a timeout before ball is inbounded in the back court by own team advances ball to the front court scorer’s table. Can also be advanced after a free throw is rebounded, but before ball is dribbled or passed.||Advance the ball rule DOES NOT exist for men’s NCAA, but follows FIBA rules for women’s NCAA.|
|When can the ball be advanced?||Last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter||Last minute of the second half, for women’s NCAA rules only.|
Take a look at this table and memorize the rules! The biggest rule difference is that NCAA men’s rules currently DO NOT allow you to advanced the ball the front court after calling a late timeout. Without this rule, you’d need an extra 3 seconds just to bring the ball up from your own baseline, and is something you must keep in mind when selecting a play.
However, rules do vary from league to league so it’s important to never assume anything. Always talk to the referee before the game if you have any questions.
Learning to Pick the Right Play
Of course, these are only rough guidelines to refer to. Every game is different and the only way you learn as a coach is by practicing these situations.
One way the championship winning Cleveland Cavaliers practice winning clutch moments is by playing 2 minute games. Teams assume the scores are tied and have two 30 second time outs to run plays taught by the coaching staff. They also bring in a referee and have their coaching staff split up and coach each team, another great way to increase the realism of the situation if you have the resources. The 2 minute game drill is a great way for you to work out what plays work best for your team in different situations.
As you can see now, you may have to go through 100’s of plays to pick the best 10 that you’ll run with your team. I’ve selected some of the best and I’m excited to share them with you on the Coachbase Plays Mini Course- check it out below.