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Basketball Transition and Press Offense - How to Attack Presses

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Question: Can your team handle full-court pressure? Or do they panic and frequently turn the ball over? All teams need a plan for attacking press defenses, so read on! Select one of the press offenses below and get good at it.

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Press Offense

Press offense is part of the larger topic "Transition Offense". See "Attacking the Full-Court Press", which discusses important principles common to attacking any press defense. Also see coach Ari Fisher's article on uptempo basketball - Concepts for Playing Fast - Score Early and Often.

You need a press offense(s) for countering a defensive full-court, 3/4-court, or half-court press. Without a plan, your team will become confused, frustrated, will panic, turn the ball over, and allow the opponent easy transition lay-ups.

On the other hand, if your players stay calm and confident, you can burn the press and get easy lay-ups of your own. We like it when opponents press, and look at it as an opportunity to get a 2-on-1 situation and a lay-up (or free-throws). But you must have a plan and practice it - be prepared.

Good scouting helps. If you know in advance what type of press your opponent uses, you can prepare for it. During the game, you or your assistant(s) should focus on their press set-up - are they man-to-man (or match-up), or are they in a set zone pattern? Is the press full-court, 3/4 or 1/2 court? Do they deny, allow or trap the first pass? Do they force sideline or to the middle?

These are things that will help you make proper offensive adjustments. Remember that after the first pass or first dribble-attack, most press defenses are much the same, and if you can attack one, you can have success against any press defense.

There are three catgories of presses based on the area of the court being pressured: full-court, 3/4-court and half-court presses. Have a plan to counter each type of press.

Specific Press Offenses

Secondary Breaks

In addition to having a press offense(s), if you like to run and get easy baskets in transition, then use a secondary break for getting the ball up the floor quickly after a made basket or rebound. If you like the 80-60-40 press-breakers described above, then the secondary numbered break would work best, since your players run the same lanes in both the numbered break and the press offenses, making it easy to learn both.

In summary, be prepared for trapping, pressure defenses anywhere on the court. Spend some time developing your press offense and secondary break. This will pay dividends in fewer turnovers against pressure and you will get some easy lay-ups.