Fast breaks are one of the most effective ways to score because it doesn’t allow the defense to set up but how do you actually make it FAST? Details matter and we’re going to break down Coach Tom Izzo of Michigan State’s “numbered” fastbreak system.
The main disadvantage of transition offense is that it’s turnover prone. It requires your players to make good passes and quick decisions whilst running at full speed. The solution is the numbered fast break, developed by Coach Tom Izzo of Michigan state. Coach Izzo gives each player a number and a designated route they must run. This reduces the number of decisions a player has to make and thereby reduces the number of turnovers.
Pros of the fast break
- It’s hard to defend. There’s no set plays.
- It hurries many opponents. Setting a tempo faster than they prefer to play.
- Run properly, it produces more easy and open shots.
- More exciting and fun for players! More players get to be involved
Cons of the fast break
- You need a point guard that can dribble and make good decisions. I.e. Magic Johnson/ Steve Nash/ Jason Kidd.
- It all starts with rebounding, if you can’t rebound then you can’t fast break.
- Your players need to be well conditioned.
- Increased turnover opportunities because there are more decisions to be made.
Specific advantages of the numbered fast break
- Designed to allow your team to run without turning the ball over.
- Keeps spacing on the court. Lanes are designated.
- Positions are designated. Puts guys in a position to be successful.
Running an effective fast break is all about paying attention to details. It takes only 4 seconds to sprint from 1 end of the basketball court to the other. Shaving off 0.1 seconds on multiple things will add up. Here’s an infographic of those details:
- #1 Point Guard: Your best ball handler and decision-maker.
- #2 Fly Right: Runs the right sideline lane. Should be a good shooter.
- #3 Fly Left: Runs the left sideline lane. Should be a good shooter.
- #4 & #5 Bigs: Interchangeable. First big up the floor runs the middle lane. Second bigup the floor becomes the trailer.
Breaking it Down
Phase 1 – Rebound the ball
It all starts with rebounding. Every player must box out and go for the rebound. On a score, don’t wait for the ball to touch the ground. On the rebound, it’s better to get the ball slightly in front of you than directly above you because you can use your body to protect the ball from being stolen from behind.
Phase 2 – Outlet pass
On a made shot, immediately run to the baseline and inbound the ball, preferably on the your player’s strong hand’s side. On a miss, make sure to chin the ball and turn outwards towards the outlet. This detail matters because if you keep the ball too low or high, it can be stolen. If you chin the ball with your elbows out then if someone wants to steal the ball it’s a marriage between your elbows and their teeth. Not saying you should do that but that’s how you protect the ball. You also want to spin away from the middle where most of the traffic is.
The point guard must sprint to the outlet position, near the 3 point line free throw line extended. Remember to keep wide with your butt pointing to the sidelines. By pointing your butt to the sidelines, you can see the defense and the ball. Make sure to read the defense before you catch the ball, if they deny the ball then make a diagonal cut to the middle.
Phase 3 – Moving the ball upcourt
Once the outlet pass has completed, look up and try to pass the ball forward. A pass is always faster than a dribble but if a pass is not available then aim to pass within 2 dribbles.
If a layup is not available, players should look to swing the ball to the other side. It’s very difficult to guard if you switch sides on a fast break.
2 on 1 break guidelines
- Maintain good spacing. Don’t let the defender guard 2 players at the same time.
- The dribbler should make a decision at the free throw line to drive, shoot or pass.
- The other attacker should start cutting at a 45 degree angle towards the basket starting at the 3 point line.
- If the defender has quick hands or is very athletic, the cutter should stay parallel or behind the dribbler to make the pass easier.
The fly right and fly left must sprint down the court and stay as wide as possible to maintain good spacing. The advantage of the numbered fast break here is that the players always run the same side to reduce confusion and therefore less turnovers.
If the fly’s don’t get the ball, they need to stay wide and go touch the baseline. Players have a natural tendency to go to the middle and this takes away the spacing for our secondary break.
Phase 4 – Secondary break
You’re looking for a numbers advantage on your primary break unless you have a Lebron James or Russell Westbrook player who can take on multiple players. Numbers advantage meaning a 3 on 2 or 2 on 1. If the defense gets back and there’s no numbers advantage then we can go into what we call a secondary break.
Typically, secondary break involves the 2 big men trailers to either reverse the ball, set a staggered screen or post down low. The fly’s (2 and 3) must stay wide and deep to create the spacing required in the middle.
Drills for transition offense
To help your team, we’ve recorded 3 game based drills for practicing your transition offense:
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