Diagram 1: Third Option’ shows the initial positions of the players. 2 and 3are the guards and usually the best play-makers. Their positions are inter-changeable depending on how the ball has been advanced up the court. 2 takes up a position directly in line with the basket at the top of the keyway. 3 is directly in line with 5 and the basket. 4 is level with the free throw line extended about 2m in from the sideline and 1 is in a similar position on the right side of the court. We also identify the positions of the players As first cutter (3) second cutter (4) feeder (1) Point (2) and post (5)
Diagram 2. 3 passes to 2 who quickly passes to 1.5 pivots on the foot in the direction of the pass. That is, if the pass is made from 3 to 2 then 5 pivots on his left foot so that he will then be facing the basket.3 must wait until the ball has reached 1 or at least until the pass is in motion to 1.3 then, after setting up his defender, cuts to the basket. It is an important instruction that whatever side 3’s defender goes to avoid the screen set by 5 then 3 will cut the other side. If 3 cuts to the left side of the screen set by 5 it is usually preferable to make what is called an L cut. A cross court pass from 1 to 3 on the left side of the backboard will be open if the post defender does not help, otherwise 3 will the cut along the baseline to set up a low post target on the right side of the keyway with both feet straddling the block mark.
Diagram 3: After 3 makes his cut 2 and 5 set a double screen for 4 (the second cutter) 4 aims to receive a pass for a jump shot around the free throw line or makes a high post target for a pass to 3, or to 5 cutting to the basket, or to 2 on the wing who may have a shot or a pass to 5 in the low post.
Diagram 4 shows the position of players if 1 does not pass to either 3 or 4 after their respective cuts. 1 may decide to run another ‘third option’ this time from the right hand side of the court. 4 is now in the post position. 1 will be the first cutter. 3, who has moved up to a position level with the free throw line, is the second cutter and 2 is now in the feeder spot on the left side of the court.
Diagram 5: 1 passes to 5 who quickly passes to 2. 1 uses 4 as a post screen and cuts to the low post on the left side of the court. 4 and 5 set a double screen for 3 who cuts across the key way for a possible pass from 2. 3 may take a jump shot or look to feed 1 in the low post or pass to 5 who, makes a power move to the basket. If none of these passes are open 3 may pass to 4 for a perimeter shot, or 4 may pass to 5 who continues to work to present a target in the low post position on the right side of the court.
Diagram 6: In this set of options it will be noted that each player is in a position where he should be able to maximise his individual skill. 1 and 5 are usually the two tallest players who can be expected to create opportunit1es to receive a pass close to the basket. 2 and 3 are usually the most creative players with good passing skills. 4 is usually a strong player with good ball-handling and dribbling skills and capable of making a good percentage of shots from the perimeter.
Diagram 7: Coaches should always remind their players to ‘read the game’. Be aware of what the defence is trying to achieve and recognise the various options that will be available. Remember the rule ‘ If there is no help, penetrate and if there is help pass.’ During the course of running the various cuts it may be that the defence tries to over-play and deny a pass. We will discuss various options to combat this later, but the option for the ball-handler to drive to the basket, if he can beat his man one on one, should never be ignored.
THIRD OPTION UNDER
When the defence is conditioned to prepare for the second cutter working off the double screen set by 5 and 2 it provides an opportunity for 4 to vary his cut by faking to accept the screens and cutting under the basket for a possible lob pass from 1 or a low post opportunity on the edge of the lane.
When the third option (under) is called 2 changes the intent of his screen and this time sets a screen for 5 who steps toward the top of the keyway for possible perimeter shot or quick pass to 2 who rolls out to the new feeder position on the left side of the court after screening 5.
When this option is called it often provides an excellent one on one opportunity for 2 who is usually a guard with good ball-handling skills. 1 would delay his cut to avoid bringing his defender into a defensive help position until it is evident that 2 will not use the one-on-one opportunity.
Diagram 8: 4 cuts to the low post and if he does not receive the ball moves up to the post position for the continuation of another third option (or a first option on the right side).
The third option (under) is usually quicker to execute than the normal motion setting double screens for the 4 man and may be suitable for game situations when continuous motion is called for to take time off the clock or to set up a specific player for one-on-one opportunities in the low post or on either wing. The defence can never be sure which is the preferred target and will find it difficult to overplay particular opponents.
If the post also has good perimeter shooting skills he will make it more difficult for his defender to help on the cutter or he will be vulnerable to a screen set by 2 thus giving 5 the chance for a shot near the top of the key.
The variation of third options using the double screens for the 4 man and the third option (under) makes it more difficult for defenders to anticipate the priorities of the offence and therefore more difficult to prevent good scoring opportunities.