Transition Offense – The Fast Break

The “Transition Offense” (better known as the “Fast Break”) is basically a well run “Up Tempo” style of offense that can quickly produce easy layups, wear down defenses, and break pressure defense. Fast breaks are set up from turnovers, steals, or even while just catching your opponent’s defense off guard. Transition Offenses must be ran aggressively and quickly with the goal of causing the defense to be out of position. Players must recognize fast break opportunities and capitalize on them. Some coaches like to “Push” the ball up the floor any chance they get, and some coaches like to “Slow” it down and only push the ball at certain times of the game. Either way, teaching your players how to properly run a transition offense (fast break) will help your team be successful. There are plenty of Video Clip demonstrations below:
Advantages of Transition Offense (Fast Breaks)

1. Produces quick, easy baskets, the score can run up quickly.

2. Catches your opponent off guard on defense, causes confusion on defense.

3. The opposing coach will have to make adjustments to his (her) game plan.

4. Transition Offense does not allow your opponent to set up their “Press” effectively when your team hustles to get the ball in quickly, and run up the floor.

5. The Transition Offense gets the ball up the floor so quickly that there is very little time for your opponent to set up their zone defense in time to be effective.

6. Players love to fast break! And when it’s working, coaches love it too!

Disadvantages of Transition Offense (Fast Breaks)

1. Teams that have poorly conditioned players and attempt to fast break will usually “run out of gas” late in the second half of the game.

2. If your transition offense does not produce any points – your opponent will get the ball back quickly and have another opportunity to score points (possible a fast break in the other direction).

3. If your team does not have a “deep” bench, then you may have to substitute your starters with less experienced players (which could hurt during the course of the game).

Understanding the Transition Offense

Coaches and players must understand that running any transition offense requires more than just running up and down the floor as fast as you can. The transition offense must be executed effectively and also flow “smoothly” into your half court offense when needed. Remember that your team may not be able to score an easy basket during every fast break, but your team can still take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses while they are shifting from offense to defense. Think of the transition offense as a way to score quickly, but also as an opportunity to keep the transition going until you find an opening in your opponent’s defense. Teams that pull the ball out and just “reset” their offense if the fast break didn’t get a quick lay up do not understand the true meaning of the “Transition Offense.”

There are two types of “Transition Offense” Fast Break Schemes – The “Primary Fast Break” Offense, and the “Secondary Fast Break” Offense. The Primary Fast Break will be discussed first, and we will show you three “plays” that should be taught to players – The 3 on 2, 3 on 1, and the 2 on 1 fast break. All are described below.


The Primary Fast Break

Running the primary fast break – Even though some coaches will run the transition offense differently from other coaches – they all end up using the same scheme of filling three lanes, using a trailer, and a safety defender (sometimes called a “prevent” player) when running down the floor. The lanes consist of one player going up the middle of the floor, and two players running down each sideline. Whether or not the ball is passed to the outlet player (wing areas) to start the fast break, the main point to remember is that the ball needs to eventually get to the middle of the floor when running the transition.

Transition Offense 3 on 2, Get the Ball to the Middle

  Transition Offense 3 on 1, Get the Ball to the Middle

More Transition Offense Videos

I like to teach my players that the lanes need to be filled, and it doesn’t matter which player fills the lane, as long as they are getting filled quickly. I prefer that the Center, and Power Forward (the slowest two players) fill the roles of Trailer, and Safety Defender (which is usually the player that rebounds the ball). Some coaches will assign each player their role, and run the fast break in a designed manner, but sometimes players aren’t always in the right spots and others may need to fill in. Either way, use what works best for your team.

Transition Offense Responsibilities

Note: The fastest way to get the ball up the court is to pass – but with the younger age groups coaches sometimes want their best ball handler to just get the ball and go. The video clips that we are presenting here are for demonstration only – and although we show dribbling – we do not endorse dribbling the ball over passing the ball during fast break situations. I would like to point out that sometimes the game is what it is, and you have to take what is given (which means sometimes the ball handler may have to dribble the ball up the court because there is no one to pass to).

Starting the Primary Fast Break – The “3 on 2” / “3 on 1” Primary Fast Break

The “3 on 2” fast break is the main version of how a fast break should look. The first thing that needs to happen is to secure the rebound (without good rebounding, there will not be a lot of fast breaks other than when a player steals the ball). The rebounder outlets the ball to the point guard (your best ball handler, passer) who will always “flash” to the outside wing “ball side” areas to receive the pass. Keep in mind that any of the guards can receive the outlet pass, it will just depend on who is in the best position to receive the pass. The point guard will then look to pass long first, then “speed dribble” to the middle of the court (the center lane) as the other two guards are quickly filling the outside lanes. As the point guard gets closer to the 3-point line the guards should be cutting towards the basket at a 45 degree angle looking for the pass. If the ball is not passed to the guards, the guards should cross under the basket and fill the opposite wing area (looking to crash the boards if the point guard pulls up and shoots, etc). If there is no opportunity to score, the team needs to quickly and seamlessly flow into their half-court offense. The “3 on 1” fast break is very similar to the “3 on 2” but there will be 3 offensive players against 1 defender (rare, but does happen).

Transition Offense 3 on 2, Option 3

 Transition Offense 3 on 1, Option 3

 Transition Offense, When the 3 on 2 Doesn't Work


Note on the “3 on 2” Fast Break

The “3 on 2” fast break is generally how the fast break should look after a rebound and outlet pass is successful. If your team is determined to execute the fast break properly you will have to have players that “recognize” the opportunities. What I mean by this is that players must be “watching” the game, see the rebound, and trust that where the ball is going and get to where they need to be to make this succeed. Usually two defenders will get back on defense (hence the 3 on 2 break) so the guards filling the lanes (and the ball handler) need to get down the floor faster than the other three defenders.


The “2 on 1” Primary Fast Break

The diagram shows and example of how it would look if your team finds itself in a “2 on 1” fast break situation. This type of fast break usually occurs when a player steals the ball up above the free throw line / high wing areas. The main thing to remember is that the ball handler should commit to one side of the court, and the second player should fill the opposite lane and get to the low block area while looking for the pass or rebound. The ball handler can take it all the way to the basket for the lay up, drive in and dish to their teammate, pull up and shoot (not recommended unless they make the shot), or pass early and get the ball back. The main goal is to get points, and not to waste any 2 on 1 fast break opportunity.

Transition Offense 2 on 1, Pull Defender Option 3

 Transition Offense 2 on 1, Pass and Cut Option 4


The Secondary Fast Break

What is the Secondary Fast Break? Simply put, if the primary fast break does not succeed, and there opportunity to get a quick score off the primary fast break is not possible you can do one of two things.

1. You can have your point guard pull the ball out, wait for the rest of your players to get in position, and reset / start running your half-court offense.

2. Or you can run a secondary break. The Secondary Break would happen immediately after your Primary Break did not work. The secondary break can often help your team get quick baskets while still in the “transition” mode. It must happen quickly, before the rest of the defense can get down the floor and into position. Here are a couple of options:

Transition Offense Secondary Break Option 1

Transition Offense Secondary Break Option 2

Transition Offense Secondary Break Option 3

Transition Offense Secondary Break Option 4


It helps to think of the Secondary Break as a “Quick Hitter” off the Primary Fast Break. The Secondary Break may not always work, but it will give your team the opportunity for some quick scores during the course of the game. If the secondary break does not get you that quick scoring opportunity, then it should flow directly into your half-court offense.

The secondary break can be used anytime during the game, and not just after the primary break does not work out. It can be used anytime after your opponent scores or applies the full court press. To run the Secondary Break in this manner, your team would need to be taught to inbound the ball quickly and get up the floor even faster. There are many Secondary Break offenses, but each of these offenses are usually an offense your team is already familiar with. Coaches that want to use the Secondary Break, should look at the offenses they are using now (and their players are familiar with), and find a way to make it flow. Come up with a scheme on how the primary fast break flows into the secondary break, then quickly flows into your half-court offense.

From my experience with the younger players, there is a higher success rate with the secondary break flowing into a half-court offense when the coach designs a scheme using a half-court offense that the players are already familiar with.


Transition Offense Basic Coaching Tips

a) Always stay under control – playing sloppy during a fast break can result in turnovers (forcing bad passes, not catching the ball, poor ball handling control), but most of all a missed opportunity for an easy score.

b) Players must be taught how to transition from defense to offense, and have the opportunity to practice the basics over and over until they are comfortable running the fast break. Many teams do not practice the transition offense, but are expected to run it without error during games.

Coaches should not assume that players will be able to run a fast break without practicing the proper fundamentals related to the transition offense.

c) Rebounding is the key to starting the fast break. If your team does not box out and secure rebounds, there is no transition offense. Rebounders must be taught to bring the basketball up high, pivot, and make strong, accurate passes to the guards.

d) Outlet the basketball quickly. The rebounder (usually a post player) must outlet the ball to a guard quickly to start the fast break.

e) The guards should move quickly into a position where an outlet pass can be made quickly and safely (without the consequence of the other team slowing the fast break down, or stealing the pass).

f) All players should learn to get up the floor quickly, fill the proper lanes, recognize scoring opportunities and when to pull the ball back out to reset, and when to transition into the secondary break.

g) The fact is that passing gets the ball up the floor quicker than dribbling, but there are times that coaches rather see their best ball handler dribble up the court in order to keep things under control. At the younger ages, some players may not be able to handle a long pass so coaches need to understand what their players can and cannot do before deciding on whether or not to stress passing vs dribbling to their players.

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