Coaching Basketball: What’s Your Paint Game?

This post was written by Texas A & M Women’s Assistant Bob Starkey and posted on his blog Hoop Thoughts. He shares his thoughts on all topics related to coaching and updates the blog frequently. It is definitely worth your while to check it out.

What’s Your Paint Game

Bob Starkey, Texas A & M

For the large majority of us, we are well into the beginning of the off-season. A major part of the off-season for the best of coaches is a thorough review of their system of play. As I view the NBA plays-offs, my question to us is this: WHAT’S YOUR PAINT GAME?

I’m a strong believer that championships are won in the paint. This speaks to both offensive and defensive philosophies.

In 2011, the Miami Heat lost in six games to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs dominated the paint and the Heat settled for jump shots far too many times. In that off-season, LeBron James called up Hakeem Olaguwon and asked him if he would work with him that summer on his paint game. You have to give great credit to LJ for first recognizing what he need to work on to improve his game and then for not hesitating to ask for help — those are the two marks of a great player.

Too many coaches think that a “Paint Game” means isolating a big post on the block and working the ball inside. And if you have a big that certainly is a good thing to do. But just because you don’t have a big doesn’t mean you don’t have a paint game. Here are some ways to get the ball to the paint:

1. Low Post Play: develop your post players — regardless of size — to post, seal, move without the ball and to finish.

2. Transition Offense: beat the defense to the paint before they get there.

3. Dribble Penetration: being able to put the ball on the floor and drive it to the paint has become increasingly popular with so many teams utilizing the Dribble Drive Offense.

4. Flash Game: flash players into the paint for a touch…this can be post players or perimeter players.

5. Post Up Guards: you may not have a big but if your posts can step away and shoot you can post up your guards inside.

6. Offensive Rebounding: working and emphasizing offensive rebounding above and beyond what other teams might do is another way to create a paint game.

We are not suggesting that you abandon your offensive system but having a paint game allows you a chance to score and draw fouls on the opposition when the mid-range or 3-point shooting has gone cold. Some people point to the fact that Duke and Mike Kryzewski has become great proponents of the 3-point shot. Watch how many of them come off of a paint touch — either dribble penetration or post feed to a fan pass. The “Paint Touch 3” is a great way of setting up a good three point shooter while still pressuring the defense to play interior defense.

Part of having a solid paint game on offense is understanding defenses and how they are played today. We all know the Chuck Daly mantra of “Spacing if offense and offense is spacing.” Well, the same can be true of defense. While offense is looking to spread the defense, defenses are now looking to shrink the floor — getting and sitting in gaps.

Even the best low post players have a difficult time of getting a good look off of the same side entry pass in offensive play. Two keys that will be beneficial include:

1. Reversing the basketball. While at LSU, with Sylvia Fowles dominating the inside, we would tell her to start opposite the ball in our motion offense and reverse the ball to her side forcing the defense to go from help to ball and ball to help.

2. Occupy the helpside. Movement away from where you want to enter the paint with the ball is critical. Making defenders guard two things at once will help you to get the ball to the paint more efficiently. Another one of our basic concepts is for players to “cut to create help.” If we are cutting hard and correctly, we have a chance to draw a helpside defender which creates more space for drives or post feeds.

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