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The triangle offense

Modified 18 Nov 2014
The “Zen Master” Phil Jackson have won a combined 11 championships in Chicago and Los Angeles

For a team sport like basketball, there will always be a two-sided argument between losing and winning, is it the system or the player? While some teams really rely on the firepower they possess in a single superstar, many teams have won through a system that involves the whole team.

For now, we’ll focus on a system that the “Zen Master” Phil Jackson has perfected since he became a head coach in the NBA, it’s the triangle offense. This offensive strategy has won him eleven championships under his belt for the Chicago Bulls in the 90’s and for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000’s. But then again, is it really the triangle that have won him those rings or the fact that guys named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played for him?

The initial player position in the Triangle Offense

Let’s first talk about the components that go with the triangle:


The Triangle Offense heavily relies on constant movement of not only the ball, but also the players without the ball. Surely there will be movement on the strong side of the court as the initial triangle will be placed. But the activity in the weak side but the off-ball players will be crucial when things aren’t set on the strong side as the ball would be swung onto the weak side. Through constant motion, this will also keep the defense moving as the ball is passed side to side for a high percentage shot.


Ideally on a Triangle Offense, the players spread 15-20ft apart from each other. This gives the player movement and positioning on the court a lot easier and no too congested. This will also open up passing and cutting lanes. And when double teaming comes to the player with the ball, the defender will leave his assignment approximately 15ft away and this will benefit a shooter.



Through this kind of system, any player on the court can pass or shoot at any given time. So given that the spacing is in place and the movement of the ball will be on course of the system, according to ESPN Sports Science, there will be approximately 340 shot options within 5 seconds. This will give the offense a ton of options to work with for a single possession.

Of course not every team can take the Triangle and can translate it to their success as certain ability in each position should be obtained. One, a post player is needed. A strong post presence would be a vital key as the ball would be constantly worked around it. Another is wing players who can shoot from beyond the arc but also can cut hard through the basket.

There will be a ton of work to be put in this kind of system to make it successful. The New York Knicks under new coach Derek Fisher, who also played under Phil Jackson’s Triangle, are still figuring their way out on the said system.

But with the right players, maybe find some names like a Michael Jordan or a Scottie Pippen or a Shaquille O’neal or a Kobe Bryant, then you’ll have the Triangle Offense as a recipe of success on your team.

Published 18 Nov 2014, 14:51 IST
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