Part III: Flex Offense
The following is the 3rd part of our four part blog series. In this blog we will discuss discuss the Flex Offense and our suggestions on how to implement this offense with your team, including sample practice drills. I would suggest teaching defense first and then doing some of the drills and getting to the full offense by the end of practice.
Several teams are running the flex at the high school, college, and NBA level. I included a video of the Chicago Bulls running the flex, a college team practicing it, and here is a video of the Pitt Panthers running a variation of the flex at the college level. You'll notice that teams get into the flex in a variety of ways and also put their own adjustments into the offense. At the heart of the offense is the flex cut and screen the screener action as you'll see in this video.
Pitt Panthers Running Flex Offense
I guess the flex must work if all these teams are using it. Right? Were you a little overwhelmed by all the screens and cuts? Don't worry. I'll simplify it for you.
In this blog post I'll take you through the basics of the flex offense and why so many teams have decided to use it to some capacity.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO POST COMMENTS WITH ANY QUESTIONS!
What is a Flex Cut?
A flex cut is when a player in one of the corners receives a screen from a teammate and then cuts through the paint looking for a pass and an easy layup. The flex cut is the main component of the Flex Offense. Many times the first flex cut is not open, but once the offense is run through several times a player will break free for an open layup.
What is the Flex Offense?
The flex offense is a continuous motion offense with a repeated pattern. It is best used at the middle school, high school, college, or even professional levels. The offense starts with a flex cut (see diagram 1.2) and then a down screen (diagram 1.3) and repeats this pattern until either a jump shot is taken or a player breaks free for an open layup. The flex offense gives teams an opportunity to take shots from the free throw line (sometimes extended) and layups around the basket. It requires teams to pass, screen, and show patience on offense. At the same time, it requires defenses to fight through continuous screens and defend deep into the shot clock. Many high school and college teams run this offense or a variation of it. Also, some NBA teams even run the flex!
Click the link to see the Chicago Bulls run the Flex a few years back--> Chicago Bulls Flex Offense
Does this offense fit your personnel?
The simple answer would be Yes! The flex is a great offense if you don't have true post players. You can get your players to the elbow for mid-range shots and a drive to the basket, or hit them on a flex cut for a layup. Certain teams cater the flex to their personnel and make adjustments so I have seen team with a traditional post run it. They have the post make a flex cut and if the defense switches they have a huge size advantage for the post. We'll talk about this later in the blog. In short, you can run the flex with different types of personnel, but a lot of the high school teams that run it have versatile players that can shoot mid-range and score on cuts to the basket.
The flex can start in a variety of ways depending on your team. Typically, it starts with 3 players on the baseline and two players up top. I would consider it to be a 4 out set since most of the time you have 4 players on the perimeter with one making a flex cut to the basket. As I said earlier, this offense can start in a variety of ways, but I will descrie the basic set up.
The 1 brings the ball up on the right side (could be left too) with the 2 directly across (diagram 1.1). The offense begins when 4 (left block) sets a screen for 5 who makes a flex cut to the basket (diagram 1.2). If 5 is not open, then 2 screens down for 4 who pops to the elbow and receives the pass from 1 (diagram 1.3). 4 has the option to takes this shot, drive to the basket, or look for the next flex cut option.
After screening 2 fades to the corner and the offense now resets with 5 screening for 3 who makes a flex cut to the basket (diagram 1.4). 4 Can hit 3 on the flex cut or look for the next option. If the flex cut is not open, then 1 screens down for 5 who pops up to the elbow looking for the jump shot from the elbow (diagram 1.5).
Still no basket....Repeat it again!
The offense resets a 2nd time. Now 5 has the basketball and looks for 2 cutting to the basket off of a screen from 3. In this case 2 catches the ball and makes a layup. Notice that you will not always get an easy basket the first time you run this offense through. It may reset multiple times before you get a layup or jump shot. This is the greatest aspect of the flex offense. Defenses have to defend deep into the shot clock if offenses move the ball, screen well, and are patient. Eventually, you should get a layup or an open jump shot.
Is this offense simple?
It is definitely more advanced than the basic motion offense, but with practice can be taught to middle and high school aged players. The two most difficult aspects of this offense will be teaching your players to set and use screens properly and stay patient as they run the offense through multiple resets.
1,1 Basic set up of the Flex Offense
1.2 4 screens for 5 who makes a flex cut to the basket looking for the basketball
1.3 2 screens down for 4 who pops to the elbow, receives the pass from 1, and looks for an open shot.
1.4 2 fades to the corner after setting a screen for 4. 5 back screens for 3 who looks for the ball while making a flex cut to the basket. *Notice that 3 cuts to the baseline as opposed to 5 who cut over the screen across the middle. You can cut to either side of the screen. *
1.5 If 3 is not open, then 1 screens down for 5 who pops to the elbow and receives the pass from 4. 5 should look for the shot or drive to the basket.
1.6 If 5 does not have the shot, then the offense resets again. This time 3 back screens for 2 who makes a flex cut, receives the pass, and gets an easy layup!
As I said last week, you have to break down any defense or offense into smaller drills to teach the fundamentals. In this case, you should work on proper screening, using screens, flex cuts, triple threat, and catching and shooting off screens. Depending on personnel you may incorporate post drills into your guard/post time. In my opinion, I would still have some post player drills in practice unless you have 5 guards and a really small team.
Below are a few suggestions for practice drills that will help you run the Flex Offense:
Flex Cut Drill
5, 10, or 15 minutes at practice. Much like last week, this drill will take more time at first. Make sure you teach players how to use screens (jab step one way and brush shoulder to shoulder) to get open.
2 lines with a coach as the 3rd person in the drill. You may want to start this drill by teaching the flex cut on air and running through it rapidly to show players the fundamentals.
Have both lines set up on the baseline. One line will set up where 5 is in the corner (see diagram above) and the other line will set up where 4 is located (left block). Have 4 set the screen for 5 who cuts through the middle, catches the ball, and makes a layup. The next two players step up and run the drill. After you go through for a few minutes you should switch sides. Remember to teach players to cut over and under the screen to get open. Using multiple ways to get open can be very effective and should not be difficult to teach.
You can add a defender when players gets the hang of it or have a coach act as the defender. Of course, this depends on the number of assistant coaches you have on staff. I am fortunate to have great assistant coaches when we drill our offense.
Coaching Points (what to look for during the drill):
- Be sure that your players are setting good screens.
- The player using the screen should be taught to jab step one way and then brush shoulder to shoulder off the screen. This will greatly enhance the chances of your player getting open during the game. The little things make a BIG difference.
- Make sure players are finishing around the basket. You have to make the most of every opportunity you have to score off the flex cut. That means missed layups are unacceptable.
- Advance the drill by putting in a defender to make the cut more difficult.
- Set a time limit during the drill and have players make a certain amount of layups in that time limit. I bet they will miss far less layups this way!
Down Screen Drill
5, 10, or 15 minutes at practice. This drill can take up to 15 minutes because you may want to work players through different scenarios. They can catch and shoot, catch and drive, etc...
2 lines with a coach as the 3rd person in the drill. If you are short on coaches, then you can actually have 3 lines for this drill or the 1st drill. Just have the players create a 3rd line as the passing line.
You want a line where the 2 is in the diagram above and a second line on the baseline where the 4 is located.
**If necessary have a 3rd line where 1 is to pass and then they can rotate into the 2 line and 2's can rotate into the 4 line. It shouldn't be that difficult if you don't have enough coaches to pass.
Have the 1st player in the 2 line screen down for the 4 who will pop to the elbow, catch, and shoot the basketball. Make sure players follow there shot and you may even want to have them get the rebound and score. *Coaching Point* After players in the 2 line screen they should fade to the left corner to simulate what they will do in a game. Switch sides after you run the drill through for a few minutes. Challenge players by having them make a certain amount of shots within a set time limit.
Add in a defender to help teach players how to use screens. If they use the screen properly they should be able to get open to catch and shoot.
Coaching Points (what to look for during the drill):
- Again, make sure players are using screens properly. Also, try to make sure they are catching square to the basket so they are in a good position to score. This gives you another opportunity to teach triple threat position.
- As I said for the last drill, players should jab step one way and then brush shoulder to shoulder off the screen. This is extremely important in this offense.
- Advance the drill by adding in a defender.
- Also, put players through different scenarios. They can catch and shoot, catch and drive, catch head fake and drive, catch take 1 dribble to get free and shoot etc.....All of these scenarios prepare players for game situations!
Run the flex on air/Run flex against defense
15-25 minutes at practice
The set up is the basic flex set up.
Have players run the flex offense on air repeatedly. They can run it through 10 times in a row if you want. This will teach them to be patient and understand that the first option may not always be open. I have seen coach run it over and over again until they blow the whistle or yell out a code word for the team to score on the next pass. Players have to understand that this offense is continuous for it to be effective. This is the best way to do it.
Stress proper screening and cutting. Also, make sure every player catches the ball in triple threat looking to score. You probably do not want to hit the flex cut when you run the drill on air. Most of the time, players will look to score once you hit this cut. It is, however, a good way to finish off the continuous sequence.
Once the players have a basic understanding of the offense you should incorporate the defense into the drill. You may want to wait until the 2nd day to add a defense. However, you know your team so you may be able to add in the defense sooner. The difficult part about adding the defense is the fact that it will disrupt the flow of the offense. Naturally, this is going to happen in a game, but you want your players to be comfortable with the basic concepts before you add in a defense. Once they get the basics adding the defense will give you a lot of opportunities to coach up your players and make adjustments.
Now click on the link to see a team practice the flex on air--> Flex Offense
Coaching Points (what to look for during the drill):
- Try to be consistent with what you have taught in earlier drills. Make sure players are setting good screens and making good cuts. If they start to get lazy it is important to stay on them.
- Always make sure players are in triple threat when they catch the ball at the free throw line.
- Don't hit the flex cut until the end of the drill. Otherwise, players may not reset the drill and will just take the first option every time. Force them to run the drill through continuously.
- Adding in the defense will certainly advance this drill. Especially since the defense will know the offense. It will force your players to set good screens, use the screens properly, and make small adjustments on the fly.
Many teams run the flex offense without many adjustments. Since you set so many screens and are constantly moving it can be very difficult to defend. However, good coaches always find a way to make adjustments on defense to slow down any type of offensive system. This means that you should be ready to adjust your offense as well. Below are some suggestions:
You have to run the flex over and over again for players to full understand how to run it in a game. Before making any adjustments or adding in any wrinkles be sure that your players know how to run the basic offense. This means they are setting good screens, making hard cuts to the basket, and running the offense through several times to get a good shot.
Similar to last week, I will give you an example of what a defense can do to slow down this offense before discussing the adjustment.
Defenses switch on all of your screens. Been there, done that. It can be an effective way to slow down this offense. However, it can also create mismatches. Earlier in the blog I mentioned that I would tell you how to use taller post type players to your advantage in this offense. Well, here is when you can use those bigger post players.
Last week, I talked about a simple way to identify a switching man defense. Make sure you are aware when teams are switching so you can counter it in a few ways.
First, let me say, you are making a defense adjust to your offense. They might switch the first few possessions, but can they do this consistently the entire game? Every time you set a screen for a flex cut and then screen down for the screener they have to switch. This takes time to teach and may hurt your opponent more than it helps them. However, if it is working here is the first suggestion.
Run the flex to the side with your post player. Have you post start in the corner, make the flex cut to the basket, and post. If the defense has switched a smaller player onto your post, then you should be in great shape.
You can also isolate a guard against a bigger player on the perimeter with this offense. These are small adjustments, but they can make a big difference in a close game. Every basket counts.
Run the offense through until you get an open shot. Wait! Is this an adjustment? So many teams get flustered by what the defense is actually doing that they try to make big adjustments. Try running your offense through until you catch them not switching or you get a mismatch with a post player. The opponent switching doesn't mean you have to change your entire offense.
Run a couple of quick hitters off the flex that are minor adjustments. Add in a pick and roll to start he offense, a dribble hand off, or a double screen for your best shooter. It is good to keep the defense on their toes by switching things up once in a while. If you want examples I am happy to share some effective plays off the flex that work.
As always, hard work beats talent, if talent fails to work hard!