A Brief View at Early/Fast-Break Offense and How it Fits With the Cavs

Hello all at FTS! With the recent poo-storm of news/discussions regarding the Cavs potential next coach, the one constant among this community is the support of an up-tempo, early and transition-oriented offense. This is not groundbreaking stuff, with teams such as Houston, Philadelphia, Pheonix, Denver (12/13 version) and Portland embracing this to THA MAX. The results have generally been positive, with 6 teams that are top 10 in pace (or possessions per game) also being in the top 10 with regard to offensive efficiency.

Having recently finished a brutal 30 page paper on the impacts of tornadoes on transportation networks, my final college assignment ever, I have decided to bless the FTS community with insight to my glorious basketball brain and my beautifully constructed sentences with a fanpost of the ages (insert eyeroll). I will try to provide a brief look at the offenses utilized by D'Antoni/Hornacek Suns, 12/13 Nuggets and McHale Rockets, their advantages, disadvantages and their fit with the Cavs. I know a lot of ya'll FTS people are smart (I really like the comment sections on this site), so a lot of the info here will probably not be news to you guys, but for the sake of convenience I decided to put together something comprehensive and easy to digest so that we can better understand the direction this team is headed.

How Does It Work?

1) PUSH PUSH PUSH! - Whether initiated from an inbounds, rebound, turnover or block, the most basic tenant in the offense is to get the ball and all players up the floor as fast as possible and ideally run past opposing defenders

2) SPACING! - Having players capable of shooting the 3 point shot is crucial, as it opens up lanes for ball handlers to operate and for said ball-handler and cutting big-man get easy baskets at the rim. The basic configuration of this is to have the one player (usually your guard) bring the ball up the middle of the court, two shooters (usually your wing players) sprint to the corners, one player (usually a big) run into the paint and to have another (also, usually a big) be a trailer. This system however does not necessarily include all 5 players, especially off of turnovers.

3) TURNOVERS! - Several of the teams that employ this system usually also push for drawing turnovers, which entails more gambles on passing lanes and attempts to strip the ball.

4) SCORE! - The two shots that are most commonly produced and thus utilized by this type of offense are open 3 pointers (usually from the corners and sometimes for the trailer if he can shoot 3s) and points in the paint (for the ball handler or player running into the paint). It can be as simple as just drive from the ball handler, or one pass to the cutting big, one pass to the trailer or to the wings at the corners. There are also secondary options available which is wonderfully broken down at:


1) EASY BUCKETS! - Probably the biggest advantage of this offense is that by outrunning your opponent, you will usually have the opponents scrambling and thus unable to set up their defense. This can also create mismatches (having a big guarding your guards and vice versa) and advantages in numbers (5/4 vs. 4/3/2). What this means is that there will be a higher likelihood of defensive breakdowns from the opposing team and more open looks.

2) HIGH VALUE SHOTS! - As mentioned previously, the two types of shots that this offense creates quite frequently are open 3 pointers and points in the paint. These are considered the two most high value shots in basketball. Firstly, the former is worth 1 more point which offsets the fact that is usually shot at a lower percentage; so for example if you use the percentages of dion, who is above average in mid-range shots (~45% in his best mid-range spots) and slightly about average in 3pt shots (~37%), he will get more points on three additional 3 pointers rather than three additional mid-range shots (9 * 0.37 = 3.33 vs. 6 * 0.45 = 2.7). Secondly, the latter or points in the paint are obviously high-value because it is the most efficient shot in all of basketball.

3) KILL THE OPPONENTS LEGS! - If you are a young, well-conditioned and deep team, you can basically run the opposing teams ragged and tire them out. To put it simply the more exhausted the opposing team, the less efficient they get on both sides on the floor.


1) TURNOVERS! - The biggest potential issue in this system are turnovers. Operating at such a fast pace involves quicker decision making, making passes on the move, and having more moving targets. If your team and their guards especially are turnover prone, this system could be more of a detriment than an advantage.

2) DEFENSE AFTER MISSED SHOTS! - Another potential issue are if your team simply cannot convert the shots created by the system. Basically if a shot is missed, your defense will have the scramble back (which is made more difficult since you have just busted a lung getting set up on offense in the first place) and the opposing team will most likely have a numbers advantage on the other side of the floor (since most of your guys would have outran them initially). This is especially problematic on missed 3's because this usually leads to long rebound that can give the opposing team an even greater head start in attacking your defense which as illustrated in the previous sentence, is probably in shambles.

3) WHY YOU SO PREDICTABLE? - One risk of this system is an over reliance on it because in order to maximize the gains, you usually have to go all-in. A potential implication of this, which has been a problem that we have seen for Houston and Denver recently, is that you may end up having a scarce playbook, especially on half-court sets, which leads to more iso-ball and overall disgusting possessions.

Can the Cavs Pull it Off?

As you can see, this system is in some sense make or break - if you have the personnel for it you can see massive gains, but if you don't, you will be screwed (ie. 76ers and Lakers). So the question now is where to the Cavs fall in this spectrum, and thus whether they can succeed in this system (assumptions include roster not changing and miles and hawes resigning).

1) 3PT SHOOTING! - Cavs should not have much issue in this regard with Kyrie, Dion, Hawes, Miles, Delly and Jack all falling within the spectrum of way above average to slightly below average with regard to 3PT% either this season and/or for their careers. Having Hawes and potentially AB as capable 3pt shooters is also a great boon because it provides an additional weapon and thus option from the top of the 3pt line if they act as trailers (which is especially great as Hawes was, if I am not mistaken, the best in the league from the top of the 3pt line). It'll be great to also add an SF, assuming Miles does not start, who can be a capable 3pt shooter.

2) TAKING CARE OF THE BALL! - We always joke about having way too many ball-dominant guards and the three guard lineups, but one advantage is that we have multiple players that can take care of the ball. I compared the TO% numbers of the guards in the more successful fast paced teams (Dragic, Bledsoe, Lin, Harden and Lawson) and God-PG/Chris Paul ( for this season versus the Cavs guards ( Just by eyeballing, what I generally saw was that the Cavs guards were either on par or had lower TO% (ie. better at taking care of the ball) this season than those guards - but one thing to note though is that the Cavs play at a much slower pace this season than the Clips, Suns, Rockets and Nuggets, so the numbers may be slightly skewed. Regardless, it is a positive sign.

One thing I wish I had a stat on was the percentage of times a pass would land in the receivers shooting pocket - being proficient at that is great because it minimizes the delay in setting up for a shot.

3) CONDITIONING AND DEPTH! - I tried looking at the stats for speed, but that statistic encapsulated all forms of movements (sprinting, jogging, walking, backwards, forwards etc.) rather than just running up the floor, so this analysis is more subjective. Basically one advantage of the team being so young is that presumably they will be more capable to outrun many opposing teams, especially the older ones. One thing, again by eyeballing, is that TT and Zeller are faster and/or are better conditioned than most opposing big men. This is really important because if you can get the your big to outrun the opposing big, you are more likely to suck defenders in and away from the 3pt line when running into the paint, which creates open 3s. We might have some issues with Hawes who is slow-as-balls, but if he's the trailer the amount of ground he may need to cover could be less than others since his end point would be at the top of the 3pt line as opposed to the corners or the paint.

The Cavs also feature a pretty deep team with a capable 2nd unit (9th this season in bench scoring) especially if dion comes off the bench - this is important as you can give more breaks to your players. Assuming we sew up the gaping hole at small forward this offseason, we also have enough guys to fulfill the needs of early offense:

Ball Handler: Kyrie/Jack/Dion/Delly

Wing Shooters: Kyrie/Jack/Dion/Delly/Miles

Big Running in Paint: TT/AB/Zeller

Trailer Who Shoot 3s: Hawes/AB


One thing that the elite offenses is generate a ton of turnovers and/or block shots (the former being more important). The benefit of this is obvious - this being the ability to give the defense a minimal amount of time to set up and thus improves the likelihood of getting easy baskets in transition. This was a big reason why the Nuggets were top 5 in offensive efficiency last season, as they were top 5 in turnovers drawn and blocks per game.

This will probably be a big obstacle for the Cavs as they do not have much length to wreak havok in passing lanes or get blocks. The numbers this season reflect this as they were 24th in turnovers drawn per game and 29th in blocks per game (not as important, and probably skewed because we allow a very low amount of shots in the paint).

The next best opportunity to catch opposing defenses off guard is off a defensive rebound, or basically creating a lot of missed shots. The Cavs were decent at this, being 14th in DRPG and 13th in Opponent FG%.


In my opinion, I think the Cavs have enough parts, assuming the team remains in tact plus some small additions, to be pretty successful in this fast-paced system. With that said, this roster definitely has huge rooms for improvement and the ideal is that this offseason we get more length and three point shooting for the SF position and a rim protector to maximize the potential gains from this offensive system (and improve our defense).

I hope there is something to be gained from this post and if you disagree/think there are points missing (there will definitely be quite a bit of this)/find grammar mistakes (this too)/find the article dumb or hard to understand/hate me (don't worry, i love myself too much to self-harm) please feel free to let me know in the comments!

Love Regards,

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at FearTheSword

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