Attacking With Clear Outs

By Randy Sherman

Three sets and concepts for using clear outs and attacking the defense in space.

Defending a dynamic player in space is difficult. Defending a dynamic player coming downhill into enlarged gap space can be near impossible.

Clear outs can be of great aide when you need a basket late in a game or to stop a run, want to exploit a speed mismatch or attack a defender in foul trouble.

Below are three ways to clear out the defense and attack an empty side.

Elbow Clear

This set creates multiple clear out opportunities for players of different positions. Elbow Clear simply begins with a a clear out for the point guard (Frame 1 below) or an elbow entry to a big (Frame 2 below) who may have an athletic advantage. (Click the image below to add Elbow Clear to your FastDraw library.)


The third clear out opportunity comes for the guard (Player 3 in the diagram above) cutting over Player 4 if Player 4 declines the attack.

Player 4 must attack upon the catch and if they do not, hand off to Player 3 cutting over the top. The side is clear for the attack.

Pitch Go

The New Orleans Pelicans are the inspiration of this clear out. Anthony Davis is a unique player who can be a problem for many teams to guard.

In early offense, the Pelicans often use Pitch Go when Davis is trailing in the center lane and the ballside corner is empty or has been cleared.

With Pitch Go an athletic player can attack an empty side coming downhill off a pitch seamlessly from the break. Player 1 attacks the nail as Player 4 cuts over the top. Player 1 tosses to Player 4 who has an empty side. (Click on the diagrams below to add Pitch Go to your FastDraw library.)

pitchgoFastTradePreviewOften teams create with wing ball screens when the ball is advanced via the dribble with an empty corner. Pitch Go takes advantage of the empty side and forces the opposing big to defend the dribble in space.

Through Clear

Through Clear features a “through cut” which creates a natural pick for the ball handler. Combining the through cut with the clear out empties the side for a guard to attack. (Click the image below to add Through Clear to your FastDraw library.)


If Player 1’s drive is stopped and he/she stops near the elbow, Player 4 cuts over the top and takes the handoff or toss from Player 1 and attacks the empty side.

Attacking with clear outs is more than just giving the ball to a special player and getting out of the way. This is not “hero ball” or isolation basketball. Ball and player movement create the gap space and empty the side. Using tosses and hand offs allows players to attack the vacant real estate coming downhill.

Creative use of clear outs can be an effective way to exploit offensive advantages and mismatches.

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
April 2, 2017 – New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Chicago Bulls at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. Stephen Lew/CSM(Credit Image: © Stephen Lew/CSM via ZUMA Wire)

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