In today’s video blog post, I’m going to talk to you about transition basketball and running, and then present some transition basketball situations and best plays for success.  (I’ll also touch briefly on creating game tempo, but will explore that topic more in a follow-up article!)

Transition Basketball & Running

Why do you run?

  • Hustle points or conditioning points; those points you get when your team is just more able to get to the offensive end of the floor than the opponent.
  • To create tempo. You want to be able to have a tempo in the game that fits the way you play. For example, we play pressure defense. We think it’s logical for us to go from pressure defense into a style that keeps the pressure on the opponent, so we like to advance the ball up the floor quickly.
  • Use more players. In a coaching situation, it’s very important for you to try in a rotation where you stretch your team a little bit. It helps make practice a little bit stronger and with a tight rotation, you’re able to make use of more players because of the speed of the game.
  • Keep teams off the offensive boards. When a team knows that you’re running, they’re going to have a tendency to keep two players back because they’re concerned about you running on them. So a team that has a decided height advantage is very concerned about them keeping the floor balanced.
  • Neutralize the size of an opponent. When the game becomes a game of quickness, size is being neutralized by the line-up you put out there. I’m more used to having small teams play. I think that we’ve been able to neutralize the size of other teams by playing at such a speed that it’s more a game of quickness than it is of size.
  • Works against Zone & Press. Because of your ability to get the ball up the floor quickly, you can attack spots in a zone that they’re not able to get guys back. You can also get the ball inbounds and throw over the top of presses before they’re set. These are two great advantages as well.

You want to get your best players in situations where they can be successful. When you’re a team that has small players, your players are going to be the most successful when the court’s open. A little guard with the opportunity to take the ball in the middle on the break or in a game where the opponent is pressing him, he’s able to utilize his quickness. So when your personnel’s small, it’s an opportunity to utilize those players.

Transition Basketball & Game Tempo

We try to run in three different ways:

  • Run off made field goals
  • Run off misses
  • Run off steals

When we are in a situation during a game where we get a steal, I allow the players on my team, minus my center, to advance the ball on the steal. So if we get a steal on the wing, that player is going to bring the ball up the floor. If he’s not comfortable handling the basketball, he may take it up the sideline. If he’s confident in his handle, we’re going to allow him to take the ball towards the basket.

Transition Basketball Situations

Free Shot

We have a rule that certainly helps our defense and we call it free shot. When we do get a steal, my team is now going to be in position where my bench gets up and they yell to the player, “Free shot.” Which means this is an extra possession for us and we want to make sure we shoot the ball.

So that player has a definite green light to go down and look to try to score. The other players will come down the court and run with him, looking to get on the offensive boards in the event of the miss, and they know more than the opponent does that the player with the ball is looking to score.

Defensive Rebound

The second way that we want to run is on a defensive rebound. And on a defensive rebound, we want to run in a very simple 3-lane break. What we do is I allow the forwards on the defensive boards when they get the rebound – if they don’t have the clean outlet and if they haven’t been jammed up by the defense – we allow them what we call bust-out.

And we let the kid with the ball take the basketball, advance it up the floor, looking to push it ahead, throw it ahead or advance it down into the foul line area. As we advance it down, we’re going to play and focus on taking advantage of mismatches and giving the guys some freedom on their defensive stuff.

Fast Break on Scores

Our third situation is one that we don’t like to run, for obvious reasons, but we want to be in an organized fast break on scores. However, we don’t want to give up any field goals during the games. So we really discourage this as a way of playing. We call it the quick offense because when we’re in these situations on made foul shots or made field goals, we’re going to look to quickly get ourselves a shot before the defense is set.


If you enjoyed these transition basketball tips, be sure to check out my video program that includes a whole multipart series on transition basketball!“  And don’t forget to Like Me on Facebook, where you can discuss these and more great transition basketball fundamentals with other coaches and players!