I always have played a lot of one-on-one with my teams, as I tend to see the game as a number of one-on-one battles. However, as I re-wrote the curriculums for the Playmakers Basketball Development League and began to plan for the up-coming season, I realized two-on-two is the optimal starting point.
One-on-one is great for practicing individual moves and finishing. In many ways, one-on-one is the foundation of basketball, as there are courts across the world where two guys (usually) are playing one-on-one. From a development perspective, I prefer two-on-two.
Two-on-two is the smallest possible game that incorporates all the skills in basketball. There really is no skill in a five-on-five game that cannot be performed in two-on-two. There are shooting, dribbling, passing, defense, screens, hand-offs, cuts, and more. In two-on-two, there are no off-the-ball screens, but two offensive players can run pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs. These are screens.
Offensively, I have a very basic philosophy: disorganize the defense. By disorganizing the defense, we want to create a two-on-one. Once we have the two-on-one, we have to make the right decision, and we should have an open shot. Since the goal is to create two-on-one situations, I want to practice these situations. I view these situations – whether in transition or the half court – as the foundation of offense.
In one-on-one, there are few decisions to make. The offense has to read the defender and decide when to shoot, and the defender has to read the offensive player and stay between the offensive player and the basket. In two-on-two, there is the threat of a help defender and the possibility for a pass for the ball handler; the non-ball-handler has to move, find space, and occupy his or her defender. The defense has to decide whether or not to help, and the on-ball defender has to worry about the potential for a screen. Whereas many possessions may end up as one-on-one situations, the players have to think beyond one-on-one: the ball handler has to account for a second defender and his or her teammate on a drive rather than concentrating solely on beating one defender for a lay-up. Introducing this element begins the players’ learning of decision making in these situations in a way that one-on-one cannot replicate.
Beyond my general offensive philosophy, two-on-two is great for beginners to practice skills and learn to make simple decisions. I use a lot of offensive advantage games; with one-on-one, there are only a few ways to create the advantage. With two-on-two, there are many more ways to manipulate the environment to give the offense a slight advantage.
As our season kicks off, the focus will be two-on-two situations – full court transition, half-court transition, help-and-recover situations, closeout situations, etc. As we improve in our shot creation and decision-making in these situations, we will expand and add players. As players are added, the goal is to continue to create those two-on-one situations. What tactic can three offensive players use to create a two-on-one? What tactic can four or five players use? This is the foundation of general offensive basketball before worrying about any sets, strategy, tactics, or anything else.
By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League