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The Triangle OffenseContents I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. Introduction Basic Alignments Post Options Weak-side Options Corner Option Penetration from the Wing Guard Dribble Series Solo Cut Light Pressure Heavy Pressure Initiating The Offense Semi-Fast Breaks Special Situations Conclusion Key To Diagrams 2 3 5 18 39 41 44 49 54 57 63 65 66 67
The Triangle Offense, also known as the Triple-Post Offense, is a system that is largely based on good floor spacing and ball movement. It was invented and gradually developed by Tex Winter, a former college and NBA coach, and most recently, the assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. What distinguishes the Triangle from other offenses is the lack of many set-plays. Instead of executing specific plays on each possession, the players are required to read the opposing defense and react to it appropriately. How they react is determined by a series of options, which are all within the structure of the offense. The purpose is to catch the defense off balance and find open spaces on the court through extensive movement of players and the ball. In the Triangle, all five players are crucial to the overall success of the system, either through scoring, passing, screening, rebounding, or initiating of the offense. For the offense to work perfectly, each player has to execute the offense instinctively rather than think before passing or cutting. The Triangle is not better than other offenses, but it is just another way to get open shots. The biggest misconception about the Triangle is that its difficult to learn. Other offenses are just as complicated, but the Triangle is radically different because it uses different patterns of movement and is entirely based on defensive recognition.
II. Basic AlignmentsDiagram 1
These are the basic working positions in the offense. The guards are about fifteen to eighteen feet apart and approximately six feet beyond the mid-court line. They always stay on the same lateral plane. The wings are located about two feet above the freethrow line extended. Its an imaginary line that extends the freethrow line to both sidelines. The center is located in the low post. A line of deployment is always to be maintained between the wings, in this case O3, and the center. Its also an imaginary line, which forms a 45-degree angle with the baseline. This line ensures safe post passes and punishes the defense for wrong positioning on post defense (this will all be explained later).
This is the desired alignment on each possession. With this alignment, theres a player on the strong side wing, in the corner, on the weak-side post, in the low post, and at the top of the key. All of these basic positions are interchangeable between the players. To assign the low post-position exclusively for the center or the corner position for the point guard would be incorrect. The distance between players of fifteen to eighteen feet stays the same as in diagram 1. This particular spacing extends the defense, which makes double teams more difficult. But it also provides an overload on one side of the court and an easy way to swing the ball to the weak-side.
The reason why the offense is called the Triangle is simply because the strong-side wing, the corner man, and the post man form a triangle on the sideline.
III. Post OptionsDiagram 4
This is the basic entry pass of the offense. In this case, O1 has the ball and passes it to O3 if hes open.
After the pass, O1 cuts to the corner if theres no pressure on him by his defender. O2 moves to the top of the key, approximately three feet beyond the NBA three-point line. O4 moves somewhere between his original position and the basket. It is important to know that O1s pass to O3 initiates all of this movement, which means that O2 and O4 only move after the pass. The reason O1 passes it to the wing instead of dribbling himself to the wing is because O3 has a triple-threat position every time he gets the ball on the wing. Diagram 6
Once the triangle is formed, the first option in the offense is a post-entry pass to O5 because it will bring the deepest penetration to the basket. In this case, O5 is the closest player to the basket.
One of the options after the first post pass is for O3 and O1 to cut immediately after the pass. O1 clears the side and goes to the weak-side. O3 sets a screen for O2. If O2 is open for the shot, O5 can pass it to him. If O2 gets the ball but isnt open for a shot, he can swing the ball to the opposite side for another triangle to form. Diagram 8
If D2 tries to go over O3s screen, then O2 reads the defense and cuts towards O5 for a handoff and possible penetration or a midrange jumper.
If D2 anticipates O2s movement or if D2 simply loses sight of O2, O2 can cut fast to the basket and receive a pass from O5. Diagram 10
If D3 and D2 switch on O3s screen, then O3 reads the defense and cuts fast to the basket. This cut is available because D2 will often be caught on the wrong side and there would be some open space under the basket.
Another option for O3 is to set a screen for O4 on the weak-side post. In this instance, D4 gets stuck on O3s screen and O4 is open for a jumper. Diagram 12
If D4 tries to go over the screen, O4 reads the defense and cuts under the basket for a precise pass from O5.
10 Diagram 13
If D3 and D4 switch on the screen, O3 quickly turns around and receives a pass by O5. Diagram 14
If D3 is late on any of these cuts, O3 reads the defense and cuts fast to the basket for a pass by O5. Diagram 15
Similar as in diagram 14, D1 is late on the cut and O1 gets a pass from O5 on the baseline. This is one of the trademark options of the triangle.
11 Diagram 16
Another thing O1 can do is change direction on the baseline cut and get a pass from O5. In this case, D1 tries to go over the screen, so O1 tries to penetrate on the pass. Diagram 17
D1 goes under the screen set by O5, so O1 shoots a midrange jumper.
12 Diagram 18
Besides screening for O2 and O4, O3s third screening option is for O1 in the corner. This particular movement is called the triangle split. O3 sets a screen for O1, O1 realizes that so he doesnt cut all the way to the weak-side, and tries to open himself on the screen. D1 goes over the screen, which means that he will be late if O1 tries to penetrate to the basket on O5s pass. O2 and O4 clear the area. Diagram 19
In this case, D1 goes under the screen, so O1 reads the defense and goes back to the sideline for a long two or a three.
13 Diagram 20
If D3 and D1 switch on O3s screen, O3 reads the defense and catches O1 on the wrong side and changes direction for a hand-off by O5. Diagram 21
If D1 anticipates the movement shown in diagram 20, O3 can go back to the sideline and set up for a long two or a three.
14 Diagram 22
If D3 loses sight of O3 or if he simply gets stuck behind O5, O3 reads the defense and cuts to the basket expecting a handoff from O5. This cut is almost the same as the one in the previous diagram except that theres no switch this time. Diagram 23
This is very similar to diagram 22. In this case, D3 is on the other side, so the area around the baseline would be open. O3 first screens for O1, and then cuts and receives a pass from O5.
If D1 anticipates O1s movement on the triangle split, O1 can counter with a change of direction and a baseline cut. Diagram 25
If D5 covers O5 above the post, O3 passes the ball to O1 and he passes it under the basket to O5.
If O5 is deep in the post, he either receives the ball from O3 or from O2 from the top of the key. Diagram 27
If O5 is fronted by D5, O4 immediately flashes to the elbow expecting a pass from O3. This movement clears the area under the basket because D4 automatically follows O4 to the elbow. After he receives the pass, O4 looks for O5 who is now directly under the basket.
If a pass to O4 is not possible, then the next option is a lob pass to O5. Again, the weak-side was already cleared by O4, who took D4 with him. The last four options are all based on the line of deployment in Tex Winters terminology. It essentially forces the post defender to defend behind O5. And if he tries to do something else, the angles in the offense can quickly take advantage of that and provide easy scoring opportunities. Diagram 29
If the previous two options arent available, O5 continues to the weakside and moves to O4s original position. O4 is now in the low post.
This is the result of diagram 29. All options discussed previously are available again. All screens until now have been initiated by O3.
IV. Weak-Side OptionsDiagram 31
Naturally, if the offense has much success with the post pass, the defense will adjust to it. One of the ways to prevent the post pass is by sagging off into the post area. This automatically keys the weak-side options between O2 and O4 (also called the two-man game). O3 passes to O2 and that creates a high number of options that I will now discuss.
As soon as O2 gets the ball, he looks for O4 who freed himself on the pinch post. O2 passes the ball to O4, and then cuts off O4 to the basket. If D2 tries to go over the screen, O2 reads the defense and gets a handoff from O4 and penetrates to the basket for a lay-up. Meanwhile, O3 and O1 execute the triangle split on the weak-side. Diagram 33