Triangle Offense – Complete Coaching Guide

    triangle offense

    From 1990 to 2010, the triangle offense (also known as the “triple post offense”) was by far the most dominant offense in basketball.

    During this time, the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers used the triangle offense to win 11 NBA championships.

    Some of the best players to ever grace the court thrived in the triangle offense, including Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Pau Gasol, to name a few.

    One could say that the reason the triangle offense is so effective is because the players mentioned above executed it. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but no one can argue that this offense is very effective at putting players in great positions to score the ball.

    what is the offensive triangle?

    the triangle offense is a continuity basketball offense that combines perfect spacing with a series of actions based on player decisions resulting in a beautiful basketball offensive system.

    Best used by players with a high basketball IQ and excellent basketball fundamentals.

    There are endless possible actions outside the triangle of offense (too many to cover in this guide) which is what makes it such a deadly offense. can be customized to take advantage of the strengths of the team as a whole and the strengths of individual players.

    Unlike set plays where there are predetermined decisions and actions, the triangle offense relies on players reading the defense and making the best basketball play given the available options.

    Where did the triangle offense originate?

    while the name of tex winter comes to mind when discussing the origins of the triangle offense, it was actually sam barry of the university of southern california who designed the original offensive system that would later become the offensive triangle.

    tex winter was one of sam barry’s players and believed so much in the offense that he would later expand and improve the system while coaching various roles at universities including kansas state university and marquette university.

    in 1985, and after many more years of coaching college basketball and perfecting the offense, tex winter accepted an assistant coaching position with the chicago bulls, where he would eventually team up with phil jackson to install the triangle offense in a bulls team that desperately needed a team-focused offense.

    the result?

    a total of 11 nba championships.

    6 with the Chicago Bulls and 5 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    advantages of the triangle attack

    Stanceless Attack: In the triangle attack, all 5 stances are interchangeable. while the center usually occupies the low post position most of the time, they can be rotated off the post. this is incredibly important for developing well-rounded players.

    Continuity Offense: The triangle offense can be run continuously until an open scoring opportunity presents itself. this is different than set plays which have a predetermined end point where if the offense didn’t get a good shot, they must now improvise without structure.

    Develops Basketball IQ: Since players must read the defense throughout offensive possession and make decisions based on the other players on the court, this is a great offense to further develop basketball IQ.

    involves all players: the triangle offense does not allow any one player to dominate the basketball for most of the possession. the basketball must be passed and all players are involved in the infraction at all times, even if they are not in possession of the ball.

    Disadvantages of the Triangle Offensive

    Requires High Basketball IQ Players: While this offense will build Basketball IQ better than most other offenses, it does require a decent amount of Basketball IQ early on to be successful, since offense depends on quickness. reading the defense and making the correct basketball play.

    Players should memorize the offense – This is one of the main reasons I don’t recommend the triangle offense for youth teams. there are plenty of actions to memorize. each decision made by an attacking player results in a series of specific next actions. all players must commit them to memory for the offense to be consistently successful.

    Requires a high level of fundamentals: There are certain cuts and passes throughout the triangle offense that require a high level of fundamentals to perform successfully. If your players can’t fake before cuts and passes, don’t have the ability to change speed and direction, and can’t attack the 1v1 defense, the triangle offense may not be the best for your team.

    You’re handing control over to the players: I’ve included this in the downsides because I think that’s how most coaches will feel when they first implement the offense. understand that by running the triangle offense, the coach will no longer be in full control of the offense. players must read the difference and make decisions. it takes a strong minded coach to get comfortable with this.

    Who should lead the triangular offensive?

    the triangle has the greatest chance of working successfully with well rounded, high IQ players who are willing to share the basketball.

    I don’t recommend this offense for youth basketball because of the experience needed to make the right passing decisions and read the defense. though I’ve seen youth teams that could definitely have success using the triangle offense.

    I highly recommend the triangle attack for high school students and above.

    If you have players who grew up on development-focused teams and have excellent basketball fundamentals, the triangle offense can be a very effective way to further develop their basketball skills and IQ.

    To be more specific, it can be difficult for teams to succeed with the triangle offense without a low post player who can score and pass at a high level since so much of the offense is run through the post.


    triangular attack positions

    When the offense is established after a tackle, the offense consists of a 3-man triangle on the ball side of the court known as a ‘side triangle’, and 2 players on the weak side of the court established in the ‘2-man game’.

    These 5 spots on the court are the main positions within the triangle attack structure and must be filled whenever the triangle attack is established.

    triangle offense positionsPosition #1 – Corner – The ‘corner’ is located in the ball-side corner. This will most often be the point guard and should have a good ability to shoot the basketball and create shots off the dribble.

    Position #2 – Trigger: The trigger is located on the wing and will generally possess the basketball after an inning. the passing option they make from this position will dictate the entire offense, so it’s important to put a smart player in this position.

    Position #3 – Post – The post is located on the high side of the low block and should be placed directly between the trigger and the basket (deployment line). the high position allows players to cut up and down with space. the post player is preferably a good passer and can also end up in the post in a one-on-one situation.

    position #4 – trace – the trace is located at the top of the key when the team has entered the offensive. this player is probably the other guard and should be able to take the outside shot as well as cut and create off the dribble.

    Position #5 – Opposite – The opposing player is positioned approximately one step from the weakside midpost. this player is probably the other post player, but should be able to interchange with all positions on the court.

    the display line

    The ‘deployment line’ is an offensive triangle concept that all players must understand in order to take advantage of the post and make the correct passing decisions when starting the offense.

    let’s see what it is and how it works…

    line of deploymentThe ‘Line of Deployment’ is the straight line between the trigger, low post player, and the basket.

    The logic behind this concept is that as long as the trigger (2), low post (5), and basket form a straight line, the defender will be forced to play behind the post player.

    This allows the trigger to make a simple, defenseless pass to the low post, which is the #1 option from the trigger point.


    if the post defender chooses front or mid front to the low post, he has been “deployed”. with a smart pass, this should always result in a high percentage scoring opportunity for the low post.

    if the defender semi-fronts from the highside, the trigger goes to the corner and then the corner goes inside.

    if the defender semi-fronts from the low side, the trigger goes to the top and the top goes in.

    denial post

    As you can see, if you have a smart low post player, this can be a fantastic offense to run, giving you plenty of scoring opportunities near the rim.

    taking advantage of the deployment line depends on two things:

    1. the low post player’s ability to recognize that his defender is “deployed” and be able to quickly adjust his position to take advantage of it.

    2. Perimeter players can quickly recognize that the post defender is ‘deployed’ and can make the correct pass that will give the low post player the best advantage on the inside.

    2. >

    the importance of great spacing

    It’s impossible to write a great triangle attacking article without a section devoted to spacing between players on the court.

    Without large spaces, the offense has little chance of being effective.

    tex winter best sums up its importance…

    “I’m literally a space freak” – tex winter

    If players are in the correct offensive triangle positions, they should always be 15-18 feet apart, depending on the age group and size of the court.

    why 15 – 18 feet?

    triangle offense spacingAt this distance, players are far enough away from each other that it’s incredibly difficult for the defense to trap an offensive player or disrupt a passing lane without giving up an open shot in the process.

    at the same time, the offensive players are close enough together that the basketball can be passed quickly and accurately.

    To teach your players proper spacing, I recommend investing in flat cones that you can place in the correct positions on the court. that way, players will always know if they’re in the right places.

    entrances in the offensive triangle

    As with all offenses, the triangle offense begins with getting everyone into the correct positions to execute the offense. this means forming the side triangle and the two-man game on the weak side.

    There are many starting formations you can use to go on the attack (1-2-2, 1-3-1, 1-4, etc), but my favorite is the 2-2-1 formation.

    I prefer to set up from a 2-2-1 formation because a two-guard front allows an additional player to pass if the offense is having difficulty moving the basketball down the court or provides an additional defender if the basketball it’s flipped.

    This additional player is crucial if you’re coaching a junior basketball or high school basketball team, as these situations occur frequently.

    For that reason, in this article, I will focus on triangle offense tackles from the 2-2-1 formation.

    entry #1: inner cut

    The inside cut is the most common and fastest entry to the triangle offense.

    involves 1 passing to 2 and then cutting between 2 and 5 to corner position.

    5 slides in and establishes a high position on the low block, 3 slides to the top of the key, and 4 moves near the midpost area on the weak side.

    inside cut

    entry #2: outside cut

    in this post, 1 cuts over 2 to the corner.

    5 slides in and establishes a high position on the low block, 3 slides to the top of the key, and 4 moves near the midpost area on the weak side.

    This may be the best option if 2 catches the basketball closer than normal to the three-point line or if it looks like 2 can make the immediate pass low to 5.

    outside cut

    entry #3: ucla court

    5 steps forward and sets up a screen up into the elbow area on the ball side. 1 passes to 2 and then makes a ucla cut looking for the pass and layup.

    if the pass is not available, 1 goes to the corner and 5 slides to the low post.

    3 slides to the top of the key and 4 moves to the middle post area.

    ucla cut

    tackle #4 – dribbling tackle

    For this tackle, 1 dribbles to the trigger point and becomes the trigger. this pushes the player who was occupying this position (2) to the corner point.

    5 slides in and establishes a high position on the low block, 3 slides to the top of the key, and 4 moves near the midpost area on the weak side.

    This can be an effective tackle if your lead shooting guard is having trouble making the pass to the wing.

    dribble entry

    Entry #5: Weak Side Entry

    The weak side tackle is a great variation to confuse the defense or if the lead shooting guard is having trouble making the pass to the wing.

    involves 1 reversing the basketball to 3 and then 4 going out and receiving the pass at the shooting spot.

    3 cuts through the corner, 1 fills the top of the key, the player initially at the ball-side trigger point (2) becomes the opposite, and 5 slides in and establishes the position of low post.

    weak entry

    post #6: post popup post

    In this variation, when 1 passes to 2, 5 jumps to the corner.

    From this position, he can send the lead guard behind, or the opponent to the low post position.

    For this example, we’ll show the lead guard (1) cutting and establishing a position on the low block.

    3 slides to the top of the key and 4 moves to mid-post position on the weak side.

    This is a great variation if you have a post player who can play effectively on the perimeter, have a mismatch at another position, or want to move the post defender away from the rim.

    post pop

    entry #7: back screen entry

    This entry involves all 5 scanning through 4 as they change position. this often opens up a quick pass inside 2-4 as they cut to establish position on the low screen.

    1 fills the corner with an outside cut, 3 moves to the top of the key and the player who was in the post (5) now becomes the opposite and maintains his position in the middle of the post on the side weak.

    cross post

    choosing the best tickets for your team

    As you can see, there are an unlimited number of entries in the initial set of triangular offenses. feel free to create your own to suit your team’s strengths!

    Choose 2-3 of the above entries that best suit your coaching style and team personnel as you put players in different positions for success.

    coach mac’s recommendation for a junior or high school team: 1. inner cut 2. ticket with boat 3. pop post

    This will allow your players to go on the attack using a variety of different moves without overwhelming them with too many options.

    execute the triangular offensive

    once your team has occupied the correct triangular offensive positions, it’s time to discuss how to run the offense and the different options available outside of the offensive structure.

    In its simplest form, the triangle offense can be divided into two parts:

    a. the lateral triangle, formed by the corner, the trigger and the post.

    b. the game of two men – formed by the path and the opposite.

    let’s split them separately…

    a. the lateral triangle

    passing optionsThe most important thing to know about the sideline triangle is that the pass from the ‘trigger’ position will dictate the next movements by all players on the floor.

    From the activation position, there are 4 passing options that lead to a different series of actions. the trigger must read the defense and make the pass smarter to start the offense.

    here are the 4 passing options from the activation position…

    Approval Option #1: Post Approval

    The first option 2 should look at is if they can make a direct pass to 5 in the post.

    As long as the trigger and low post are aligned with the rim (deployment line), this is usually a simple pass with little chance of turning the ball over unless another defender is helping to prevent it.

    see the “deploy line” section of this blog post to understand what to do when the low post defender is overplaying or denying this pass.

    post pass 1

    When this pass is made, unless 5 is in a quick scoring position, 1 should immediately cut along the baseline looking to receive a quick pass that could lead to a reverse layup. if they don’t get the basketball, they cut to the opposite wing.

    a second later 2 cuts over 5 and puts a screen on 4’s defender. this allows 4 to cut to the high post and will often leave them wide open for the free throw line jumper.

    post pass 2

    (Tip: These cuts must be made with force and purpose! Any player running through these cuts is letting the team down.)

    after the screen, 2 goes out to the weakside corner.

    Both of these actions keep the weakside defense busy and allow the post player to back off the post and finish with a post move if he feels he has an advantage.

    If neither of those options result in an open shot, the basketball can be passed to 3 at the top or it can be skipped to 1 at the shooting spot.

    then, the offense resets and runs the offense again.

    variation: posterior division

    another option outside of post pass is called ‘post split’.


    later split involves 1 setting up a quick screen for 2 who cuts the baseline looking for the pass and layup before cutting to the weakside winger.

    A second later, the 1 cuts over the 5 and places a screen on the 4’s defender.

    (this option simply reverses the roles of both players from the original option).

    option #2: reverse step

    the reverse pass to the top of the key leads to a two-man game on the opposite side of the court.

    this has a lot of great options you can take advantage of depending on the staff on your team.

    I will cover these options in the ‘two-man game’ section in part ‘b’ below.

    option #3: corner pass

    The third pass option for the trigger is to pass to the corner.

    When 1 receives the basketball, the first thing to look at is if 5 has established a good low post position and if there is room for an inside pass to score.

    if not, the 5 will come out and set up a back screen for 2 who will cut to the rim for the basketball and an open layup. if 2 doesn’t get the basketball, they cut to the weak side corner.

    sideline screen

    5 immediately goes from setting up a back screen for the activation point to setting up a ball screen for 1, who will dribble before receiving the screen to create more space.

    This two man game can be incredibly effective as the ball side of the court has been cleared and the help defense will be hesitant to rotate the weak side post mid or leave a player wide open on the weak side. opposite of the field. cut.

    Option #4: Weak Side Flash

    For the weak side flash option to be effective, this player in the opposite position must be constantly reading the positions of the other players on the floor.

    There are two specific situations in which the opposing player must dive for the basketball and receive the pass:

    1. when the post player (5) is facing or half facing from the low side

    flashWhen this occurs, it’s a great opportunity for the opposite to flash, receive the basketball, and then make the quick pass inside to 5 who has sealed off the defender with correct footwork.

    even if they don’t get the ball, by passing to the ball when the post defender is facing, there will be no help defense on the opposite side of the court and 2 can make the high pass to the low post.

    2. when trail (3) is denied the basketball

    If the 3rd defender is denying the pass from the firing point, this is a great opportunity for “blind pig” action.

    blind pigThis involves 4 flashing to the basketball, receiving the pass, and then dropping the pass off to 3 as they quickly backdoor cut towards the rim for the open layup catching their defender out of position.

    if 3 doesn’t get the pass, they go to the corner.

    after 3 have broken through, 4 can look to face their opponent and attack the rim if they have an advantage.

    As soon as the pass is made to 4, 1 sets up his defender by walking to the lock and then cutting up on a down screen of 2.

    if the immediate shot from the lower screen is open, 4 passes to 1 for the shot.

    flash curl

    if not, 1 will dribble with 4 and receive the basketball with a quick dribble shot or delivery. this is a great opportunity to curl and attack the rim, get up for a mid-range shot, or drive the basketball and finish or go to 3 or 5 for easy scoring opportunities.

    if there is no attacking opportunity, 1 can dribble to the trigger point on the wing and players can set up the triangle offense to run again.


    b. the game of two men

    many coaches often refer to the two-man game as a “pinch post series”.

    There are many, many variations of this two-man setup that can lead to many great scoring opportunities.

    My recommendation is to select 2-3 of the variations provided below that best suit your staff and give you a variety of options.

    option #1: high post cut

    The first option is for 3 to make an inside pass to 4 who has gone up the high post.

    after making the pass, the 3 will immediately cut the high post looking for the quick dribble pass or the handball that leads to a layup. if 3 doesn’t get the pass, it goes to the corner.

    From here, 4 can look up and attack the basket if they have an advantage over their opponent.

    If he doesn’t have a lead, 4 completes a pass or dribble with 1, who will cut the top of a screen down from 2.

    high post pass

    This will often lead to 1 getting an open mid-range or 3-point shot, a drive for an open layup, or a pass to 3 or 5 on the drive to the rim.

    If attacking is not an option, 1 dribble towards the firing point and all players adjust positions to get to the start of the triangle offense once more.

    retreat high post

    option #2: blocking with the ball

    The next option he has out of the popup spot is a ball screen.

    Since the pick-and-roll is one of my most effective offensive weapons in basketball, this option is one I highly recommend all teams use at the junior and high school levels.

    on-ball screen4 steps up and sets an immediate on-ball screen when 3 catches the basketball. Since the entire side of the floor will be open, this is a great opportunity for a midrange pull-up or a drive to the rim.

    after the throw, 4 stays on top of the key as a safety since 5 is already in the key and would get too congested to make a pass and finish around the rim.

    If the weakside post defender helps cross, it will lead to a rebound and layup pass for 5.

    2 sets the screen down so 1 cuts off the top of the grapple to keep weakside defenders busy.

    Option #3: Post Pop Reboot

    note: this is the same sequence as the weak side entry.

    This variation of the pop post allows players to get back into the starting formation and run the offense again.

    This can be a good option for teams that don’t play in a shot clock league and there is a less skilled player at the opposite position.

    post pop trigger

    4 comes out and receives the pass from above the key.

    3 immediately cuts to the ball side corner and 1 will occupy the position at the top of the key after cutting the screen down from 1.

    5 slides along the key and establishes position in the low post while 2 fills up the opposite.

    Option #4: Post Ball Block

    if you have a player in the opposite position with the ability to dribble the basketball and create for others, the “post ball screen” can be a very effective variation.

    post on-ball

    this implies that 4 leads and receives the pass of 3 at the top of the key.

    Instead of cutting to the ballside corner, 3 immediately sets up a ball screen for 4 to attack the rim.

    1 will cut to the top of the screen key down from 2, giving a passing option as well as a rebound pass to 5 if their defender crosses to assist the drive.


    option #5: dribble to the side

    The following variation is a good choice if you have a highly skilled, high IQ player at position 1.

    instead of making the high post pass, 3 direct dribbles to the shooting spot on the side.

    this tells 4 to set a screen on top for 1, which will wrap around the top of the key on the bottom screen for 2.

    wing curlIf 1’s defender trails the screen, 1 can curl and cut to the basket looking for the pass and open layup. If they don’t receive the basketball, 1 will clear out to the corner.

    If 1’s defender goes under the screen, 1 can step back and receive the pass for the outside shot.

    If 1 receives the pass and the shot is not open, he will dribble to the sideline and push 3 into corner position while filling the shooting spot.

    5 slides in and establishes a low post position, 4 comes out and fills the top of the key, and 2 moves into the weak midpost area to get the team back in position to start the offense again.

    dribble wing


    There is a mentality among the basketball community that the triangle offense is too complicated for any non-professional team to run.

    I disagree with this and I hope this article shows you that while it can be complicated with many actions and counters, it can also be executed simply and effectively with fewer offensive options.

    If you think your team has what it takes and you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to teach it and practice with your players, I recommend implementing the triangle offense.

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