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10 drills and strategies for motion offense in basketball

Updated on Jun 04, 2024
9 mins read
10 drills and strategies for motion offense in basketball
10 drills and strategies for motion offense in basketball

Motion offense in basketball is a system that gives players the freedom to read the defense and make the necessary attack decisions. There are rules or guidelines that players have to follow to align their play to your philosophy as the coach or trainer. Basketball motion offense involves many floor spacing, screening, cutting, and passing and is effective at wearing out different defense systems.

This article will mainly focus on different types of basketball offensive formations and strategies and how to implement them via drills.


Basketball offenses are concepts that a team employs to score points. Ideally, these basketball offensive plays should be simple to execute because they free up players to give them easy scoring opportunities.

Successful coaches and trainers have various types of basketball offenses at their disposal. These are the three major categories:

  1. Early offenses

Early offenses are plays that involve advancing the ball into the frontcourt operating areas in 3-5 seconds. This quick push coupled with flow action is intended to catch the defending players off-guard and keep them from organizing an effective disruptive force in the half-court.

These basketball offensive sets utilize different actions, including inbound passes and quick, wide lane releases. These pushes allow penetration lay-ups, jump shots, and kick-out passes, increasing scoring opportunities when executed effectively.

Teams that employ these plays productively are often challenging to defend against. They force the defenders into severe mismatches, making it hard to execute pressure denials and traps under the basket.

  1. Set offenses

Set offenses refer to strategically planned movements that the team pulls out in particular situations to get open for more points. These quick hitters are initiated by verbal or hand signals and aim to throw the opposition off balance.

Here are special occasions when a coach can run set plays;

  1. As soon as the game begins
  2. Towards the end of the game
  3. After time outs
  4. Following your secondary break
  5. When your primary offense play is getting stagnant
  1. Motion offense

Unlike set offenses where the plays are choreographed and predetermined, motion offenses are played off defensive reads. These offenses require the coach to take a "let go" approach by allowing the players to adapt to changes in the game.

Although seemingly the simplest gameplays, motion offenses can be challenging to teach as the players' actions are dependent on their ability to read the defenders accurately. Also, motion offense in basketball requires unselfish players eager to set up open shot opportunities for each other. But with constant player movement and unity, motion offense is equally difficult for the defending team to scout.


Offensive formations are how players are positioned on the court in relation to the opposing team. Basketball offensive positions are dependent on the players' specific abilities, body shape and strength.

Understanding how each formation works and its pros and cons is crucial to capitalizing on each player's strengths to benefit the entire team.

There are various types of offensive formations that a coach could go with depending on the types of players available and their skill level:

4-out 1-in alignment

Also known as single post or four-out, the 4-out 1-in is among the most versatile motion offense basketball formations. This formation is run by placing the post player near the basket and four players behind the three-point line. While the formation can be utilized at all levels, the 4-out 1-in formation is more effective when a team has an exceptionally strong post player.

Stack offense

The stack is a quick-hit basketball offense formation where the four players line up in a stack alignment in front of the inbounder. There are two ways of running the stack offense: the single stack, which is mainly utilized against defense pressure and the double stack, which uses hard cuts and screens to open up passing options.

Double Post, 3 out

This offense is also known as the 3-out 2-in because it has three perimeter players and two players in the post. The primary goal of the double post offense is to take the ball as close to the rim as possible to increase the chance of scoring or getting quality shots.

To run this alignment effectively, a team needs to have two excellent decision-makers in the low post. They don't necessarily need to be the best low post scorers. Instead, they should possess smart passes and proper cutting movement.

This formation also requires players with advanced basketball IQ and excellent defense reading skills as there will be a lot going on in the paint by placing two posts.


Basketball strategy refers to organized tactics or measures that help a team achieve its premeditated goals. These are the moves that a team intends to use to get decision advantages in the court, which ultimately increases its chances of scoring points and winning the match.

Strategy in basketball can either be offensive or defensive. While defensive tactics aim to gain possession of the ball, offensive basketball strategies aim to break the defense and shoot a comfortable and uncontested shot.

While there are countless basketball strategies, these are among the most common;

Fast break

A fast break is an offensive strategy where the defending team gets possession of the ball and quickly moves it up the court. This offensive strategy starts when the offensive team makes a mistake, for instance, a missed shot or a forced turnover. The opposing players take advantage of this mistake by quickly getting the ball into a scoring position by dribbles or passes.

A fast break aims to give a team an advantage in numbers by outnumbering the defense. Fast break offenses can also be used to wear teams down and force opposing players to make bad decisions.

Screen and roll

The screen and roll, also known as the pick and roll, is one of the most effective tactics in basketball. It's also one of the simplest to execute. It's popular among youth and high school basketball players and NBA superstars like LeBron James and Kyle Lowry.

Every player in the team should learn how to pick and roll as it makes the offense unpredictable and challenging to defend. The primary advantage of the screen and roll is the variety of personnel that can run it.

Isolation offense

Isolation offense is an age-old basketball strategy that is aimed at creating a one-on-one situation. The offensive players spread out in this play, leaving the primary ball-handler and an inferior defender to battle it out in a truly isolated environment. The goal of isolation offense is to add more points on the board while purely relying on a particular player's offensive skills and the weakness of the defending player. Most teams prefer having one of their best shooters execute this tactic.

Give and go

In this strategy, the ball handler passes to a teammate (give) and then immediately cuts to the basket or another open space near the basket (go), expecting a pass from the same teammate.

This play is among the first strategies that beginners are taught when learning how to play offense in basketball. However, its versatility and flexibility make it effective even at high levels.

Shuffle offense

The shuffle offense originated from coach Bruce Drake at Oklahoma and the Air Force team in the 1950s. This basketball strategy involves rotating the players in each position. This concept makes it practical for teams with good ball-handlers but lacking in height and a talented post player.

Instead of training the players on one-on-one skills, this tactic requires all players to perfect all the fundamentals; spacing, rebounding, screening, receiving and passing.


The 2-3 zone is the most common type of zone defense in basketball. In this defensive system, the two guards protect the top of the key while the three defenders are responsible for the painted areas, midrange and lower post.

Generally, this defensive system is often orchestrated by less-athletic teams that may be at a disadvantage in man-to-man scenarios. But with excellent and quick players, the 2-3 zone offers several other benefits, including diligent paint protection and numerous fast-break opportunities.

The other reason the 2-3 zone defense is effective is that most coaches are often unprepared to play against it, something that every basketball coach and trainer should consider.

The 1-3-1 basketball formation is the most effective approach for beating the 2-3 zone defense system. This 2-3 zone offense tactic places your players in the spaces left by the opposing team. This throws the defenders into confusion, forcing them out of their predetermined positions. This disruption also causes chaos in terms of deciding who should guard the ball-handler. Such a situation could leave most of your players open or your best offensive players matched up against weak defenders.

Another effective way of countering the 2-3 zone defense is by using passes to get the ball at the top of the key. This works by disrupting the top two defenders and the central defender, leaving a clear lane to the basket for the cutter.

Finally, the offensive team should aim to move the basketball fast. Acting within one second and ensuring quick passes leaves the defenders with no time to recover and return to their positions, disorienting them, leading them to make mistakes that the offensive players can exploit.


Motion offense basketball is a "read and react" strategy. Thus, it demands excellent game-reading skills, a short reaction time and elite agility. Coaches can help their players improve these skills by adding the following basketball offense drills to their routine:

Wheel sprint

  1. Set up six cones in a circle with a 6-yard diameter. Place the seventh cone in the middle of the circle.
  2. Attach a blazepod on top of each of the outer cones. Next, pair the pods with the app and set them to light up randomly.
  3. The drill starts with one of the players standing at the center. When the drill begins, the player sprints forward to tap out the lit pod with his hand.
  4. He instantly retreats to touch the middle cone while scanning around for the next lit-up pod.
  5. The player alternates between tapping the lit-up pod and the middle cone until the time elapses.

Designated shooter

The designated shooter is one of the most effective offensive basketball drills. Just as its name suggests, only the designated shooter can shoot the ball. This drill teaches shooters how to attack, cut, come off screens, and move to get open. On the other hand, non-shooters learn how to set screens on/off the ball, create space, clear out and create shots for other teammates.

  1. The coach starts dividing his players into two and appointing a designated shooter from the offensive team.
  2. At the coach's cue, all the non-shooters do everything they can, from passing to screening to get the designated shooter open.
  3. At the same time, the designated shooter tries everything possible to get open. They can cut, pass, come offscreen and do backdoors.

Shuffling scoop

The shuffling scoop trains basketball players to maintain a wide stance while staying low to the ground. Although an uncomfortable posture at first, this position increases their lateral agility and ability to contest shots.

  1. Start by placing 4-6 Blazepods in a line, 2-3 yards apart. Connect the pods to the app and set them to light up fast and in line.
  2. The player starts this basketball offense drill by standing in a basketball defensive stance facing the first pod. Standing in a low position with knees bent and feet spread slightly more than the shoulder's width.
  3. When the coach taps the start button on the app, the player scoops and touches the first lit pod to tap it out.
  4. Next, the player quickly pushes sideways to scoop and touch the next pod as it lights up. As the coach, ensure that the player keeps his chest up and feet wide.


Giving up control of the offense may not sound like the best idea in the short term. But with proper guidance and execution, basketball motion offense has a lot to go for, including long-term player development and equal offense opportunities for all players.

Also, with hard cuts, strong screens, smart spacing, and constant movement, any motion offense becomes near impossible for the defense to scout.


What is a motion offense in basketball?

It is a flexible basketball offense where the coach sets up some rules and allows players to read the defense and act accordingly. Unlike other offensive formations, motion offense does not involve predetermined movements. Players make decisions on the fly depending on what's happening around them.

How many basketball offenses are there?

There are five major categories of basketball offenses from which all other types branch: early, set, zone, motion and spread.

What is the best offense in basketball?

The best offense in basketball enables a team to maintain possession of the ball for as long as possible. Motion, set, transition and zone are the most common types of basketball offenses. Whichever offense a coach decides to run will depend on the philosophy and physical composition of the team.