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Principle of Play- Space Deep

Spacing is possibly the most important offensive principle of play. One aspect of spacing that is often overlooked is how deep the perimeter players should be spaced.

By spacing deep on the floor several possibilites open up.  First, and foremost, when players are spaced deep reversing the ball from side to side is much easier which in turn can force defenders into more, and often, longer closeouts.  

When a pass is thrown to a player spaced deep he/she should move towards the ball, as they are catching it, to create momentum towards the basket.  The forward momentum will enable a player to attack a closeout more effectively.  Watch this video clip of the LA Clippers, Darren Collison, and notice how he spaced deeper after passing the ball, and then moved towards the pass, to give him a better opportunity to 'drive the closeout'.  It is incredibly difficult for a defender moving forward to contain an offensive player moving towards him. 

How deep is deep?  The minimum is to space just outside the 3pt. line, even if the player cannot shoot from there.  We often tell players to stay "deeper than your shot", meaning, as an example, if a player can shoot from just outside the 3 pt. line they should be spaced two steps deeper.  By staying "deeper than your shot" it enables the player to move into their shot rather standing at their range.  Watch this clip of the Warriors, Klay Thompson, and note how he moves into his shot after spacing deep on the floor.  With his momentum moving forward he is able to flow easily into his shot. 

Often with younger players their tendency is to move in too close and then, when a ball is passed to them, it is usually above their head.  When this occurs they are fully extended and it is a short closeout for the defenders; therefore they have neither a shot or drive. If the players space deeper the pass will end up at chest level, simply because gravity will bring it down, enabling them to drive or shoot.   

Spacing deep will force the defence into a constant 'closeout' game, which usually results in penetration.  This penetration forces the defenders to either help and recover or rotate.  In this clip, the Portland Trailblazers, Mo Williams, uses a shot fake to attack the closeout and, because the other Blazers were so well spaced, there was no defender in position to stop his pull-up jumper.