My recent search on Google for basketball offenses turned up something in the neighborhood of 2 million pages describing a wide variety of plays. Plenty of duplicates, I'm certain, but still, that's a lot of plays. And over the years I've tried a few, liked some, hated others. But there's one play I've come to really like, and it often has become my only set offensive play, especially with younger teams - the passing game.
I still place a lot of stock in the running game - I love the fast break and I use it whenever I can - and I still have the necessary plays in place for breaking presses and inbounding the ball and few other special situations. But as far as a proper, half-court offense, I have come to greatly appreciate the passing game - particularly, a loose version of Dean Smith's freelance passing play, a basketball offense that served him exceedingly well at the University of North Carolina where his teams advanced to the Final Four eleven times and won national championships twice.
A simple basketball offense focused on utilizing fundamental basketball skills, the passing game doesn't use a set sequence of movements, but rather has players execute a variety of fundamental moves depending on what the defense opens up.
In other words, depending on what the defense does, the offense may use a pick and roll to free up someone for a drive to the basket; or a quick give and go to shake the defense up; or simply a flash cut to an open spot. And with players doing these moves all over the court, something is bound to open up.
Why is this so good? Why do I like the passing game so much? I've outlined three reasons below for a start (there are more reasons than this), but in a nutshell I believe that:
Taught and executed properly, the passing game is the best way to develop your players' abilities to play basketball.
Most set offenses involve teaching players a set of movements - cut here, set a pick, then cut here; wait until 'this' happens, and then do this...and so on.
There are no set movements run in the passing game, and so the defense cannot track the movement and work up a defense to counteract it. And because the scoring opportunities are never the same on any two trips down the floor, any player can potentially score on this offense. Which means the defense can't focus on any one player and will have to spread itself across the floor.
The skills that every player needs to know if he wants to be a decent offensive player, but unfortunately, most players don't practice these skills enough to master them. Preparing to run the passing play improves players abilities to execute these skills and so they will become better players - and be able to run any play thrown at them.
Players become better players in all respects, including seeing the court and using - immediately - the opportunities that the defense provides. Most other offensive plays have players run a fairly rigid series of movements, which doesn't allow much room for independent thought. The passing play depends on it.
The passing play is a great offense for teams from junior varsity level to university. With a focus on basic skills and offensive movement, junior varsity players will develop faster; older players will benefit from its unpredictability and versatility. For evidence, look to Dean Smith, who coached North Carolina to two national championships and eleven final four appearances using his freelance passing play.
No offense will solve all your problems or make your team a contender overnight. But a focus on basic fundamentals, and utilizing the passing play to develop and take advantage of these fundamental basketball basics, is a step in the right direction.