Alabama 5-Out Offense Breakdown
A deep dive into Nate Oats 5-Out Offense he runs with Alabama, looking at their spacing and concepts and how blending 5-Out & 4-Out Dribble Drive make them extremely difficult to guard.
Nate Oats at Alabama has utilized a 5-Out Drive & Space Offense that has been one of my favorite offenses to study over the past few seasons. Alabama combines NBA concepts & spacing with blended dribble-drive 4-out concepts that Oats has used since his days coaching high school. In this breakdown, we are going to look at Alabama’s spacing, concepts, and offensive philosophy that makes their offense so tough to guard.
Spots & Terms
Here we see the court markings that Alabama uses for their practice court to mark their spacing. The markings are pretty common with the 4-Out offense, but the difference is Alabama added a “Houston” spot taking from when D’Antoni would have Ryan Anderson & Eric Gordon bombing 3’s and spacing almost on the sideline.
Note: This is from the breakdown linked below.
Here is an example from one of their practices I found online, where we can see the “4 Point Line” that Alabama has added as well as the blocks marking out the spaces we see above.
First and foremost, Alabama designs their offense with 5-Out spacing leaving the paint empty for drive and kick opportunities. The goal of their offense is to create a single closeout and then play after that.
Similar to the Milwaukee Bucks and how they changed their offense with the “dunkers spot,” Alabama also runs 4-Out as well as 5-Out but they blend it seamlessly. 4-Out creates better and cleaner gaps for driving lanes, and forces different help the helper scenarios for the defense.
5-Out Blending Into 4-Out
Blending 5-Out and 4-Out is a concept that I talked about and broke down extensively in my space and pace clinic breakdown about how to blend the two offensive formations to create the space if teams start “gapping” and clogging up driving lanes.
The most common way is a spacing cut to the basket that clears a gap and puts a defender at the rim that may not be used to it or a guard that is a weaker defender - here is an example from Jrue Holiday in this year’s playoffs:
Alabama will also use these cuts to create this space, as well as when a player sets a ballscreen and rolls to the rim they will settle in the dunker’s spot to create this 4-Out look.
Alabama plays fast and wants to attack quickly, they finished the season ranking 11th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo & 2nd in average possession length, they were not as efficient in transition as you would think - ranking in the 12th percentile according to Synergy with 0.906 PPP in transition scoring.
I have talked about how transition efficiency can be wonky, for example, if you create an advantage in transition by pushing the ball but then score out of the post in the half-court then that becomes a half-court score now but the transition push impacted why you scored. But overall, they were not great when those single transition scoring opportunities presented themselves and this is something Nate Oats acknowledged in a clinic breakdown he did.
The first thing I look for when studying a team’s offense is what do they do when their opponent makes or misses and they gain possession. Alabama’s main philosophy is to sprint the floor wide with no rim runner on makes or misses, with the first 3 steps being the most important. Alabama runs well off makes as well as misses, and when teams I coach run off makes we call this “FIRE” since we want to fire right back to catch a team sleeping after they score.
Transition Pitch Ahead
The first option when attacking in transition is the pitch ahead, or a quick pass up the floor ideally on the wing to trigger an attack.
Transition Pass Ahead
Sometimes the pitch ahead option is not there for deeper throws, then Alabama will look to pass ahead to the closest playmaker. Nate Oats has talked about getting the ball up the floor and letting players make plays as a key part to their early attacks.
If no passes ahead are open, then the guard or player with the ball will push it ahead with a dribble looking to attack with no rim runner. After the push, the main thing that Alabama looks for is a flip or hit the trailer to have them attack and trigger their 5-Out which we will look at more in the Early Offense section.
One of the best options in transition is to drive and skip the ball. This is usually open after a push and early attack on one side of the floor and when the defense is loading to the ball and recovering to the paint first.
One of the best teams in the NBA was the Jazz at this:
When transition or the first options when Alabama gets the ball are slowed down, they convert to early offense or quick actions to attack the defense. One of those options is to attack or push the ball that will typically open up the trailer option - usually for an open 3 or attacking a closeout which then triggers the dribble drive actions.
My favorite concept in early offense is to drive the nail and flip it back to a trailing player for a shot or attack right off of it. We call this action “Flip” and I have heard it referred to as “Cut” action by Lennie Acuff, but it is really simple to implement and an extremely effective trigger to any offense.
Early Slot ISO
A majority of coaches I have studied and watched clinics talk about early offense and their breaks they usually want the point guards to stay in the middle of the floor and push the ball without picking a side. Alabama does not force that on the players since they want their break to be about quick decisions not focusing on staying in the middle and allowing them to fill the slot closest to them - this also flows right into their offense and seamlessly allows them to go into the flip action or hit the trailers.
Everyone should be familiar with the 21/Pistol series, but Alabama runs it differently than most NBA teams do in their playbooks. Alabama last year used this 21 action for Herb Jones with a guard to hunt the weaker defenders usually resulting in an ISO or Post Up.
Alabama uses Barkleys, or a back down with a live dribble into a post up in their offense. If a player has a size advantage then they have the option to take advantage of it through Barkleys.
I took this concept and term from the Utah Jazz, where the top two slots play a 2-man game with a kickback/ballscreen option. The players have options for a flip back, handoff, keep, ghost action, and playing off each other to create scoring opportunities.
Similar options and actions to the Blast concept, the Delay 2-Man usually involves a guard throwing to a big and then going back for a hand-off or into a ballscreen. This can also be called Zoom action or throw-and-go action in the NBA.
Ghost screens are one of if not the most common actions in a 5-Out Dribble Drive offense since they create a really tough decision for the defense. It is a fake screen in which players setup like a ballscreen but avoid actual contact on the screen to pop to the 3 point line. This creates downhill driving opportunities as well as pick and pop looks to create confusion for the defense.
Another one of my favorite teams, Furman, runs this action in their 5-Out offense
Side Hand Off
A quick-hitting concept that Alabama and several other teams run when in 5-Out is to go right into a side-hand-off. Since they play out of the slots this flows right into their 5-Out actions from their early offense.
Blending the 5-Out with 4-Out makes the drives from the slots the primary attack in Alabama’s offense. This is incorporated in their skill development with all of their drive and kick drills using the slot drive reactions to build their offense and into their decision-making drills.
Obviously, teams run spread pick and roll as the primary action to default to when their offense is in the half-court. Alabama has the ability to run spread pick and roll and pop their 5 man to the perimeter since they had multiple threats from deep. Combining this pick and pop action they use the “45” cut from the NBA (also called “cut the pop”) to clear space and prevent a stunt at the pop for easier shooting opportunities.
Similar to ghost screens, Alabama slips the ballscreen often with no screen and cutting to the rim to still put pressure in the paint. This opens up driving lanes, rolls to the rim, and creates miscommunication for the defense. When the player who slips rolls he will sit in the dunker’s spot - another way to create the blended 5-Out & 4-Out spacing.
The most common action out of 5-Out in the NBA is “Wide” action or a single screen in the middle of the floor. I first saw this from the Atlanta Hawks in 2017-18 in Mike Budenholzer’s final year there, as an adjustment out of the Spurs motion offense by going 5-Out and using the same single-down action.
If the initial catch and shoot opportunity is not open then the play can flow into multiple options, with the primary one being a spread pick and roll. Combining the same 45 cut off the spread pick and pop right after the initial Wide screen makes this play difficult to guard - especially in the flow of the offense.
Another option off of this is to go into a flip back or hand back into a ballscreen - something I have heard called “Wide Dribble” from Budenholzer.
Wide Dribble Keep
Of course, the natural counter to this is to fake it and “Keep” and attack.
Wide Elbow Flare DHO
Alabama uses Flare into a Hand-Off or Flare Slip action more than anyone else in college basketball, and it is one of the best actions you can add to any offense you run. This is difficult to guard since if you switch it then the slip can be open, and if you do not then you will be late on the handoff which makes it a nightmare for defenses to prepare for.
With all of this action happening in the middle of the floor, this opens up driving lanes for the player handling the ball to use as decoy action.
Drillbook & Philosophy Presentation
I found this great presentation posted online and wanted to link it here since it includes a lot of the ideas that Alabama uses in their offense and drills that they use for tempo and decision making. I personally love the “Texas” series and will be adding these to my drillbook for this season!