The Shuffle offence was originated by Bruce Drake, assistant coach of the 1956 US Olympic Games team, and was successfully used by Joel Eaves at Auburn University. The Shuffle has been of particular value to teams that have average ability or are undersized and depend on coordinated team effort. Teams at the US Air Force Academy, which has restrictions on the height of students, have used variations of the Shuffle with success for many years.
The Shuffle requires players to execute skills in each position and, although this may create problems for some, it creates problems for the opposition who may not be used to defending players in unfamiliar situations.
The area close to the basket is vacated for the initiation of the half-court offence and then, depending on which options are used, players will cut to the low post or high post positions for scoring opportunities. When deciding on which option to use coaches may assess which of his players might have an advantage over his opponent and then use him as the prime target. It is natural for opponents to try and overplay the primary target so it is important that there should be secondary targets and continuity to allow players to make choices for the highest percentage opportunities.
It is also natural for opponents to try and apply intense defensive pressure to prevent the Shuffle from getting started, so there must be adjustments and strategies to counter that. Coaches must remember for every action there should be a reaction. Recognising what the defence is trying to do is important when making decisions on how to start the offence and how to decide on the most effective options.
When learning the offence it is common for players to become mechanical and rigid with their respective offensive situations. But after some experience and more familiarity with the way defenders will try and counter various plays, the Shuffle can be a free-flowing dynamic offence that will provide all players with the chance to contribute and share in team success.
It may be argued that the Shuffle requires all players to have similar abilities and this could be a disadvantage when a team may have only two or three outstanding players. But over the years with the Melbourne Tigers, we found that players with lesser abilities can still be used effectively in specific roles that maximise their skills and minimise their weaknesses. One of our players, Warrick Giddey, never converted a three-point shot through his long NBL career. He was a marginal shooter, even from relatively short range, but he was well-respected as one of our all-time best feeders,
defenders, rebounders and playmakers. He played to his strengths to be an excellent player for us.
Another aspect of the Shuffle that makes it popular is it is used effectively against man-to-man defence and zone defences, with just minor variations in timing of cuts or screens needed. When young players are learning the offence it saves a great deal of practice time teaching the basic structure while other methods may require significant time preparing for how to deal with changing defences.
Opposition coaches will quickly recognise if a team has to change its offensive structure when there is a change of defence so they will adopt a strategy to change defences frequently. Some coaches will disguise their defensive strategy by showing a
zone and then adjusting after one or two passes into man-to-man, or showing a man-to-man and adjusting to a zone after a pass or a dribble or some other signal. This can
create serious problems for the rigidly structured offences that have different rules for man-to-man and zone defences, but these problems are virtually eliminated in the Shuffle offence.