As Coach Jackson writes in the book:
"The basic idea [of the triangle offense] is to orchestrate the flow of movement in order to lure the defense off balance and create a myriad of openings on the floor. The point is not to go head-to-head with the defense, but to toy with defenders and trick them into overextending themselves. Executed properly, the system is virtually unstoppable because there are no set plays and the defense can't predict what's going to happen next."
Here are Coach Winter's principles:
1. The offense must penetrate the defense. In order to run the system, the first step is to break through the perimeter of the defense, usually around the three-point line, with a drive, a pass, or a shot. The number-one option is to pass the ball into the post and go for a three-point power play.
2. The offense must involve a full-court game. Transition offense starts on defense. The players must be able to play end-to-end and perform skills at fast-break pace.
3. The offense must provide proper spacing. This is critical. As they move around the court, players should maintain a distance of 15-18 feet from one another. That gives everybody room to operate and prevents the defense from being able to cover two players with one man.
4. The offense must ensure player and ball movement with a purpose. All things being equal, each player will spend around eighty percent of his time without the ball. In the triangle offense, the players have prescribed routes to follow in those situations, so that they're all moving in harmony toward a common goal.
5. The offense must provide strong rebounding position and good defensive balance on all shots. With the triangle offense, everyone knows where to go when a shot goes up to put themselves in a position to pick off the rebound or protect against the fast break. Location is everything, especially when playing the boards.
6. The offense must give the player with the ball an opportunity to pass the ball to any of his teammates. The players move in such a way so that the ballhandler can see them with a pass. That sets up the counterpoint effect. As the defense increases the pressure on one point on the floor, an opening is inevitably created somewhere else that the defenders can't see. If the players are lined up properly, the ballhandler should be able to find someone in the spot.
7. The offense must utilize the players' individual skills. The system requires everybody to become an offensive threat. That means they have to find what they do best within the context of the team.
As John Paxson puts it:
"You can find a way to fit into the offense, no matter what your strengths are. I wasn't a creative player. I wasn't going to take the ball and beat the other guys to the basket. But I was a good shooter, and the system played to my strength. It helped me understand what I did well and find the areas on the court where I could thrive."