Importance of Read & React Layer 1: Pass & Cut

Occasionally, I will hear the following phrase from College coaches and even certain levels of High School. It sounds something like this:

“When we first began using the Read & React we scored (some or a lot) from Passing & Cutting. But now, we very rarely score with this action. I’m concluding that it’s good for youth teams, etc., but not for our level. So, I’m thinking about not spending so much time on it anymore. I even wonder if I could drop it from the Read & React.”

This is usually followed by their statistics and observations of their final scoring actions:

  • A drive to the basket
  • A score by someone in the post
  • Baskets created by a particular screening action

Conclusion: If this is how our possessions finish, then why not start your possessions with these actions? In fact, why don’t we simply drop everything else and major in these actions?

I have a word of caution for you – a question for you to consider before buying into this line of thinking:

When is the last time you saw a professional boxer knock out an opponent with a jab? Ever? Never?

Most of us will answer “Never”. If that’s the case, then why do professional boxers continue to throw jabs more than any other single punch? Using the basketball logic from above, shouldn’t boxers drop the jab and major on their knock-out punches?

Even casual fans of boxing know why boxers continue to jab throughout the match. Jabs do occasionally land and score points. But the main reason they continue to jab is that it sets up other punches that are used to knock out the opponent. Boxers use the jab to force their opponents to defend in a certain manner. When their opponents shift and move to defend the jab, the boxer can follow-up or counter with the appropriate knock-out punch!

In other words, the simple, fundamental jab, sets up the effective knock-out punch or knock-out combination!

This is how the basketball coach should view Layer 1- Pass & Cut in the Read & React. Don’t lose sight of the fundamentals that set up your final scoring action. The constant threat of scoring a lay-up every time the ball is passed is the “jab” that sets up everything else. There is a reason it is the first and perhaps, most important action of any offense, but especially, the Read & React.

9 comments

  1. What happens when player 1 passes to player 2 who then drives to the basket.

    Won’t both player meet in the middle of the paint?

    • Great question. We call this penetration a “Draft Drive”. As long as player 1 cuts hard to the rim this should open up a driving lane and player 1 should be out of the way but the time player 2 reaches the middle. The key is the have the proper spacing on the floor, so the players don’t start the “Draft Drive” too close together.

  2. I think the cutter could then react as a post player (Layer 5). But if I have only Layers 1-3 installed, “draft drive” is a necessary concept. To the cutter, I just yell “space” (slide to short corner or elbow), “screen” (post screens), or “rebound”.

  3. I love the read and react. I think it is the perfect offense for so many different reasons. This is my first year being the head coach at my middle school and I went all in for the read and react. Our offensive production has been difficult. A lot of people are saying I should change things up. I do not want to because like Rick said the read and react can resemble any other offense. Any suggestions or words of advice to a: help with offensive production and b: not give in to outside pressure from people who do not understand the read and react?

    • Coach- Thanks for your message. It is coaches like yourself that are helping to improve youth basketball in America by teaching players HOW to play, instead of “how to run a play”. Where are you having difficult with offensive production? Getting open shots, Getting into the decision box? You may be feeling pressure from outsiders who want to see “plays” run because that is what is run on TV, but at the middle school level the Read & React is perfect for teaching all five players on the floor how to pass, cut, dribble, screen, etc. This will also benefit them long-term with their skill development. Stick with it and let us know how we can help!

      • I appreciate that comment. Yes, people want to see set plays and even a few players find it difficult that I do not call plays from the bench. It is difficult to get them to learn how to play as opposed to running a play. Getting the ball into the decision box has been an issue. I first started with just five out. I have recently switched to a 3-2 look. I have a player going short corner to short corner and at the high post. I did this because the players were having difficulty picking up the hook and look aspect of the R and R so I just have two players stay in and the three out players passing and cutting. The 3-2 has helped some. It seems sometimes players are scared to pass the ball to the cutter. Getting open outside shots has not been too much of a problem, but I have been trying to stress the higher percentage shot with the cutter. I am hopeful that getting players used to the R and R is just going to take some time and once more players get used to it, then I will see more offensive production. Do you feel when a team implements the R and R that sometimes it just takes time?

        • As in anything new, it will take time for the players to adjust and become comfortable. The high school team I coach at has run the Read & React for four years now and we still struggle to even look at cutters, let alone pass them the ball. We have found the majority of our success come from: dribble penetration and passing to open man, skip passes, and backdoor cuts after running the action several times through.

          • Okay. Your responses have made me feel better and I just need to keep working at it and helping the players to become better at it. Thank you very much.

  4. I have a few questions for any coaches that want to chime in. I just purchased the first 3 layers of the Read and React Offense. I will be putting it in place in late summer/fall with a 3rd grade travel team. I am not sure how far into the 3 layers I will even go with kids this young. I don’t have the rest of the offense yet so I am sure most of my questions get addressed later on into things. I’m relatively new to being a head coach and having to run an offense.

    1. Driving: It seems there is no driving to the hoop with the ball. I know layer 3 talks about the “dribble-at”, but no one dribbles to the hoop unless they made a cut and someone passes to them. Does that show up later in the offense? Is there a way to incorporate that into the 1st couple layers? From the couple years I’ve coached youth basketball, most of the better players on the teams always drive to the hoop. I understand why the Read and React is set up the way it is (that’s why I bought it and am going to use it). I just want to know how driving fits into it. I can’t imagine high school and college teams with elite players with driving ability would limit that. Again, I know I am only looking at the first 3 layers and I’m sure it shows up somewhere.
    2. Fast Breaks: How do fast breaks play into this? Do you only use read and react when it’s a half court setting?
    3. Positions: I know this is position-less basketball and also that we don’t run plays. To kids I’m sure the offense just looks like one big play honestly. But how will my 3rd grade boys know how to initiate the read and react offense? Do you tell them to start at a specific spot?

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