In today's post we will take a look at the passing principles of the triangle offense.
Yesterday, the Lakers faced an aggressive defense in the form of the Oklahoma City Thunder. In order to execute, the Lakers had to be patient and take what the defense was giving. All players of the triangle, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, are drilled with the following principles before learning the offense:
- Pass when the defender is three feet from the ball or closer. The closer the defender is to the offensive player with the ball, the less time they have to react to the passer's movement.
After the single double, a triangle is formed. Shannon Brown executes a two pass to the corner. Luke Walton and Bynum execute a side pick and roll. Both Walton and Steve Blake are able to draw their defenders closer before making their pass leading to an open Odom three.
- See the passing lanes and receiver without staring down your target
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum establish a solo along the line of deployment, but Pau is staring down Bynum and is clearly intent on forcing the ball into the fronted Bynum. The ball is swung for a solo on the opposite side of the floor. Again, Fisher stares down the fronted Bynum. With the shot clock winding down Kobe is forced to take a tough fadeaway jumper.
- Use fakes for a purpose. A purposeful fake allows the passer to get the ball past his defender based on how the defender reacts to the fake.
After the wing reverse, Kobe drives and uses a fake to draw Bynum's defender, allowing for Bynum to receive the ball deep in the lane.
- Eliminate all unnecessary movements. Tex would say you need to "PING" the ball using your wrists and fingertips only. Players shouldn't need to step forward or wind up as these telegraph the intent of the passer.
For this center opposite setup the reads are all quickly made, nothing is forced, and we see some good PING passes from Kobe.
- Pass quickly to an open teammate who will usually only have three seconds to make a play after receiving the ball. For every second under three the receiver can execute the play, the better basketball player they become. Moving the ball quickly forces the defense to adjust creating more passing lanes and scoring opportunities.
In this center opposite setup, James Harden gets caught in the rub screen. Kobe recognizes this and quickly gets Artest the ball on the move. Serge Ibaka is forced to help instead of boxing out Pau allowing Pau to clean up the miss.
- Pass the ball to a teammate's open side. The passer has to see his defender, the passing lane, his teammate and his teammate's defender. The receiver needs to help the passer by presenting a good target and sealing the defender off from the passing lane. This principle is a key to the line of deployment read.
Here, Ron Artest forms a solo with Bynum. Instead of trying to force the ball into Bynum, Artest swings to ball setting up a center opposite. Lamar Odom, instead of forcing the ball into Artest, passes to Blake in the corner and Blake quickly converts the corner three.
- Lastly, players need to anticipate receiving the ball and be thinking ahead where to pass the ball next. If players don't have this skill, an offensive pattern needs to be built that ensures quick movement of the ball to keep the defense busy.
Here, no two pass is made, but when the ball is passed to Blake up top, the actions of the offense remain consistent to a two pass to the top: Bynum goes to the pinch post and Shannon Brown executes a rebound screen cut. As Blake drives, Odom is not only ready to receive the ball but makes a quick touch pass to Bynum who is left alone under the basket for the easy dunk.
As we see over and over, the triangle's complex nature is really a sequence of simple fundamental principles. These fundamentals are never taken for granted and the offense never assumes that its players are simply naturally skilled. Instead, the coaching staff goes through great pains to drill these basics, even at the NBA level.