Attacking a Sagging Defense

One of the defenses that Read & React coaches sometimes struggle against is a sagging man to man. And, it makes sense. If you don’t have shooters, a defense can interfere with all the cutting and penetration of the Read & React by playing off and protecting the paint.

But, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, there are solutions. These came from coaches like you in the forum and have been used in real games in real situations. Thanks to Mat11, Rob K, rpt, Rick, and rgriffin921 for the ideas.

Pin & Skip: A Pin & Skip sends a message to the defense, “if you want to sag, then you will have to navigate a screening situation. Help and sag if you want, but your defensive life will be much more difficult”.

But, you don’t have to shoot on the skip pass. You don’t even have to score on that action. It’s designed to move the defense out of their comfortable little box and hopefully open up some seams that can be exploited by other actions.

A skip pass recipient can drive immediately against the close out, feed the post and make one of four post cuts, make a perimeter pass and cut, Power Dribble, Reverse Dribble, or Skip the pass back across if another Pin Screen has been set.

Try the Pin & Skip, force the defense to navigate screens, and look to score with the next action.

Of course, if you have the shooters, knocking down the 3 is the simplest option.

Post Pass & Cut: Emphasize post feeds and focus on rubbing the defender off the post player on the Laker Cut – there is potential to get easy lay-ups from this. Once you start getting lay-ups against a sagging D, your opponent may start to reconsider defensive choice.

The post player also has the option to pass back out to the perimeter and potentially open up some driving lanes for a guard against a closing out defender.

Elbows & Short Corners: Use your cutters or post players to attack from the short corner and elbows. You can easily set a post player in those positions. Or, have cutters fill those two spots for one pass before filling out. This is similar to the Hook & Look options against a zone.

Quick Passes: If the defense wants to clog up the lane, help them. Use two or three quick passes (which fires off several cutters rapidly) and fill hard. A lot of times sagging defenders get caught up “in the wash” and cutters can emerge from the chaos with an open jumper. Or, the ball handler can Draft Drive behind them.

Add the Extra Action: Regardless of which option you choose (or combination of options, make sure to add the extra action. By distorting the defense, you can gain a slim time advantage over recovering defenders. But, if you add one more smart (emphasis on smart) action – the extra pass, the drive on a close out, one more skip – you can extend that time advantage and ultimately get a better scoring opportunity.

What has worked for you against sagging defense? Let us know in the comments.

6 comments

  1. What about attacking the sagging defender with the Power Dribble for the Dribble Handoff. If the defense starts trying to stop the Dribble Handoff, you can use the Dribble At for the backdoor.

    I think Dribble At and Power Dribble should be taught together because they are complimentary layers. One is the counter for Denial M2M. The other is the counter for Sagging M2M. You can do the same thing with screens. Backscreens against Denial M2M and Pin Screens against Sagging M2M.

  2. Over the three years that we’ve been running R&R at Platteview HS, one of the best counters to on the ball sagging we’ve found is one of the simplest. When a perimeter player with the ball sees his man laying off and daring the shot, DRIBBLE RIGHT AT HIM AND POST UP WITH THE BALL! Finish butt to the basket and look for the fill man to Laker Cut just as soon as the dribbler posts. It’s a bang-bang play that really turns the table on the defense. If the original sagging defender tries to help off on the Laker Cut, the dribbler pivots to the rim and looks for a short jumper.

  3. I have found ball screens to work well against on-the-ball sagging defense. Let them play off you, set a ball screen and pop the jumper, penetrate and pop or drive to the hole.

  4. I teach many principles of the read and react, but without incorporating some traditional motion offense screening principles (curl, flare, and straight cuts),I have found that teams will try two “extremes” against this type of offense in it’s pure form, either a sagging man to man, as discussed here, or the opposite. The two wing defenders get way up the line towards the basketball and look to run and jump. This traps the primary ball handler from either side. An extended 1-3-1 zone half court trap is another form of the same principle. All basket cuts will be far away from the primary ballhandler at the top and leaves long and difficult passing angles. Anyone have experience with countering this using read and react principles?

    • When teams are in a hard deny one pass away, we will start our 2 and 3 in the corners and our 4 + 5 in the wing spots (assuming in 5 out). The 4 and 5 start high to pull their guys above the read line, so they have an automatic rear cut. This way you get your quicker guards filling the spots ready to attack. Against a 1-3-1, ball screening the top guy has been very effective for us. Hope this helps.

  5. Had a difficult time last night running our R & R against a match-up zone where there were a lot of switching and trapping the wings out of it. Has anyone ever faced this and is so do you have any suggestions? Our spacing got compromised and we had a hard time with our cuts, hook & looks and attacking short corners. Seemed like nothing worked.

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