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In the modern game of basketball, virtually every team on the high school, college and professional levels runs some sort of fast break offense that is designed to increase scoring, take advantage of turnovers and missed shots,

Advantages of the Fast Break Offense

In running the fast break offense, there are several advantages that give a coach the rationale to run this type of offense.  They include, but are not limited to:

  • It is the best offense to take advantage of quick, athletic players.  Basketball is a game based on the team with the best quick players.  The most successful teams are typically those who can play at a quick pace and who can get their players up and down the floor faster than the other team. 

  • The offense typically results in high-percentage shots.  The fast break offense usually leads to lay-ups and unguarded three-point jumpers.  When running the fast break offense, you will find that your players are most successful when they are able to get high-percentage shots and at a high volume.  Teams that run the fast break can be among the best in field goal percentage offense and scoring offense per game.

  • It encourages your players to play harder on defense. When you give your players the incentive to play hard on defense by rewarding them with fast break opportunities, they will respond.  The best opportunities are on steals that are caused by defensive pressure which results from players playing hard on defense.

Disadvantages of the Fast Break Offense

However, there are disadvantages to running a fast break offense which include the following:

  • The fast break requires a large amount of practice time.  If you are going to be a good running team, you have to commit to it all the way or you will fail.  Sometimes, you will need at least 40 minutes per practice to perfect your fast break offense.  This is needed to make all of the necessary corrections and to have your team ready to play at a fast tempo every time you play.

  • Your players must be proficient in playing at a fast tempo.  If you have players who get sloppy with the basketball playing at a normal pace, you should probably consider not running.  Turnovers and missed shots happen more frequently when you play at a faster pace.  If you already have problems with relatively sloppy play on offense in the half court, the fast break will most likely not be something that would work well for your team.

  • The coach has to give up some level of control over his/her basketball team.  Coaches, if you have a problem giving your players a degree of control over how they play the game, you should probably not run.  Players are going to make bad decisions, but they have the tendency to make more bad decisions if you entertain the idea of a running game.  If you believe that your having more control over the team means more success, it would be best not to fast break.

Despite all of these disadvantages, a number of my teams have had great success in running the fast break and I encourage coaches at all levels to work on situations where you can take advantage of easy shots and work at getting more of those easy shots than your opponents.

Primary Break

In running the primary break, we want to run it in situations where we have two or fewer defenders and a numbers advantage.  In every instance, we want to attack the basket and get a lay-up.  We also want to take advantage of possible defensive breakdowns.

When we attack in a two-on-one situation, we want to get the ball in the hands of our best ballhandler and have him attack the basket.  If the defender decides to retreat, we want the ballhandler to go in for the lay-up (Diagram 1). 

If the defensive player decides to stop the dribble drive of our best ballhandler, we want the ballhandler to pass the ball to the other player running the fast break.  That player will then shoot the lay-up (Diagram 2).

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

In running our three-on-one break, we want to make the defensive player guard against three possible shooters.  Again, our goal is lay-ups so all three players will attempt to shoot lay-ups if they get the basketball. 

The read is made by the point guard as to what the defensive player does.  If the defender retreats, we want the point guard to attack the basket (Diagram 3).  If the defender decides to engage the point guard, he has two pass options and whoever gets the ball will shoot the lay-up (Diagram 4).

Diagram 3

Diagram 4

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