Coach Rudge on Positionless Basketball

Very recently I was asked by a young inexperienced coach to write a short explanation to help him understand the offensive strategy called ‘Positionless Basketball’. He asked that it be no longer than 800 words and to try and give him some ‘key’ practice points when introducing it in training.

After I had written the explanation it got me thinking how many area’s our own coaches might need some help with. So, starting with the following piece, please get back to us with comments and any other topics that you feel would help in coaching the players in the Club, especially the younger age groups. If there is any appetite for such short explanations and comment we will be happy to reply and post them on the Club website. It may well stimulate debate and a sharing of experiences that will be enjoyable as we wait for the next time we can all get onto the court.

What is ‘Positionless Basketball’?

Simply put it is a basketball offensive strategy that dispenses with labelled positions. No more post player, guard or forward but five players who can all play everywhere and anywhere on the court.

A bit like ‘pick up ball/scrimmage play’ then? No not in the least like either!

The principle of playing Positionless Basketball is to allow all your players to experience, and understand, what choices there are all over the floor. What it certainly does not offer is a disorganised free for all!

As coaches, especially if our charges are very early in their development, we have to impart the fundamentals of playing this wonderful game so that your players will use them as second nature. Positionless Basketball allows you as a coach to set very clear rules to how to play this offence focussing on very simple fundamentals.

Yes, I said ‘rules’ and although all the players can play everywhere, we have to have structure.

Each coach can decide on their particular favourite fundamentals, but these are what I believe work best with Positionless Basketball:

  • Unless the player is receiving the ball on his way to basket, they must never dribble the ball immediately on receiving a pass.
  • Instil into your players what choices they have every time they receive the ball.
  • We all know about the usual three choices, dribble, pass or shoot but there is a very important fourth option and that is to pivot.
  • Tell your players that they cannot either dribble or pass after receiving the ball unless they disguise their next action. The pivot jab can be such a powerful tool in disguising a players next move.
  • Disguises/fakes are absolutely crucial to success the higher the level you play. So if your player is going to pass the ball he/she has to either fake a dribble, fake a pass in a different direction or fake a shot before actually completing the pass.
  • The pivot jab step forward and quickly bringing the leg back to allow a balanced shot is a classic fake move and every player can get a chance to use it in a Positionless Basketball strategy. Even if the shot misses, the next time the player jab steps and returns looking as if to shoot he can dribble past his/her marker if they are drawn in to try and block.

The idea that there are no set positions for the players opens up the coach’s ability to talk about choices. With this freedom comes responsibility, a responsibility to understand the various choices the players have and to use them wisely.

Once they understand their choices, pivot, pass, shoot and dribble you can introduce the simple rules of team play for the Positionless Basketball strategy:

  • Once you pass you must either cut to the basket or go set either an off ball or on ball screen.
  • Never take your eyes off the ball and expect a return pass as you cut.
  • Be vocal to help your teammates see the right pass, in other words call for the ball when you are free.
  • Try not to receive the ball and then decided what to do, see the whole game in front of you and have an idea of what you would like to do if you receive the ball.
  • Understand who is defending you. This is part of improving your players basketball IQ. If you are being marked by a really good player, you can help the rest of your team by keeping him/her working really hard as you create space for them. No need to be the hero trying to beat their best player just reduce his/her effectiveness.
  • Look for mismatches. Most coaches think size when considering mismatches but in junior teams it is much more about ability levels and quickness. If a player on your team is being marked by a player who is obviously not as good as your player get your team to give him/her the ball and using the disguises mentioned earlier coupled with the other players taking their markers out of the way, allow the mismatch to be exploited.
  • Although this is an offensive strategy do not forget the golden rule that when we lose the ball everyone must sprint back to set up for defence.

The Positionless Basketball strategy works particularly well against MTM defences, but it can be just as effective against zones. It would be nice to think you would not come against zones at junior levels but sadly you probably will.

The zone wants to restrict you to long shots. If you can instil the pass and cut to the basket or set a screen rule for your players, this can get you closer shots against a zone. The players have to learn to take shots off the pass a little more but if your players can continue to disguise/fake their intentions it can seriously disrupt a set zone.

Again if there are any topics you would like us to discuss please get in touch with us