Basketball is becoming more and more of a position less game:

After reading a very interesting, informative, relevant and timely article in the Thursday, April 26th in the Bangor Daily News entitled “UMaine recruits feature versatility” by BDN sportswriter Ernie Clark based on the following quotes from new Maine men’s head basketball coach Richard Barron stating “I think the game is evolving and changing to more position less “Basketball” said Barron. “The versatility of players is something we look for, and versatility comes in two forms or maybe even more. Skill sets is one. You can handle the ball on the perimeter, but can you make post moves inside? Also, it comes in size and the versatility to switch defensively when we add length”.

Basketball originally had 2 guards, 1 center and 2 forwards (2-1-2 formation) and each position had it’s definite and defined offensive moves and skills. It also moved to 3 guards and 2 forwards (1-2-2 or 3-2 formation), it had a 1 guard, 2 forward wings, 1 high post and 1 low post positions (1-3-1 formation) etc.

Ever since the 3 point shot came into the college game in the mid 80’s each decade has seen the disappearance of the legitimate BIG back-to-the-basket post player as more and more to the point where there are very few legitimate BIGS playing today with the popularity of the the 3 point shot. The game has changed to belong to the position less athletic athletes playing basketball more from the shoulders down, not from the shoulders up who rely mostly on their athletic ability and not their basketball IQ’s which results in poorer basketball decision making skills that leads to poorer shot selection, more turnovers, more player out-of-control fouls commonly known as player control fouls by the rule book and more defensive fouls.

The game today at all levels have started to become more of a position less game as it started in the NBA and has moved on down to college basketball and slowly but surely is entering high school basketball.

You hardly see any Magic Johnsons or Larry Birds who where basketball players playing basketball, playing the game from the shoulders up, which leads to high basketball IQ’s which leads to good shot selection, fewer turnovers and fewer player control and defensive fouls. Remember these two players were considered the best in their era’s and were the leaders of their NBA championship teams. 5 NBA titles for Magic and 3 for Larry each in 13 seasons. They played what I call the six inch game. 6 inches from their adam’s apple up to their brains and 6 inches down from their adam’s apples to their hearts and anything below their heart their core and legs were just athleticism. It was their brains over their opponents brawn of athleticism. Larry and Magic were not athletes, just ask yourself if they were on your track team what events would they be successful in. They were just BIG at 6’9″, but they could play facing the basket and they could post up on the block. They were truly non-athletic position less players before their times, who certainly made their teammates better and lead their teams in the battles for the NBA championships that their teams won in the same time era of the game.

This goes along with another article in the BDN just before the NCAA D-1 College’s March Madness Big Dance Final Four in early April entitled “Skilled big men aiding teams” with a sub title of “Final four clubs able to get spacing in position less game” by John Marshall of the Associated Press. It stated that “a wave of position less basketball has swept the nation. Coaches have loaded their rosters with smaller, athletic players who shoot 3 pointers and beat players of the dribble. Three sometimes four-guard lineups have become the norm, free flowing the way to go”.

This years final four teams certainly fit that mold. These final four squads also have something else in common: Skilled BIG men who can keep defenses honest, grab rebounds, and protect the rim with all these smaller guys out there. Villanova has Omari Spellman, Kansas Udoka Zbuuike,. Moe Wagner is Michigan’s man in the middle and burly freshmen Cameron Krutwig anchors the paint for Loyola-Chicago. Those four are a big reason these four are in San Antonio this weekend. “Big guys are going to be really valuable if they are really skilled”, Villanova coach Jay Wight said. “Everybody can get the position less thing, but the guys who have position less players with the big guy, that’s going to be the best team”. AND WHO WON THE FINAL FOUR?

This seems to go along with Coach Barron’s thinking in the way he and his assistant coaches recruited for next season as they recruited 7 players that showed in their video highlight films all have some versatility that could make them capable face-the-basket players and defenders of such position less offensive players. The 4 Power Forwards showed that they too maybe capable of being effective face-the-basket players. The question is do they have effective post up games?

Interesting that this position less basketball new philosophy which strengths is that all the players on the floor can play all the positions is nothing really new except that it is relying much more on the players individual athletic skills to do this which means that just using position less athletic basketball allows the players to decide what they do, like decide how they get the shots, who shoots, how they shot, when they shoot and where they shoot from.

I think some who think this way may have forgot or don’t know about the old Drake and Auburn D-1 Colleges shuffle offenses that were set continuity offenses that had all 5 players have/had to play all the positions as they ran the shuffle in the late 50’s and early 60’s, in it’s continuity or the modern version of the shuffle, the flex offense which is really just a squared shuffle offense with 4 of the 5 players having to be able to play all four of the non post positions facing-the-basket.

Players had to be able to handle the ball, dribble the ball, pass the ball vertically and horizontally, and shoot the ball, etc.

The only difference is that today’s position less offenses allow the players to make the shooting decisions where the shuffle and the flex offenses determined, how they got the shot, who got the shot, when they shot and where they shot from.

There are only 6 things a basketball player can do after they pass the ball to a teammate. They are as follows: 1. Pass and stand still. 2. pass and make a give and go cut 3. Pass and set a screen away from the ball 4. Pass and go screen the man who received the pass 5. Pass and go get the ball back and 6. fake 1 thru 5 and make a cut to the basket or over the 3 point line.

There are also only 4 things players can do when they catch the ball in the half court: 1. Hold it, 2. pass it, 3. shoot it or 4. dribble it all which are used in the disciplined position less offenses or the free lance position less offenses.

Here is an offensive setup that combines the position less offense and the continuity shuffle and flex offenses. This offensive system allows for the system to determine who shoots, when they shoot and where they shoot from and not the individual players.

Spacing is extremely important in running either position less offenses. The best spaced formation for either is that the post position is on the block on the side where the ball is at all times. The 2 forwards are even or above with the free throw line extended outside the 3 point line and the 2 guards are even with the free throw lane line and outside the 3 point line. So it is a 2-2-1 set and all 5 players have to be able to play at each positions.

This offense also allowed for excellent dribble penetration because of it’s unique spacing of the players on the floor. However, once the offense started there was no dribbling except when the passer could not pass to any teammate because of denial defense on the players without the ball. This made it much easier as there was little help defense on the dribble penetration and if there was the teammate whose man had left him to help out on the penetration was wide open for the open catch and shoot the 3. Also, if the player with the ball ball faked an overhead pass to a teammate then the teammate just ran a back door cut against for the pass. These were position less moves against denial half court over play defense which leads to a 2 on 1 situation with the player on the post or for an open and catch 3 point shot. However, the defense were the ones that determined dribble penetration or back door cuts.

This offense also put immediate pressure on the defense to defend the post player on the block as every time a perimeter player received the ball they looked inside to the post player and if he was defended one on one then the ball went right into him. This forced the defense to double down and double team the post player with the ball or without the ball which left the offensive player that the defender who left his offensive man to double team the post wide open for a three point attempt. So if the post player had the ball and then the double team occurred he just kicked the ball out to the open perimeter player. If the double team occurred and the post player did not have the ball then the perimeter player with the ball just passed the ball to the open teammate for an open three as his man left him wide open to double down on the post.

If you would like more information about this set and free lance position less offense just call me at 207-945-6787 or my cell phone 356-6787 and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.