Learning the Triangle Offense

Jonathan Abrams wrote a good article about Kurt Rambis instituting the Triangle Offense with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He writes:

The triangle, created by the post, wing and corner players, revolves around seven guiding principles: the ball handler reading the defense; correct decisions based on the defense; penetration through a pass into the post; separation of 15 to 20 feet for all the offensive players; movement through sharp cuts; interchangeability in positions; and balance for defensive transition.

These seven guiding principles may apply specifically to the Triangle, but they are good principles for any offense. Shouldn’t all offenses involve reading the defense and making correct decisions? Isn’t the goal to get penetration into the key, whether through a pass or dribble? Aren’t all offenses predicated on good spacing? Don’t the best offenses involve all players in all positions? Isn’t the first aspect of great defensive teams the court balance when a shot is attempted?

Abrams writes:

The triangle differs from more traditional N.B.A. offenses because it presents more options for the five players on the court. There are no set plays, just many possibilities.

Isn’t the ideal offense for developing players one that presents opportunities for all five players and creates an interchangeability among players? As Rambis says about the Triangle:

“It really teaches players how to play…It teaches players how to move without the basketball, how to read defenses, how to play together.”

Isn’t that the goal for youth basketball? As Los Angeles Lakers’ assistant coach Jim Cleamons says:

“The triangle is literally a junior high school offense, so if junior high players can run the triangle, then, certainly, young players of this caliber can run it. It’s a mind-set. You just have to be open, you have to be receptive and you have to be willing to realize that you can’t dominate the basketball. If you are good to the offense, the offense will be good to you.”

I don’t know if the Triangle offense is the perfect offense or the best offense for youth teams. However, the principles and the basics that it emphasizes are those that every youth coach should emphasize. Developmental teams should find ways to get every player opportunities and to encourage every player, not just run sets to get the best player shots. If every player learns to read the defense, move without the ball, pass and take good shots, the coach has been successful, at least on the offensive side.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

1 thought on “Learning the Triangle Offense

  • The triangle was designed by Tex Winter around those 7 principles. That’s why it is such a great offense. I put it in this year for my high school team, the main motive being to teach them to play basketball and to get rid of all selfishness. As players do that, they find the scoring options for each player exist with every single pass that is made. I think it’s the perfect offense. Some NBA players don’t like it because they are used to going 1 on 1 whenever they want, but champions like MJ, Kobe realize that it the opportunities are there for them and for their teammates to score on every pass. Cleamons’s comment, “if you are good to the offense, the offense will be good to you” couldn’t be more accurate. And it teaches spacing, passing, cutting, reading the defense, everything that you want your players to learn.

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