Why Play with Pace in Transition?

Playing with pace and space has become a style of play in the modern game, not only entertaining to watch, but also enjoyable to coach. As we have seen trends shift throughout the years on styles of play, playing with pace in transition has had a positive impact on the pro game as well as a positive impact at the youth level. Whether you are at a high level or grassroots level, playing with pace in space can be accomplished with 2 Side Transition, a spacing template made popular in recent years through the teachings of Chris Oliver and Basketball Immersion. 2 Side Transition is directly relatable from the pro-level to the youth-level and the common denominator : optimal spacing and enhanced player decision-making. Chris Oliver said it best, “The 2 Side isn’t magical, it’s just a spacing template. It becomes magical when players start making great decisions out of the 2-side.” Through these series of articles on 2 Side Transition we are going to explore why play with pace in transition, how 2 Side Transition impacts playing with pace, 2 Side Transition player responsibilities and priorities, and how to teach and load 2 Side Transition’s progressions.

Why Play with Pace in Transition?

1. Earlier shots in transition have greater value

We want to score in the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock. Two questions here are WHEN do we take our shots in the first 6-8 seconds of offensive transition and WHY do earlier shots in transition hold more value? We play with the mindset that “you are never more open than when you first catch the ball.” We want our players to put pressure on the rim with each catch by knowing what their first touch decision (“FTD”) will be before they catch.(Ross McMains) A “FTD” is a zero second decision to shoot it, drive it, move it. The “FTD” means a player will read, catch then attack as opposed to catch, read, attack. Within the first 6-8 seconds of the shot-clock we want our player’s “FTD” to create and shoot a “big-advantage” shot. What does a “small-advantage” shot and a “big-advantage” shot look like?

A great acronym to use to ask players if their shot selection in transition is a Big Advantage shot is R-O-B.

Idea taken from Mike MacKay and Mike de Kraker
*Idea taken from Mike Mackay and Mike de Kraker*

R-O-B shots are in-range, uncontested, and on-balance. If a player has a Big Advantage shot that is in-range, open and on-balance, and in the rhythm of our offensive pace, we want them to shoot this shot within the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock. If a player does not have a Big Advantage shot for themselves, the next decision we want them thinking is if they can create a Small Advantage for a teammate that leads to a Big Advantage shot.

The shot clock can be broken into three, eight second phases.

Phase 1-Our shot selection is Key, 3, Free when creating these Phase 1 Big Advantage shots (Dustin Karrer). The Big Advantage shots we are seeking to create within the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock are rim/paint finishes, stationary catch and shoot threes, or getting fouled in the process. In Phase 1 we play Paint to Great. If there is no stationary catch and shoot 3 on a hit-ahead, playing Paint to Great ensures we are forcing defensive rotations early in the shot clock by getting a Paint Touch. This provides a moment in the defensive rotation where there are 2 on the ball, creating for us Big Advantage shots or great shots as a result of paint penetration.

Phase 2 consists of the middle eight seconds of the shot clock. 2 Side Transition will not always create a numerical advantage for a Big Advantage shot early in the shot clock so we must have a solution for when there is neutral advantage when the defense is back 5v5. The solution is creating a Small Advantage: a Trigger. Triggers ideally look like attacking a closeout, getting into a DHO, using a Get, or setting a ball-screen to get a momentary 2-on-the-ball situtation. These Triggers create a Small Advantage that will lead to a defensive rotation, putting defense in Dominoes, leading to a Big Advantage shot. The most influential principle in Phase 2 of the shot clock is that the ball never stops moving when hunting for advantage. When the ball stops, advantage stops. We say keep the ball hot when hunting for advantage (Chris Oliver). This is a visual cue for the ball to be a hot potatoe while the ball is moving from player to player, with each player playing with zero second decision-making on their catch.

Phase 3 closes out our shot clock with the last eight seconds of the shot clock. If our Triggers in Phase 2 have not created a Small Advantage that lead to a Big Advantage shot, in Phase 3 we still hunt Triggers to lead to a Big Advantage shot but we will be forced to take Best Expected Value shots that could be contested or a long 2. In order for our shot selection to hold the greatest value, we want to create and leverage Big Advantage shots in Phase 1 of the shot clock.

So why transition with pace to create and shoot Big Advantage shots within the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock? Earlier shots in transition have greater value. These shooting percentages by the Houston Rockets are WHY we want to take create Big Advantage shots in transition within the first 8 seconds of the shot clock. The Houston Rockets transition with the 2 Side and we can see that their FG% is over 50% within the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock. As the shot clock progresses, every 3 to 4 seconds, their FG % consistently drops from 51.3% in Phase 1, the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock, to 43.8% in Phase 2, to 38.7% in Phase 3, the last 8 seconds of the shot clock. The Houston Rockets Transition PPP is 1.12 and they are scoring on half of their transition possessions in Phase 1 of the shot clock.

Percentages taken from NBA Advanced Stats from stats.nba.com

These FG% for the Houston Rockets during the course of a 24 second shot clock are why we want to play with pace in transition. Earlier shots in transition hold more value. Multiple reasons contribute to the Houston Rockets scoring over 50% on their field goals while in transition with the biggest reason being they have optimal spacing within the 2 Side spacing template. Optimal spacing leads to advantage, advantage leads to Dominoes, Dominoes leads to Big Advantage shots.

2. Create Numerical Advantages and Cross-matches

The mark of a great transition team is how many numerical advantages do they create and leverage during the course of the game as a result of their pace. Focusing on the players “first three steps” in transition will contribute to gaining a “big advantage” shot in transition. Sprinting leads to a “big-advantage” shot and numerical advantage. Running or jogging leads to a “small advantage” shot and neutral advantage. We must always coach players to sprint! Realistically these numerical advantages look like 5on3s, 4on2s, and 5on4s with trailing defenders. 2 Side Transition is the spacing template that creates and leverages these numerical advantages that lead to Big Advantage shots within the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock.

Creating a cross-match of a big on small or small on big can also be created because of your pace and space in transition. Does your transition pace create situation’s where defense must forget about locating and guarding their assigned man but because you transition with pace they just have to take the closest man? How many of these numerical advantages and cross-matches we create and leverage over the course of a game determine if we are a great transition team. Key, 3, or Free are the three Big Advantage shots we want to create in the first 6–8 seconds of the shot clock.

Do you have a spacing solution during a 5on3, 4on2, or 5on4 numerical advantage in transition or are your players sprinting their lanes un-organized with spacing that enables one defender to guard two offensive players? Do your players know how to create and leverage a Big Advantage shot in these situations or are they taught to “set-it-up” and “run the set”? Playing scripted to unscripted, utilizing 2 Side Spacing, leverages these numerical advantages in transition. The 2 Side spacing template is not magical, it becomes magical when players start making great “FTD” that lead to Big Advantage shots. The 2 Side Transition frees players to play creatively with pace in transition and is an effective spacing solution for when there is numerical advantage or when seeking a trigger when there is neutral advantage. In our next article we are going to dive deep into how 2 Side impacts playing with pace in transition.

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U17 Guam Men’s National Basketball Team — Head Coach; Guam Men’s Senior National Basketball Team — Assistant Coach

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Brent Tipton

Brent Tipton

U17 Guam Men’s National Basketball Team — Head Coach; Guam Men’s Senior National Basketball Team — Assistant Coach

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