Is Pace-n-Space taking over the Secondary Break?

In college I can specifically remember doing dummy progressions of our secondary break options. We would put 5-10 minutes on the clock going 5v0 running break after break – “Bulls, Carolina, Celtics, Chicago” … I could still run these actions. The game is continually evolving to a faster and liberal style of play putting concept basketball as the litmus test for competency. It is interesting the growing shift to substitute scheme with more tempo.  Has primary breaks completely replaced the value for secondary breaks? Can you still play with an effective pace and incorporate secondary action beyond a simple drag ballscreen, step-up ballscreen, or dribble hand-off?

At the end of the day, we may be speaking the same language (just different dialects) between deciphering early offense and secondary break.  The challenge is the flow (transition between primary to secondary) between break to early offense that places immediate pressure on the defense.  However, I see early offense trending more toward the Point (.) Five (5) Concept versus the traditional “Carolina” secondary action playing into Williams’ hi-low motion. Let’s take a look:

Clip Courtesy of CoachBase
North Carolina running in primary – 4 Out 1 In spacing with rim runner sprinting ahead of the ball.

The ensuing clip shows secondary action because the initial primary break was well defended. This finishes with a post and paint touch for points.

Primary break options exhausted ball reversal to the opposite wing. Upon post-entry is a screen-the screener action.

Now taking a look at a full possession where the secondary action flowed into either a ballscreen motion or hi-low offense. Here are all the looks that come through this possession.

  • Primary break with rim runner on strong side (not open)
  • Secondary break initiated from full reverse causes backscreen for big
    • Lob for big (jammed)
    • Screen and pop for shot at the top of the key (defended)
    • Block to block screen between bigs for post entry (poor angle to pass)
  • Flow into halfcourt offense with half reverse back to same side wing
    • Defender playing off the ball (post entry not inviting)
  • Exhausted all early options going into first ballscreen into room and rhythm pullup (points)
Flow from Carolina secondary into halfcourt hi-low ballscreen action.

Does it make a difference on miss or makes how your team breaks? After misses, transition defenses are clearly more susceptible to breakdowns or disadvantages where points can come often at a higher percentage.  The separation in offensive efficiency comes from program points of emphasis that become revealed. The shot selection expectation has been hammered home almost universally now: free throws, layups, and 3’s. Once you add in the words player movement and ball movement, you have officially stepped into the world of modernized basketball. These last couple clips show two of the best NBA franchises with consistently successful offenses, just not in these two particular cases. I highlight these two possessions because they are snapshots of the simplified breaks, where I think basketball programs are starting to emulate more and more at the lower levels.

Golden State Warriors go against the Suns defense in transition. With one of the best offensive players in the world, Kevin Durant is afforded the luxury to play 1-on-1 often in transition. Gaps look inviting when you have shooters like Steph and Klay to surround the perimeter. How many have seen this same result though at the lower levels, because “Coach I can take him?”
2-man action between 2 of the best with the SA Spurs, in Derozan and Gasol. A late step-up screen by Gasol created initial space for Derozan, but was quickly contested by the Lakers following late switch.

The clips shown aren’t to shift your approach one way or another. I think what can get lost in the notion of simpler is better can be the efficacy of movement and creating space. This becomes more apparent the larger the talent gap. If objectively seeing your team as inferior from a talent perspective, it will be a lot tougher for your team to find higher percentage shots because likely they are not creating a lot of advantages penetrating the defense. How do you find ways to create more space against good defenses or better teams? Typically through screening action and making the defense shift sides of the floor. If you can get away with pure pace-n-space to create paint touches and collapsing defenses for open shots then there is nothing to change – easy points in abundance is the goal. However, if you are finding offense to be stagnant, then secondary actions can be very valuable. Just watch 99% of the other GSW or San Antonio Spurs possessions that I chose not to show you.


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