Dribble Drive Offense: The Essentials

Everything you need to know about understanding, teaching, and installing dribble drive offense.

Part 1: What is dribble drive offense?

The dribble drive offense is a system and style of play that emphasizes creating driving gaps and aggressively attacking those gaps in order to put constant pressure on the defense. Vance Walberg is famous for being the creator of this offense, and since his creation of the system, it has been widely copied and adapted by many teams at all levels.

Here is a short video of our team running the offense:

Part 2: Why dribble drive?

I am a believer in the dribble drive offense because it creates an easy system of organization for our team to play out of the offensive principles that we believe in. Those principles are:

  1. Catch shot ready

  2. React to attack

  3. Pass to where the help came from

  4. Sprint to re-space

  5. Penetrate pass pass

In order for us to play the way that we want to play, we need a system to organize the movements and reads of all 5 offensive players. The dribble drive offense is that framework for us.

The second reason why I am a fan of the dribble drive offense is because it is structured enough for the players to have clarity, but flexible enough so that they can freely read and react to make "the right play".

Before adopting an offensive system for your team, I would encourage you to think about creating a list of your own offensive principles. Once you have done that, select an offensive system (or create one) that aligns with your principles.

Part 3: Spacing + gaps

As you begin to teach and coach dribble drive offense, you will quickly learn that it is all about spacing. For us, we run the dribble drive out of a 4-out set.

As you can see in the diagram above, we space the floor with 4 guards. Those 4 guard initially fill the spots of the corners and the slots. Our 5 man is around the basket. We like for our 5 man to be on the block opposite the ball.

The reasoning for this spacing on the perimeter is to create double and triple gaps. A double gap is created when there is one open perimeter spot between guards. A triple gap would be created when there are two open perimeter spaces between guards. In the diagram above you can see the double gaps are present between the slots and corners because the wing area is empty. Conversely, there is a single gap between the slots because there is no open perimeter spot. As a general rule of thumb, we only want to drive the ball through double gaps. If there is a single gap, we like to pass and cut in order to open up a double or even triple gap.

Part 4: Penetration reaction

One you have created the gaps to attack with your spacing, it is vital that all players are on the same page regarding how to react when the ball is driven. We teach these reactions with 3 simple rules:

  1. If the ball is driven away from you, fill behind it one perimeter spot

  2. If the ball is driven at you, fade away one perimeter spot

  3. If you are the 5, be on the opposite block when the ball is driven

This is the most important part of the offense. It is vital that dribble drive offense be a 5 player attack. Many teams that run the dribble drive with little effectiveness do so because they run it as if it is a 1v1 offense. Penetration reaction allows for the dribble drive to become a 5 player offense.

Part 5: Passing + cutting rules

Once players have mastered spacing and reacting to drives, it is time to learn how to create the driving gaps that you want. We create gaps and continuity through our passing and cutting rules. We do this with one big rule:

If you pass to a perimeter player, cut through to the corner on the side you passed to

In the diagram above, there is a single gap between players 1 and 4. Using our passing and cutting rule, 1 is able to create a triple gap for 4 to drive. A huge theme in dribble drive offense is that compressing space in one area of the floor will create space to attack in another area. Here the space behind 4 is compressed, while the space in front of 4 is maximized. You want your players attacking open space.

Now 4 attacks the space in front of him. They other players on the floor are reacting to the drive with our penetration reaction rules. 1, 4 are filling behind, while 3 is fading away and staying in the corner.

Once 4 kicks the ball to 3, he will cut to the corner in the direction of his pass (one big rule). 3 now has space to drive the ball middle. 2,1, and 5 react to the drive with our penetration reaction rules.

Although there are others, one scenario that we will deviate from our one big passing and cutting rule is when you pass to a player who is "above you".

Here 3 hits 1 rather than 2. Because 3 is going to cut to the left corner (one big rule), and 2 is above 1 creating a single gap, we do not want 1 to drive this ball. Because 3 got deep on his drive, when the ball is kicked out we are thinking "penetrate pass pass". 1 will either shoot it or swing it to the player above him. Because 1 passes to a player above him, he will not cut.

Those are the basics that you need to have installed in order for your team to run an effective version of dribble drive offense. From here, you can add, subtract, or modify facets of the offense to make it your own. To learn a much more in-depth version of how we have modified the offense to fit our team, click here.

Part 6: In-Game Video

Part 7: Drills to teach the offense

When setting out to teach the dribble drive, it is imperative that you are building a mindset within your players that is all about scoring. You do not get points for running a good looking offense, you get points for putting the ball in the basket. For that reason, I believe the best order to teach the offense is as follows:

  1. Finishing at the rim

  2. Spacing on drives/sharing the ball

  3. Attacking off the catch

  4. Passing and cutting rules

Too often coaches start teaching offense with the passing and cutting rules, and as a result your offense becomes more about "running it" than it does about scoring. We want to start with teaching how to score and work backwards from there.

In order to teach finishing, we start with advantage drills where they offense is already beginning to get by the defense based on how the drill starts. Hip 1v1 is one of our favorite ways to do this:

From here, you would then build up to 2v2 and start to teach both the penetration reaction concepts, along with the decision making for the driver regarding whether they should shoot it or pass it. You can do this version of 2v2 with your 5 man at the rim as the off ball player, or with a perimeter player. When you add a perimeter player as the teammate, you are now building the skills of attacking off the catch if the ball is kicked out. Here is an example of the same hip 1v1 game morphed into 2v2. You can do this 3v3 or 4v4 as well.

Finally, once you have mastered the skills or finishing, spacing and sharing the ball, and attacking off the catch, then it is time to work on the passing and cutting rules of the offense. In other words, teach them how to play first, and what to run second.

Part 8: Where to learn more?