A rotation is a pre-planned group of players that are substituted from the bench to the floor. Rotations are used by coaches to maximize player performance and each player's playing time in a game. Players that are overworked or tired can provide less effective performances. Resting players is the most effective way to keep a team's performance effective and rotations helps to do this.
The ball is dead when the officials blow their whistle to stop play. Timeouts, fouls, violations, and injuries all result in dead balls. Basketball allows coaches to make unlimited substitutions but only when the ball is dead. As a result, teams can get creative with their rotation strategies. Coaches can plan on when they're going to make substitutions throughout a game or they can make these decisions based on play throughout the game.
Basketball coaches sometimes have a rotation strategy for their players, especially at the collegiate level of basketball. Some leagues may require rotations to give players equal playing time. In college basketball and the NBA, coaches can have their players in for most of the game, but that may not be the best decision for the health of the player and long-term success of the team in the season. It also may be a tough decision to make based on players who are tired or fatigued.
As a coach, you should consider the following when crafting your basketball team's rotation strategy:
Learning to plan your rotation strategy around your team's schedule is important. You should consider the strength of the opponent, league, or conference and factor in travel time that will negatively affect your player's overall performance. You may want to rest your best players more than usual against a lesser opponent so that they are ready for tougher opponents as an example.
Players need to learn to play with each other and understand the chemistry of the team. The chemistry between players on the court can be an extreme advantage as players can play better on both sides of the ball as a result.
Your depth of bench describes how strong your players are across the entire roster and how easily your top players can be substituted without sacrificing quality. A deep bench is an advantage because this means your team can compete at a high level throughout the game whereas other teams who are not as deep on the bench cannot.
As a coach, you should craft your rotation strategy around your opponent by choosing to put your top players in at optimal times in a game. You need to read the defense and understand if they are playing zone or man to man. A coach also needs to match up their players based on strengths and weaknesses on both defense and offense.
Keeping your best players out of foul trouble is critical. Players are in foul trouble when they're close to reaching the foul limit. In college basketball, the foul limit is five fouls. In the NBA, the foul limit is six fouls. If your best players foul out, then they cannot return to the game.
Basketball games have 40 minutes of regulation in college basketball and 48 minutes of regulation in the NBA. It's important to factor in, adequate rest time for each player. As a coach, you should plan to give your players a few minutes of rest each quarter. Players need to stay fresh and not get fatigued in order to compete for the full length of a game. Similar to resting time, you should plan out how much playing time each player should get on the floor. It is not uncommon for the best players on your team to play most of the game. Sometimes players on your bench can be a better matchup on a player then one of your starters as well.
Make sure to keep an eye on your player's mental and physical health. Having your players play through the pain may work in the short-term, but it is not a great strategy if an injury can get worse by playing. Health can be the strength or weakness of a basketball team.