Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

MacKay single-double gaps

Mike MacKay
Use backcuts and blast cuts to create double gaps for dribble penetration (see Progressions for basket cuts). Spacing creates gaps, cutting creates bigger gaps.

5-out offence is used by many youth teams. The problem is that the spacing is single gaps.

When there is a stationary pass, the defender is closer to the ball than the pass receiver, which often allows a steal.

A second issue is that on dribble penetration into a single gap, a defender can quickly help and recover to their check.

One advantage of 5-out spacing is a backdoor pass. If help arrives to take away a pass at the rim, the other option is a pass to a perimeter player (here 4).

Adam Spinella - Hoiberg 5-Out Concepts - 5-out spacing allows for backcuts, the rim is vacated.

Gregg Popovich - if denied anywhere on the court, go backdoor and continue in the direction you were going.

Chris Krauss - Motion Concepts - he doesn't like cuts all the way through, cut to the middle, read what's going on, you might have to come back, or relocate.

A backcut (or basket cut) to the rim is a scoring opportunity, then exit cut but first read what's going on (e.g. react to a drive or shot).
Hal Wissel - keep the middle open, when you cut to the basket, don't stay in the post area for more than a one-count, fill an open spot on the side of the floor with the fewest players.

A lot of teams play sag defence against this type of offence, no backdoors are available.
Gap Theory (Spacing) - 5-out spacing (50) stretches the defence outside the paint and takes away a traditional rim protector.

How can we give the offence an advantage? We like to create a double gap by cutting a player.

MacKay - How to Teach Cutting - in a single gap, backcut immediately if you are looked at, dribbled at, or pivoted at.

Alex Sarama -Teaching Offensive Concepts - if you are in a single gap, create a double gap for a teammate so they can blast cut. Blast cuts are made from a double gap into a single gap, and give you a speed advantage.


Use a double gap for a blast cut or dribble penetration.


4 blast cuts into the double gap for a pass, putting the defence in motion. 4 has a chance to play dynamic 1-on-1, reading the defence before catching the ball and attacking immediately on the catch, here baseline.

2 exits the paint weakside. 1 holds after passing (does not basket cut).

The blast cut creates baseline space for an immediate drive, or 4 can attack middle using speed. 1 does not need to create a double gap with a basket cut.

If 4 doesn't make a play, 1 can backcut and 3 blast cut (see below), the complete sequence is pass-hold-cut-fill.

If 1 basket cuts, break it off on a quick drive by 4, otherwise create a double gap for a middle drive by 4, or 3 holds then blast cuts for another dynamic attack. The sequence is pass-cut-hold-fill.

Sarama - 4 can backdoor cut, catch and shoot, attack baseline (dynamic cross), or attack middle (curl).

How to Teach Cutting - back cut and blast cut to fill behind (it's hard for X4 to help on the backcut by 2 and contest the blast cut by 4).

How to Teach Youth Motion - automatic drives are a) draft drives (follow a cutter), b) real-estate drives (the spot next to you is empty), c) your defender steps over the 3-point line.

Mike MacKay - Read and React Offence - if you are in the key when the ball is being driven to the basket and the ball enters the lane below you, go to the elbows. Or 2 could back-pedal to the short corner, 5 fills the weakside 45-degree angle, 3 fills the 90-degree angle above the ballside elbow, and 1 is the safety moving in behind.

Score with 45 Cuts - a baseline drive opens up a weakside 45 cut as defenders help and drop (cover down).


1 can drive the double gap, breaks the foul line, 4 clears behind (away from X4), gets a pass, 1 exits to the corner.


To maintain the double gap for a draft drive, 4 would hold in the corner (for a two-count) before a blast cut.
Delay replacing a cutter unless the ballhandler has already had a chance to attack a double gap.

Basketball NSW - a cut that is made toward the basket creates space behind for a second cutter, or for the ballhandler to "drive on the back of the cutter".

See Offences - Dribble-drive outline, 5-out dribble-drive motion.

4 has a double gap middle and a long closeout by X4.

Don't freeze the ball and let the help defence set up. Keep the offence moving, the first option is to keep cutting, 3 cuts (a static backcut from a double gap), 5 can go dynamic 1-on-1 into a double gap.
4 does not cut after passing (see above).


5 does not delay the blast cut, 4 already had a chance to attack a double gap. The cut by 5 creates another double gap, and 2 delays a fill behind to keep the gap.

Read and React - fill open spots above you. Do not be too quick to fill this space as it takes away the penetration of the player with the ball.

5 attacks (a quick real-estate drive) and passes if he doesn't have anything.

3 exits opposite the drive.


Another option is a blast cut by 2 into the double gap (a blast cut can set up another blast cut), or a backcut by 4 and a blast cut by 1.

Read and React - if you are in the key when the ball is being driven to the basket and the ball enters the lane above you, go to the short corner.

Coach Daniel - Future of Offence - 4 guys out and one guy in the dunker spot is still 5-out spacing to him.

4 can "dribble centre", it's like a pass, moving the ball with the dribble.

3 makes a backcut when dribbled at.

There is a double gap on each side when 4 picks up the ball (1 does not follow behind).


Doug Novak - Offensive Philosophy - nothing can stop the ball from moving. If you can't swing the ball, dribble at the next offensive player for a backdoor or throw behind [a pitch or DHO]. If you can't throw behind, look to snapback where you dribbled from.
Wissel - balance the floor by dribbling to the point.up

Against sagging defences, basket cuts can be used to create double gaps, especially on a stationary pass. Like a backcut, a basket cut can open up a "draft" drive or a blast cut, A draft drive is delayed (waiting on a cutter), whereas a blast cut can lead to an immediate attack, especially a "real- estate" drive into a double gap created by the blast cut. A blast cut can lead to another blast cut.
Instead of a backcut by 2, 1 passes to 2 (a stationary pass) and basket cuts. The basket cut unlocks the floor, 2 has a double gap to drive middle (a draft drive), or 3 can blast cut to replace 1 (after a two-count, a delayed fill cut) for a pass-cut-hold-fill sequence (see below).

Read and React - after passing to a teammate one pass away, run a basket cut (front cut or back cut). When leaving the basket find the open spot, usually a corner.

How to Teach Cutting - double-gap spacing gives 2 space to penetrate, but also 3 space to make a blast cut, which is a cut straight to the ball (beat your defender with a speed cut).                             

Mike McNeill - Teaching Motion Offence to Young Players - every time a player passes the ball they should be a cutter first, stepping towards the pass, prepared to cut (or create a screening angle). Cut to the front of the rim with speed. When you receive a pass, hold the ball for a one count to see the cutter all the way to the basket.

Lason Perkins - when replacing the cutter, wait until the ballhandler is done looking at the cutter.

Mads Olesen - when you pass the ball on the perimeter, cut through to the basket and out the other side of penetration.

Lisa Thomaidis - Basic Offence for Youth Basketball - every cut must be a scoring cut.

Alex Sarama - Avoid Pass and Cut Offence - off-ball cutting (ghost cut) makes no sense with pass and cut, and 2 has to wait for the cutter to clear out instead of being able to drive immediately. The idea of modern basketball is to use zero-second decisions. With pass and cut, players are taught to robotically repeat a pattern, not how to play the game.



2 drives middle, behind 1's cut (a draft drive).

This is a static 1-on-1 but into a double gap.

Teaching Offensive Concepts - a double/triple gap, match-up advantage, or late clock is a green-light situation in a static 1-on-1.

Dribble penetration draws help (two defenders play the ball), leading to a kick-out pass and often an extra pass for a shot or another drive. Often a teammate will cut to the basket on penetration.

Penetrate-Pass-Pass - making the extra pass after an initial drive-and-kick re-opens the lane for another drive, keeps the defence in rotation and forces long closeouts.
Thomaidis - penetration causes the defence to collapse, a pass out creates a long closeout, the extra pass is the one that defences have a hard time getting out to. They are always trying to create long closeouts, that is the most difficult defensive skill. Penetrate-penetrate is a turnover in practice.

Chris Oliver - Villanova Second Cuts - a teammate can basket cut on dribble penetration if their defender loses sight of them.
Tyler Coston - Space to Hunt - in transition, hunt the "logo" off the dribble then cut to score with a "burn cut" from a corner or 45 (a defender loses vision, attack the back of their head).

Score with 45 Cuts - a baseline drive opens up a weakside 45 cut as defenders help and drop (cover down).


2 swings the ball to 4 (another stationary pass) and basket cuts.

3 fills the top of the key (leaving a double gap).

4 can attack behind 2's cut.
MacKay - fill to a double gap.

3 blast cuts for a pass after a two-count.

The blast cut creates a double gap behind 3, 5 holds the wing to maintain the gap.

3 attacks the double gap with a real-estate drive (a quick baseline drive may be another option), or 5 can blast cut after a two-count.
A basket cut or backcut with no draft drive can set up a blast cut for a dynamic attack.


2 does not attack, 3 blast cuts after a two-count.

3 can backcut, catch and shoot, immediately attack left or right, or square up in triple threat. 5 is ready to blast cut from the corner.


3 catches and immediately attacks left, 1 exits opposite the drive.
McNeill - 3 and the ball should arrive at the same time.

The blast cut creates a double gap behind 3 for a "real-estate" drive, 5 holds the corner to maintain the gap and reads the play.
2 breaks off a basket cut for spacing.

How to Teach Cutting - 3 blast cuts when there is a connection (2 makes eyes contact), shortens the pass, 2 can make a single-gap pass.
See Shooting - 3-line drive and kick.


2 passes and basket cuts, 3 does not attack immediately, 4 holds the corner to the maintain the gap.

5 holds the other corner, there are two double gaps.
2 can pass and hold on a dynamic pass. If 3 has no play, 5 blast cuts and 3 swings the ball, or 2 backcuts and 4 blast cuts immediately (back where the ball came from) for a pass-hold-cut-fill sequence, instead of pass-cut-hold-fill on a basket cut.


2 exits opposite a drive by 3.

Here 3 draft drives behind 2's cut.


A similar situation.
5 blast cuts after a two-count, 3 passes and basket cuts, 4 fills to a double gap weakside, ready to blast cut after a two-count.
5 can draft drive behind 3, or attack on the catch (baseline, middle) and 3 breaks off the basket cut.
3 can pass, hold, and backcut if 5 does not make a play.
Option - 3 passes and spaces away, see Offence - Novak dribble-drive (Fan cut).
Sarama (Avoid Pass and Cut Offence) -  instead of pass and cut, it would be better for players to pass and space, find a window outside the 3-point line.

Wissel - draw and kick is best used from the wing after the ball has been swung from the other side.


3 blast cuts then backcuts, a dynamic backcut, creating a triple gap.

5 does not delay filling the top, 2 had a double gap to attack, don't stall the ball. Does a teammate with the ball need help or space?
NSW open-post motion - cutting on the back of a cutter is effective.
See Offence - Petitgoue open-post (Revolve).up

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2007-24 Eric Johannsen