The intricacies of the dribble drive offense
Diamond Leung wrote an article on ESPN regarding Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones and his excitement to play in Coach Calipari’s dribble drive offense. Since it is the slow time for college basketball, I decided to fire up the NCAA Vault and watch Kentucky’s two tournament games last season against Cornell and West Virginia (the underrated aspect of the Vault: no commercials. You can watch a game in just over an hour) and see the offense in motion.
Stay with me after the break for some notes on the offense and some video breakdown.
At it’s simplest form, the dribble drive offense (DDO) is a 4 around 1 set. 4 guards float around the perimeter and have the option to feed the post or drive. Another name for the offense is the attack-attack-skip-attack-attack (AASAA) offense, which tells the players that they have free reign to drive the lane and kick out for a jumper, find the big man or finish in the lane.
Unlike many other offenses, screens are not a vital part of the DDO. Instead, athletic guards slash to the basket to draw secondary defenders so the ball handler can find an open man. It is predicated on the fact that the 5 players on the floor have above average decision making skills as there are no set motions to run through. Innovator Vance Walberg is quoted as saying “I feel like we’re teaching kids how to play basketball instead of how to run plays’.
Last year, DeMarcus Cousins or Daniel Orton were usually the centers while 4 players surrounded them on the perimeter. This opens the lane for penetration but still gives Cousins room to post up. What you will see most of the time is the center on the opposite side of the lane from the ball when he is not posting hard for the ball. This simply gives more room for penetration and provides a dump off outlet if help defense cuts off the ballhandler.
Let’s take a look at a few clips from Kentucky last year:
Cornell is playing a zone in this clip but the DDO can still be effective against the zone. The same principles apply and quick ball movement around the perimeter is crucial to keep the defense moving and find open gaps.
In this first screenshot, notice the spacing on the perimeter. There are two guards bunched on the weak side but this leaves ample room on the baseline. Also take note of the placement of Cousins- he is on the opposite block which also leaves the baseline wide open for a drive. Unfortunately for Kentucky, Perry Stephenson has the ball which is not a good recipe for success.
After a few more passes, the ball ends up in the hands of Eric Bledsoe. He beats his man off the dribble and cuts into the middle of the paint. He now has several options: shoot, skip pass to the opposite wing or dump off to Cousins. See the below screenshot. This was an effective possession as the floor was appropriately spaced which left the driver with several options.
Here is one more clip showing the DDO against a zone. The ball is driven into the gaps two times, causing the defense to get out of shape and give UK a wide open three. Again, no picks were set in this set (Orton attempts to set a ball screen but Wall waives it off) and all positive motions are through the use of the dribble.
The final clip shows the same principles above but against a man defense. Take note of the appropriate spacing by those away from the ball, the hard dribbles by the guards at the gap and the final aspect we have not touched on which is the replacement of the driver. Wall drives the lane and kicks to the perimeter. He drives the lane and Wall replaces his position. When Wall’s defender leaves to help on the drive, Wall is left with an open jumper.
So that is the dribble drive offense. A very simple offense to learn but one that takes athleticism and great decision making skills to master.