Triangle Offense Tutorial

On Friday, Oct 24, acclaimed filmmaker and lifelong Knicks fan Spike Lee will provide a unique look inside the triangle offense with Knicks coaches and players at 10:30 PM on MSG Network with “What is the Triangle Offense? A Spike Lee Orange and Blue Skies Joint.” In anticipation of the hour-long special, here’s a glimpse at what makes the triangle offense tick:

WHERE DOES THE NAME COME FROM?

It’s called the triangle offense because there should be a triangle formed between a player in the post, the corner and the wing at all times (as illustrated below). The other two players should be located at the top of the key and extended behind the free throw line.

(Image courtesy of sportamerika.com)

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The offense begins after the ball is passed to the wing. The player who passed the ball then cuts to the corner, while one of the post players cuts to the strong-side block, forming the triangle. Meanwhile, the other two players form a “two-man game” on the weakside.

From there, there are a number of different sets/options for the offense which can be determined by how the defense reacts.

CAN I SEE SOME EXAMPLES?

There are a ton of great videos out there, but these two are particularly useful.

This video features a breakdown of the Lakers, under Jackson, executing the triangle juxtaposed to the Clippers offense:

And here is how the Knicks used the triangle in Summer League play:

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Catch “What is the Triangle Offense? A Spike Lee Orange and Blue Skies Joint” Friday, Oct 24 at 10:30 PM on MSG.

ARE THERE NO “SET” POSITIONS WITHIN THIS FORMATION?

That is partially true. The offense calls for two post players and three perimeter players. While that is similar to most starting lineups, no one is pigeonholed in one particular spot.

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT THAN OTHER OFFENSES?

As opposed to most offenses that run set plays and put the pressure on defenses, the triangle philosophy is different. In the triangle offense, a team creates constant ball movement to see how the opposing defense reacts and then operates based off the defensive formation. There are counters for just about everything the defense could show.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE TO THE TRIANGLE?

Spacing is probably the most important principle of the triangle. There should always be three players that form a triangle. Players should be about 15-20 feet away from each other. Proper spacing makes it hard for the defense to defend the whole court, which in turn should create easy looks when the defense tries to help or trap. Spacing is also beneficial for when the shot clock is running down, giving the player with the ball plenty of space to create for themselves/teammates.

DOES THE TRIANGLE FEATURE PICK-AND-ROLLS?

Yes it can, but the main goal of the pick-and-roll in the triangle is to create mismatches and draw double-teams.

WHAT TYPES OF TRAITS ARE IDEAL FOR PLAYERS IN THE TRIANGLE?

Players that are versatile, have a high basketball IQ, unselfish and can score in isolation should all theoretically thrive in this offense.

HOW DID IT ORIGINATE?

The key ideas of the system were created by Sam Barry, then the coach at the University of Southern California, in the first half of the 20th century. One of Barry’s players, Tex Winter, went on to further develop the concept at Kansas State University before bringing it to the NBA in the 70’s as the coach of the Houston Rockets. When Phil Jackson became coach of the Bulls in 1989, Winter was an assistant coach and helped Jackson implement it.

HOW SUCCESSFUL HAS IT BEEN?

Phil Jackson has won 11 championships running the triangle, with Knicks head coach Derek Fisher point-guarding five of those championship teams.

DO ANY OTHER TEAMS CURRENTLY RUN THE TRIANGLE OFFENSE?

The Golden State Warriors, under new coach Steve Kerr, who played for Phil Jackson with the Bulls, are expected to run parts of the triangle offense.

For more about the triangle offense, we recommend reading this breakdown of specific triangle sets or watching this in-depth video. But mainly, Spike Lee will have it all covered Friday, Oct 24 at 10:30 PM on MSG Network.