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Transition offense is fun, and Missouri could be quite good at it this season

Cuonzo Martin knew he had to change up his offensive approach to capitalize on Michael Porter Jr. That’s where Cornell Mann comes in.

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Iowa State Rachel Mummey-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed it, check out Part 1, where we went over Iowa State’s Zipper set. I thought we could dive into the Drag series Iowa State uses as apart of its transition offense.

x&os cuonzo

There are basically three types of offense in basketball: fast break, transition, and half court. Most people know how to define each, and there tends to be only a slight difference between fast break and transition, but let’s get into it a little.

  • Fast Break: a quick turnaround, typically caused by a turnover and leading to an advantage for the offense. 4-3, 3-2, 2-1, breakaway. Fast breaks usually occur within 3-8 seconds from the start of possession.
  • Transition: a natural follow-up to a fast break. Transition happens early in the shot clock and usually before the five defenders have had time to get set.
  • Half Court: when the defense has completely set. Base offenses like the High-Low or motion offense happen in the half court, along with sets and quick hitters.

A large bulk of NBA offense happens in transition because of the shortened shot clock. The goal is to attack the defense while it attempts to get sorted. So today we’re going to talk about Iowa State’s drag series.

A drag offense is a four-out, one-in ball screen offense. It’s called drag because it’s usually initiated by a drag screen.

So what’s a drag screen you ask? It’s when a trailing big man follows the ball handler and sets a ball screen in transition. It looks like this:

Drag Screen gif
Golden State Warriors Drag Screen - Half Court Hoops

Drag screens happen a lot in the NBA, and pretty much exclusively in transition. So it makes sense to look at the different ways Fred Hoiberg used the drag screen in his transition series. Many of these different looks can depend on where guys are on the floor when the ball crosses half court, so keep that in mind as we make our way through these.


The most basic of the series is called, well, Drag. Iowa State used the drag screen in transition as an attempt to create space and an opportunity to attack the rim. Since it looks so much like the play above, we’ll talk about the ISU base.

ISU Offense Drag
Drag Full Fig 1

Drag is used when the point guard and trailing post are last down the court and two wings are spaced on opposite sides. The lead post has led the charge down the floor on a rim run, then fans to the short corner. Ball side, the point guard pushes the wing into the corner, while the opposite wing positions himself at the free throw line extended with his heels up against the sideline.

The point guard sets up the ball screen and attacks the opposite elbow probing to see if he can turn the corner and attack the rim. Options are, as in the short gif below

  1. the dump off to the short corner
  2. the kick out to the ball side wing
  3. the roll from the ball screening post
  4. the swing pass to the opposite wing

So Drag, in its infancy has five quick scoring options within five seconds of the initial possession. Fast, I love it.

Drag Push

I probably won’t spend a ton of time on Drag Push because it’s very basic. Drag Push puts the ball handler and screener on one side, and two shooters on the other side. It tends to result in a lot of good looks from three.

Drag Push Transition offense
Drag Push - Iowa State Transition


Double Drag

If the situation finds both bigs trailing, they can set up a double ball screen at the top of the key, as pictured below.

ISU Transition offense double drag
Double Drag Fig 2

The name is descriptive — it’s just a double drag screen. You get two wings opposite ready for the three ball, or the rolling big heading to the rim, or the pick and pop from the second big. Here’s the gif where Monte Morris locates a wide open Georges Niang for a toe-raise three.

ISU Transition Offense Double Drag
Double Drag - Iowa State Transition

Double Drag Push

Yep, you imagined it could be true and it is. The combination of Double Drag and Drag Push is a thing, and it’s uniquely named Double Drag Push.

Like Drag Push, this is an isolation on one side with the double ball screen and the ball handler, with the two wings on the opposite side.

ISU Transition Offense Double Drag Push
Double Drag Push Fig 3

Two options, take the screen, when the posts can run a rub and a roll to get an open look, or attack the rim and look opposite for a baseline three when the defense sinks. In gif form:

ISU Transition Offense Double Drag Push
Double Drag Push - Iowa State Transition


ISU Transition Offense Double Drag Push
Double Drag Push - Iowa State Transition

Transition offense can be fun. It can lead to a lot of quick looks and a lot of good looks. When you have a roster as athletic as Missouri’s, it’s best to get out in transition and push pace as often as possible.

Yes, there is more exploration of the Fred Hoiberg offense forthcoming, but in the interim, I want to give a shoutout to Zak Boisvert, an assistant coach at Army West Point. Zak provides amazing video breakdowns on his YouTube channel. So if you’re a basketball nerd, get caught in the rabbit hole.

Until next time.