Controlling Pace: Delay Concepts, Strategies, XsOs

By Matt Hackenberg

Delay Concepts basketball offense late game situation

Whether milking the clock with a lead or setting up to take the last shot, delay concepts are something ever coach needs in their playbook.

Sometimes in basketball, your opponent isn’t necessarily the team across from you, it’s the clock. Having tactics and strategies in your coaching toolbox to effectively manage (or “milk”) the clock in certain situations can be the difference between a win or loss. Whether you coach at a level with or without a shot clock, understanding and being able to control the pace of the game is a crucial game management strategy. The best coaches know how to create the game that best suits their team and personnel.

Coaches can slow the pace of the game through offense using “Delay Concepts.” Delay concepts use a stall or semi-stall approach to offense in order to intentionally play with a high level of patience. There are many purposes to using delay game concepts, such as to protect a lead, to make an opposing defense overextend, or to take the last shot of a quarter/half/game. The best delay concepts also run action that are tough for the defense to pressure the ball, trap it or get a steal.

In my opinion, the most well known delay game strategy was the traditional “4 Corners” system popularized by Dean Smith at North Carolina in the 1960’s. But I wanted to introduce you to three more delay concepts: Sideline, Triangle and Stacks. They all have their own pros and cons, but all carry the same potential to help you control the pace of the game through offense.

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Sideline Delay Concept

This Sideline Delay Concept is designed to control the clock and dictate the pace of the game through your offense. This particular strategy uses a spread alignment with an empty sideline for a little twist on the typical 4 corners concept. I really like the intelligent design of how the center is used. It creates so much space for a dynamic driver. The video below shows the concept live.

The sideline is open for penetration with a system for possessing the ball and system to retreat to dribble penetration

Triangle Delay Concept

This diagram looks at a delay game tactic. This strategy and spacing is very simple, yet difficult to disrupt. Use a down screen out of a 2-1-2 alignment to milk the clock, while looking for opportunities to attack if the defense extends too far. The video below has plenty of clips to see the strategy in action.

2-1-2 alignment; the top 3 players work together in a triangle pattern, passing the ball and exchanging

Stacks Delay Concept

Our “Stacks” delay concept strategy is designed to dictate the tempo of the game through offensive possessions. This strategy uses stacks at the elbows to balance the court. I like it because it can be used as a pure delay game, but also has enough attacking options, especially if the defense falls asleep, to mix in throughout a game without the desire to stall. The video below shows the various options that take place out of the “Stacks” delay concept.

•To stall, dribble to the side, and replace by rubbing out to the top of the key from the bottom of the stack
•Test the edge with dribble penetration if the defense falls asleep
•Look to slip if the defense over-pursues

Share Your Delay Concepts

Any other delay concepts you use and find success with? Send us your favorite by posting the FastDraw diagrams and tagging us on Twitter. We’d love to continue the conversation and help coaches all over the world getter better and evolve the game.

Check out more plays and drills by Coach Hackenberg on his Playbank page and follow him on Twitter @CoachHackGO.

Another great way to work the clock is with dribble weave action. The ball screen can come at any time or simply when the defense begins to break down.
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