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Basketball Offense - Triple-Post "T-Game" Offense

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @ http://www.coachesclipboard.net

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First, this "triple post offense" is not the same and is not to be confused with the "triple post offense" or "triangle offense", originated by Sam Barry and refined by Tex Winter and Phil Jackson. This "T-Game" offense we are discussing here was developed by legendary Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith. Coach Smith was head men's coach at the University of North Carolina from 1961 through 1997. He compiled 879 career wins and won two NCAA National Championships, as well as having eleven Final Four appearances, and was voted four times the National Coach of the Year. Coach Smith used multiple offenses and defenses, and the T-game was only one of his many weapons. Smith's "T-game" triple post offense should not be confused with the "triple-post" offense pioneered by Tex Winter and Sam Barry (now known at the "triangle offense").

The T-game or "triple-post" offense favors a team with strong post players. It is a power game with inside post play and scoring in the paint, as well as trips to the free-throw line. Opposing post players frequently find themselves in foul trouble. Offensive rebounding is a strong asset. The T-game can be used vs either man-to-man or zone defenses. It is flexible using either a "single-post" or a "triple-post" option. The offense is based on spacing and movement, with little screening, and has continuity from side to side. Like other "patterned" offenses, it is somewhat predictable, but as with all offenses, execution is the key.

The T-game is fairly easy to learn. O3, O4 and O5 are interchangeable and all learn the same roles, whereas O1 and O2 are also interchangeable.

North Carolina Coach Dean Smith

The T-Game Pattern

See the diagrams below. O1 brings the ball across half-court (diagram A). O3 and O4 start on the blocks. O5 starts on either lane side, or at the high-post. O2 starts in the middle between the free-throw line and the arc. O1 dribbles to either wing. This triggers the ball-side low post to cut to the corner for the pass from O1. Meanwhile, O2 pops out to the opposite wing. As the ball is dribbled to the wing, O5 cuts to the ball-side elbow. Once the pass is made from O1 to O4 (in the corner), O5 cuts to the ball-side low block and posts-up, looking for the pass from O4. Meanwhile, O3 cuts to the ball-side elbow, vacated by O5. After O1 passes (diagram B), he/she cuts inside and out to the opposite wing and exchanges with O2, who cuts to the ball-side wing.

Basketball T-game, triple-post offense

If the X5 defender is playing behind O5, the pass goes from O4 to O5 (diagram B). Once O5 receives the pass, O3 cuts to the weakside low block. O5 makes a post move and tries to score. If O3's defender gives help, O3 should be open for an easy pass and lay-up (or dunk). If O5 makes a move to the paint (diagram C), O4 slides toward the hoop for either a pass, or an offensive rebound. If O5 makes the baseline drop-step move (diagram D), O4 slides higher and into the middle for rebounding position. In either case, the rebounding triangle is in place.

If the X1 defender drops inside to double-team O5 (diagram E), O5 skip passes out to O1 for an open 3-point shot. Here again, we have good rebounding position on the outside shot.

Oftentimes, the X5 defender will full-front O5 in the low-post, denying the pass from O4 (diagram F). It's important for O3 to stay at the ball-side elbow until the pass is actually made to O5 (as in diagram B above). If O5 is denied the pass, O3 remains at the elbow. This takes away the helpside defense and frees up O5 for an over-the-top lob pass from O4 (diagram F).

Basketball T-game, triple-post offense

If X3 drops inside to help prevent the lob, then O4 passes to O3 at the elbow (diagram G). O3 could shoot the jump-shot from the elbow. O3 could also shot-fake and dribble-drive up the left side of the lane for a lay-up (diagram H). Also note that O5 seals the X5 defender outside, and moves to the basket for a possible lob pass from O3. O3 could also skip pass to O1 for a 3-point shot (diagram G).

If the pass to O3 at the elbow is not open (the X2 defender might have dropped inside), then O4 passes back out to O2 on the wing (diagram I). O5 moves to the opposite low block.

Basketball T-game, triple-post offense

O2 has several options here. First, a pass to O3 at the ball-side elbow (diagram I) re-opens the options we just discussed... O3's shot from the elbow, a pass inside to O5 (diagram J), a skip-pass to O1, or a shot-fake and dribble-drive up the right side of the lane.

Secondly, O2 could dribble-drive around O3, running a pick and roll play (diagram K). O2 could also skip-pass to O1, or pass back to O4 in the corner, and re-establish the T-game pattern (diagram L). In this case, O3 now cuts to the ball-side low block and posts-up, as O5 cuts to the ball-side elbow, vacated by O3. O2 and O1 once again exchange positions.

Basketball T-game, triple-post offense

Alternative Entries into the Offense

Man-to-man pressure defenses may try to disrupt the offense by denying the first pass to the corner. There are several alternative ways to get into the offense.

Diagram M shows X4 denying the pass to the corner. This is a read for O3, who should recognize the denial, and cut up to the weak-side elbow (to move his defender away from the hoop). X5 will usually deny O5, and so O5 seals the defender, cuts to the hoop and receives the over-the-top lob pass from O1.

O1 could also pass to O3 at the left elbow (diagram H). This sets up good back-door options against a denying, pressure defense. O2 and O4 could back-cut and receive a pass from O3 for a lay-up.

Another entry option is for O1 to simply pass to O2 (diagram I), and O2 starts the offense on the left side, with O3 cutting to the corner for the pass from O2. O5 moves to the ball-side block and O4 flashes to the ball-side elbow. O1 and O2 exchange.

Basketball T-game, triple-post offense

"Single-Post" Option and Continuity

You can use either the single-post offense, or the triple-post offense. For teams that have a dominant inside player, who doesn't like to get far from the basket, the single-post offense is best. This keeps your big guy near the hoop at all times. Teams that do not have a true, inside player (rather three good forwards) would do better with the triple-post option described below.

The following dieagrams show the single-post continuity... (more).

"Triple-Post" Option and Continuity

Use the triple-post offense if you have three good forwards but no dominant inside post player... the following diagrams show the triple-post continuity... (more).

T-Game as a Zone Offense

The T-game often works well against zone defenses. In fact, some coaches use it only as a zone offense... (more).

Skip-passing Rotation

Now we will discuss how we rotate after a skip-pass with both the single-post and the triple-post options... (more).

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Coach Smith's Book and DVDs:


Dean Smith: T-Game Zone Offense & Four Corners Delay Game
Dean Smith: T-Game Zone Offense & Four Corners Delay Game (format - DVD)
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Dean Smith unveils two potent offenses that he used to guide his teams to over 800 victories and two NCAA Championships - the T-Game Zone Offense and the Four Corners Delay Game. The popular T is effective against man-to-man and zone defenses. The T-Game places players strategically on the floor to exploit the defense. Three guards work as a unit on the perimeter as the posts collaborate inside the paint and in short corners. Ball and player movement, posts dives and skip passes are all weapons against the zone. Game clips, white board diagrams and on the floor demonstration help Coach Smith dissect the details of the T-game. To preserve leads late in the game, Smith invented the Four Corners delay game. Used 107 times in his career, the Heels won 105 of these games due to its effectiveness. Five benefits of the four corners make it difficult for defenses to gain an advantage... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD -  Video Store!



Basketball: Multiple Offense and Defense by Dean Smith. (format - Book)
An excellent book with sections on the free-lance passing offense, 1-4 offense, "T-game", basic cut-movement game, 4-corners offense, fast break offense, press-breakers, special situations and the shuffle offense. Defenses include pressure man defense, the run and jump defense, the "40"and the "50" defenses.

Buy Now from Amazon.com!



Dean Smith's Point Zone Defense
Dean Smith's Point Zone Defense (format - DVD)
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Coach Smith opens his "video vault" and welcomes you inside for an unprecedented look at the point zone. Fundamentally, the point zone is man-to-man pressure on the ball with a four-man zone in support. Disguising the defense is possible against baseline out-of-bounds plays and is a benefit of the point zone. Smith diagrams the two-man front to cover vulnerable areas along the baseline, the two-man trap against out-of-bounds plays and the 1-3-1 set. Rebounding coverage for guards is also thoroughly presented. Smith takes you through situational defensive coverages that come from years of experience with this zone... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD -  Video Store!



Dean Smith's Encyclopedia of the Scramble Defense
Dean Smith's Encyclopedia of the Scramble Defense (format - DVD)
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Dean Smith's Scramble Defense is a defensive weapon that changes tempo, forces turnovers and was a major factor in Dean Smith's success at UNC over the years. The main benefit of the scramble is that it forces the opponent out of their regular man-to-man offense. A prerequisite for employing the scramble defense is a solid, pressure man-to-man attack. Everything comes as a result of players understanding basic man-to-man pressure. Coach Smith begins with the 30 series - the run and jump attack that UNC has used successfully for decades. This is particularly effective after timeouts when the surprise factor is in the defense's favor. The 40 series is ignited after the first pass to either side of the floor. All players rotate to different positions and jam passing lanes for the errant pass. Both the 30 and 40 series can also be used all over the floor. Out-of-bounds situations, free throw situations, and defending the fast break are all covered by Smith. More than 50 vintage UNC game clips... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD -  Video Store!



Dean Smith: Teaching the Shuffle Offense
Dean Smith: Teaching the Shuffle Offense (format - DVD)
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Known for his innovation, Coach Smith's Shuffle Offense remains one of the game's offensive gems. Smith begins with basic position, cuts and spacing on the floor to enter the offense and the box set, which allows for easy entry into the shuffle. He shows three distinct options - the back screen with shuffle cut, the back door and the button hook move - to begin the flow of the offense. Smith demonstrates how to create easy baskets with a creative approach to offensive rebounding within the shuffle offense. The shuffle offense is extended into the full court with a secondary offense. The action off the break leads to scoring opportunities and flows right into the shuffle. Smith shows 82 game clips from his great teams at UNC that will help you see the shuffle and secondary offense in action. Smith's offensive system is time tested, will provide offensive balance and counters every move by the opponent... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD -  Video Store!