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Offensive Basketball Plays: Triangle Offense
The following offensive basketball plays all utilize a triangle offense, the bread and
butter of the championship Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era.
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There are a few plays on this page, so please scroll down to read all the way through. Each play is
accompanied with pictures and descriptions.
In the diagrams, the dotted line shows the direction the ball travels, while solid lines represent
movement of the players...
Offensive Basketball Play #1:
In the triangle offense 4 and 5 are the only players to play the post position.
1,2 and 3 are interchangeable at the various perimeter positions (point guard, strong-side
wing, weak-side wing and corner position).
The shape of a triangle is formed on the ball side by the post player, the wing
player and the corner man. The triangle can be formed on either the right or left side; it can
be initiated by either a pass from the point guard to one of the wing men or by the point guard
dribbling over to one of the wing positions.
Whichever player ends up with the ball in the strong-side wing position becomes
the "trigger man" - what he does with the ball determines the offensive movement.
The offense begins with 4 and 5 located at the elbows and the two wing players
on the lower blocks, as shown. When the point guard reaches the bottom of the mid-circle, 4 and
5 then downpick for 2 and 3 to get them open in the wing areas for a pass from 1, as shown in
Another way to begin the triangle is to have 1 dribble to either wing position
with the wing player then v-cutting down to the corner position and the strong-side post
player moving to the high-post elbow position, as shown here.
(We'll be showing only the wing pass entry in our play option examples, but all
plays can also be initiated by the point guard dribbling
Either of these two ways to begin the offense will result in the triangle being
set up. In this example, where 1 has passed to 3 on the wing then cut through to the corner,
the triangle is set on the right side with 3 on the wing as the trigger man, 1 in the corner
and 5 in the ball-side high post area.
2 moves up to the point area for defensive protection and 4 moves out to the
weak side wing area.
(All of the triangle offense options shown in the following pages can be run
from either the right side or the left side - it doesn't matter which side the play begins
Offensive Basketball Play #2:
When the trigger man calls out "CIRCLE" then the corner man knows to run quickly and
"circle around" to the opposite side corner. In this example, 3 is the trigger man. Upon calling
out "CIRCLE", 1 runs to the opposite corner leaving 3 and 4 alone on the left
("Circle" can also be called out by the point guard. In this case if the point
guard calls "CIRCLE" and he then passes to the wing, he will then cut through to the basket and
continue out to the opposite corner area. If the point guard instead dribbles to the wing then the
wing man clears out to the opposite corner area.)
This results in a 2 on 2 game. 4 then sets a screen on the baseline side of 3's defender, then
rolls to the basket after setting the screen. 3 dribbles off the screen from 4 and can either look
for his own shot or pass to 4 rolling to the basket.
1 and 5 look to CRASH the boards if a shot is taken. 2 stays at the
point for defensive protection.
Offensive Basketball Play #3:
The "C" option stands for Clear. When the trigger man, 2 in this example, calls this
from the triangle position then 5 and 1 immediately and quickly go to the other side of the floor.
They "clear-out" to the opposite side leaving 2 to take his man one-on-one to the
(Remember, we must be good actors in basketball so 5 might act like he's screening
for 4, and 4 might act like he's screening for 1, who could act like he's coming off the screen
from 4 - you don't want to just turn and watch 2 with the ball because the defense will then
quickly figure out the play).
If a shot is taken, 1, 4 and 5 CRASH the boards while 3 stays at the point for
("C" can also be called out by the point guard. In this case if the point guard
passes to the wing then he cuts through to the basket and continues out to the opposite corner
area. If the point guard dribbles to the wing then the wing man clears out to the opposite corner
his man one-on-one trying to get all the way to the basket.
If he can't beat his man then the triangle is reset, either on the same side or on
the opposite side.
(Another option may be, instead of calling out "C" every time for this play would be
to start the clear out play by calling out any color.)
Offensive Basketball Play #4:
The corner option begins as always with the two post
men down-screening for the wing players. 2 & 3 come off the screens out to the their respective
1 passes to the open wing (who then becomes the "trigger" man). 5 steps up and sets a screen at the
elbow for 1 who v-cuts off 5's screen looking for the pass from 2 for a layup. If 1 does not get
the ball he v-cuts out to the corner area and 5 remains in the high post elbow
3 then replaces 1 at the point position and 4 goes out to the
opposite wing area.
Now the triangle offense is established on the right side with 5 in the high-post
area, 1 in the corner, and 2 who is the trigger man with the ball - what he does next with the ball
will dictate the appropriate offensive movement. 3 has now moved up to the point for defensive
protection and 4 has moved out to the weak side wing area.
As previously described in the "Triangle Principles" section, this triangle can also
be set up by having 1 dribble to the wing - now 1 becomes the trigger man - and 2 v-cuts down
to the corner with 5 going to the high-post elbow area. If 1 is having difficulty passing to
the wing, he has this option to dribble to either side to begin the offensive
The corner option then is where 2 passes to 1, 5 then steps up to set a screen on 2's
defender, and 2 v-cuts off of 5's screen looking for the pass from 1 for a layup.
If 2 does not get the ball he goes through the lane to the weak side where 4 and 3
are coming down to set a double screen on 2's defender.
5 then steps up to set a screen on 1's defender. 1 dribbles off the screen and has
the following options: a) jump shoot, b) pass to 5 rolling to the basket after setting the screen,
or c) pass to 2 inside the free throw line coming off the double screen from 4 and 3.
4 and 3 must read what 1 decides to
do. If 1, 2, or 5 get the shot then 4 and 3 must CRASH the boards. 2 or 1 must be sure to stay back for
If neither 1, 2 nor 5 get the shot then 4 sets up at the high-post area, 3 moves out
to the corner and 2 becomes the wing trigger man. 1 passes to 2 to set up the offense, then goes to
the point for defensive protection. Now the triangle has been established on the left side of the
floor to begin the offense again. The trigger man, 2, will now control the offensive movement by
what he decides to do with the ball.
1 stays at the top of the key and 5 takes the weak side wing position.
Offensive Basketball Play #5:
In this example 1 has passed to 3 then cut to the left corner, 4 has taken the
high-post position so now the triangle is set up on the left side. 3 is the trigger man and decides
to pass the ball to 4 at the high-post.
4 pivots facing the basket in a triple threat position, then has various options:
a) Pass to 2 at the basket for a layup, who has received a back-screen from 5 at the right elbow area.
b) Jump shot or drive to the basket.
If 2 does not get the pass he must then move out to a position out to the right of
the lower block.
c) Pivot back around so your back is to the basket, then make the back-door pass to
1 for a layup who has v-cut to the baseline side. (2 must stay out to the right of the block area
to keep his defender away from the basket).
If 1 does not receive the pass from 4 then 1 continues on
through the lane and looks for the double screen on the weak side from 2 and
can then either: d) Pass back out to 3 on the wing who can then pass to 1 around the free throw
line for the open shot, coming off the double screen from 2 and 5. Or.....
e) Pass to 1 around the free throw line for the open shot (this may take too long and
could result in a 5 second call, so the better option of d and e is probably going to be option
If a shot is taken all players except 3 should CRASH the boards. 3 must stay back
for defensive protection.
If this doesn't produce a shot then 1 can dribble over to the
right wing area, 2 can break out to the corner area, 5 goes to the high-post area, 3 takes the
defensive protection area at the top of the key and 4 slides out to the weak side
The triangle has now be re-established on the right
side of the floor. 1 is now the trigger man - what he does with the ball will determine the
Offensive Basketball Play #6:
In this example the triangle is set up on the right side. 2, the trigger man,
reverses the ball to 3 who quickly passes to 4 on the weak side wing.
As 3 is beginning to pass to 4, 5 steps up to set a screen on 2's defender. 2
v-cuts and flashes across the lane looking for the pass from 4 and the shot.
If 2 shoots everyone except 3 CRASHES the boards. 3 stays back for defensive
If 2 doesn't get the ball he continues through the lane to the left side
After screening for 2, 5 then sets a screen on 1's defender. 1 v-cuts across the
lane looking for the pass from 4 and the shot.
If 1 shoots, everyone except 3 CRASHES the boards.
If 1 is not open, then 4's final option is to pass to 5 who, after screening for 1,
then rolls to the basket looking for the pass.
If 4 does pass to 1 and he is not open for a shot, then 1 has the option to pass to
5 who is rolling to the basket. If 5 does not get the pass he then stays inside looking to get good