August 29, 2019 • OffenseWinning Hoops

Using fake handoffs to boost your offense

by John Kimble, contributing writer

With dribble handoff action becoming more popular, offenses must do what they can to stay ahead of defenses that are trying to stop it. Since deception is so important, using fake handoffs can make real handoffs more unpredictable and successful.

These plays are shown out of different sets with different offensive personnel attacking the basket. This forces different defenders to guard ball handlers from various locations on the floor. Defensive post players could be inverted on the perimeter to expose their lack of quickness, knowledge, and experience in being a perimeter defender. Experienced perimeter defenders might be forced to guard their man in an unfamiliar interior position.

These forms of action help coaches identify flaws in defenses, which can then be used to their team’s advantage as the game carries on. Each play can seamlessly flow into a designated continuity or motion offense if it does not produce the desired shot.

Integrating fake handoffs

The first two plays end up in the standard four-out, onein spot-ups. The last two entries end in the basic threeout, two-in spot-ups.

DIAGRAM 1: Play one (A). This play is executed from a five-up set. 1 has the freedom to drive toward either side of the floor. In this example, 1 dribbles toward 2, with 2 first starting to cut up for the expected handoff before breaking down to the deep corner. 1 may have a penetrate-and-pitch opportunity to 2 for a 3-point shot.

At the same time, 3 flattens to the deep corner while 4 cross-screens for 5. Both bigs step out to the 2-guard spot-ups above the arc. 1 can drive to the basket or make passes to either teammate spotted in the deep corners.

DIAGRAM 2: Play one (B). If nothing develops, 1 could pass to 5 and invert his perimeter defender (X1) on the new ball-side post. All players are in the four-out, one-in spot-ups to seamlessly flow into a designated continuity or motion offense.

DIAGRAM 3: Play two (A). This can begin from the two-up or one-down set. Since the play can attack either side of the floor, it has a higher degree of unpredictability.

2 looks to make a duck-in pass to 5 in the dotted circle area before making the pass to 1. 5 finishes the duck-in cut and breaks up to the middle of the free-throw line. While 1 dribbles toward 3, 2 makes a shuffle-cut off either side of 5. 5 replaces 2 at the top.

If 1 does not hit 2 on the shuffle-cut, they make a handoff to 3 near the free-throw-line extended. 1 stays wide and deep by continuing to the deep corner. 2 stops cutting through the lane to break back to the “nail hole,” centered in the middle of the free-throw line.

DIAGRAM 4: Play two (B). 3 dribbles to 1’s initial location. They can either reverse the ball to 5 for a pass to 2 at the free-throw line, or 3 can make the pass to 2. As the ball reaches 2’s hands, 3 scissor-cuts off of 2’s left shoulder as if to receive the handoff from 2. 5 starts to make the same type of scissor-cut off of 2’s opposite shoulder, before breaking it off and staying high and wide outside the arc.

4 steps up and out, replacing 5’s inverted perimeter position. After slicing through the lane to the midpost area on the right side, 3 widens out to the deep corner on the right side. This places all four off-ball players evenly, horizontally and vertically stretched outside of the arc. 2 could make the handoff to 3 and drive to the basket but preferably fakes that handoff and pivots in the opposite direction to drive to the basket. 2 could drive to the rim or penetrate-and-pitch to 1 or 3. If no shots are taken, players are in the four-out, one-in spot-ups for any designated continuity or motion offense.

DIAGRAM 5: Play three (A). This is executed from the hi-low stax set with 5 and 3 the high stack on the left side. 4 and 2 make up the low stack and start on the right side of the lane. Both stacks could reverse their sides of the floor to make this play more diverse.

1 dribbles toward the right side’s 2-guard spot-up, while 4 turns their pin-screen for 2 into a strong duck-in cut into the dotted circle area and looks for the inside pass from 1. If 4 does not receive 1’s inside pass, 4 breaks diagonally to the new ball-side high post. At the same time, 5 pin-screens for 3 to make the same type of cut to the free-throw-line extended on their side of the floor. This play could be executed from the five-up set or the horns set, with 3 and 2 breaking up from their deep corners to the free-throw-line extended.

DIAGRAM 6: Play three (B). As the ball is passed to 4 — either from 1 or 2 — 5 slashes diagonally across the lane, looking for 4’s inside pass. 2 flares out to the top of the key, with 1 scissor-cutting off of 4 to the vacant ball-side wing spot-up area. 1 and 2 occupy their defenders, with 3 spotting up in the new weak-side wing area and 5 posting up on the new ball-side block. 4 fakes the handoff to 1, and spins toward the inside to drive to the basket. If 4 is stopped, they have passing options to either 3 for a 3-pointer or a drive-and-dump for 5’s inside shot.
If shots are not taken, players are in the three-out, two-in spot-ups for the desired continuity or motion offense to begin.

DIAGRAM 7: Play four (A). This is executed from the three-over set. 2 makes an Iverson cut over 5 and 4 to the opposite free-throw-line extended and receives 1’s pass. After 1 makes the wing pass to 2, 1 and 5 stagger-screen for 3 to break to the top of the key.

When 2 makes the pass to 4 at the high post, 2 breaks toward 4 as if to scissor-cut off of 4 for a handoff. 2 then veers toward 3 while 3 circles around so that 2 and 3 occupy their defenders outside of the arc and away from 4 and the ball. 4 fakes the inside handoff to 2, spins toward the outside, and attacks the basket for a score.

DIAGRAM 8: Play four (B). Another option for 4 is to drive-and-dump to 5, who has slipped the stagger screen and drifted down to the weak-side block. If no shots are taken, the action moves defenders and repositions offensive players into the same three-out, two-in spot-ups for the continuity or motion offense to quickly begin.

All four plays threaten handoffs and make those threats a form of deception and disguise. As in all other plays, if shots are not produced the offensive attack can seamlessly continue its next wave of attack. Incorporating plays with fake handoffs make the plays that actually utilize handoffs more deceptive, unpredictable, explosive and productive.

The fundamentals

It’s always important to keep key fundamental techniques in mind. If there is a dribble-handoff, the dribbler is to always protect the ball from their own defender and drive directly at their teammate’s defender. They then step forward with their inside foot and turn away from their teammate’s defender as well as their own to prepare to make the handoff. The handoff should be made with two hands, similar to a quarterback handing a football to a running back.

The teammate receiving the handoff must set up their defender with an aggressive V-cut before scraping off of the teammate in possession of the ball. They must be quick, but always under control and aware of a possible double-team trap, a defensive switch, or a hard defensive hedge. When obtaining the handoff, they should be ready to attack the basket or pull up on the perimeter for a jumper.

Fake handoffs should be executed with the very same techniques until they take place. At that point, the offensive player in possession of the basketball should be under control and make the decision to drive to the basket, attempt a perimeter shot, or make a safe and accurate pass to a teammate.