Offensive Theory: How to Score More Points by Understanding the Theory and Philosophy Behind Offense

Developing offenses for your team is probably the most visible part of a coach's job. After all, the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket. It is a vehicle that coaches use, not only to score, but to include players in their team concept, give them value and affect their self image. Want to see a player's self esteem go up? Run a few plays for him and watch him score. Want to see a player sulk? Don't call anything for him.

The purpose of this article is NOT to give you an offense or a play.

There is an untold number of resources for that. Our website has a section devoted to offenses. Rather it is meant to try to give you some insight into developing offenses of your own. There are several common threads that flow through all offensive development and I've tried to give you some of them here. Other than that, the only limit to your development is your own imagination.

What is an Offense?

What is an offense and why do we need one? Well an offense is a series of cuts, passes, screens, etc. that are designed to create a particular shot for a particular player. We need an offense to provide organization and a singleness of purpose amongst the players. Even a free form offense (explained later in the article) like a motion should be infused with philosophy and objectives so the players have a clear idea of what they are trying to get accomplished.

What should go into a coach's decision as to what to run on offense? There are 2 schools of thought:

The "System" Coach

The system coach has 1 offensive system that he will run year after year after year. The good ones will adapt that system to their players but many do not. Well known system coaches include Pete Carrill (Princeton), Dean Smith (North Carolina) and John Wooden (UCLA). There are many current coaches who are system coaches but these three have had a system that has defined their college program and all of the coaches that followed them ran the same system. They are masters of adjustments. Dean Smith, best known for the passing game offense also developed the point guard concept to adapt the system to Phil Ford. Pete Carrill adapted his "Princeton Offense" from an interior oriented, backdoor offense to one that used a three point shot as its main weapon with the addition of the 3 point line. John Wooden adapted his "UCLA High – Low Post Offense" from a 2-3 set with Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar) to a 1-4 set when he graduated and they played with Curtis Rowe and Sidney Wicks. In the NBA, Phil Jackson is well known for his Triangle Offense which he has run since he was the Head Coach of the Albany Patroons in the CBA.

Systems have their advantages. The continuity from year to year means only a few new players have to learn it each year and, due to experience, the returning players are better at it. The coach, in running it year after year, gets better at making in game adjustments.

The negative is that the system doesn't always fit the personnel. Players that are mismatched for the system won't play to their potential and will find it very difficult to fit in.

Systems are great but unless you have an established feeder system or you can recruit players that allow you to choose the ones that are best suited for your system, the system becomes very difficult to continue.

The "Non-System" Coach

The non-system coach changes each year. He looks at his personnel and constructs an offense specifically for the group of players he has on his team at that time. The coach carefully evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of each player and constructs an offense around them.

The advantage to this type of system is that it is tailor made for the personnel. Roles can be firmly established and players can be comfortable in their roles. These types of coaches are difficult for opponents to prepare for due to the fact that each year is different.

The downside is that you cannot draw on experience from your players. Since the offense changes every year, it will be new to each of your players. They will learn and grow together, however it will be a slow process.

This type of offense is appropriate for teams that have high turnover from year to year, such as youth teams, high schools with no established feeder system, prep schools or junior colleges.

Types of Offenses

There are several different types of offenses and it is important that the type you choose is not only appropriate for your personnel, but something you are comfortable with. Once the ball goes up and the game starts, there is little you can do to make decisions for your players. You really have to decide what you can live with and what you can't. Be sure to put those priorities into your practices so your players are more comfortable with them in game situations.

Free Form Offense

This includes motion and passing game offenses. To run these offenses, each of your players must be skilled and comfortable in any position on the floor. The coach has very little control over what happens on the floor, all the decision making is made on the floor. The coach cannot decide who shoots or who dribbles and must accept the decisions made by the players.

Free form offenses typically have rules as opposed to plays or patterns. When practicing, coaches should not only reinforce the rules but try to give a big picture to his players. They have to understand why they are doing things, not just that they have to do them. A cut on the second pass might create a lay-up on the fourth pass. Without the big picture, your players will never get to the fourth pass.

In a free form offense, player roles must be very clearly defined. Players must know who the shooters are, who the penetrators are and who the passers are. They must understand their own roles, the roles of their teammates, embrace those roles and play toward their strengths. They must understand that being open is not a good enough reason to shoot the ball if there is a better shooter open for the next pass.

Free form offenses are adaptable, difficult to scout and difficult to play against because it is unpredictable. But, it can take time to teach and learn and having a continuity of players is important.

Continuity Offenses

These include the Flex and Shuffle offenses. A continuity offense has a pattern that turns over and over and over without the need to stop or reset. This affords the coach a little more control over his team due to the fact he knows the next cut and the next pass.

Players need specific skills that need to be performed in specific areas. A post man that comes to the top of the key to reverse the ball, does not need to worry about making a shot or creating a play, only passing the ball to continue the offense.

These types of offenses can wear down defenses, run the clock down and can get shooters into multiple areas to get their shots. They are especially effective at levels where there is no shot clock. This allows the pattern to be turned over continually until the defense breaks down.

Called Play Offenses

Called plays such as the UCLA High-Low Post, can be anywhere from 1 pass and cut to an elaborate pattern and anywhere in between. But these plays have a definitive entry and end. They have an end objective (finish up with the ball to the 5 man on the block, for example) but have multiple scoring options on the way to that end.

Plays can be used to run clock or gain control of the tempo. Players need only to have the skills that are called for in their particular role inside that play. A well constructed play has each player only handling the ball in areas where they can be effective.

Called plays can be very effective but require a maximum amount of practice due to the higher number of predetermined passes and cuts coupled with the counters that are needed when an option is defended. In addition, the more passes and cuts that are made and the longer the play runs, the more concentration is needed from the players. When the play is exhausted, if a good shot is not created, this type of offense usually either reverts to a motion offense or a quick hitter play.

Quick Hitter Offenses

Quick Hitters usually involve 1 or 2 passes and a cut. The object is to get a particular player a shot in a specific area as quickly as possible. These are usually used with a short clock (game or shot), when you have limited talent and need to control who shoots, where and when, when you need to attack a particular defender due to game situation or if you have a great player and want to make sure he gets the ball.

Quick Hitters give the coach the maximum control over their team and the offensive system contains a large number of individual plays. Because of the length and uniqueness of each play, it is not difficult for a player to remember a large number of them.

In this type of offense, passes and cuts must be accurate and precise due to the fact that a pass or cut will make the play easily recognizable to the defense. You also need options should your team not get the shot it wants at the end of the play. Most quick hitters flow into a free form offense and are also used as last second or late shot clock plays.

Zone Offense

Zone offense has similar traits to a man offense with a few adjustments. In a man offense, you attack players, in a zone offense, you attack areas. Cuts are not as important, positioning and spacing are the premiums. Each set should have a wing outlet, a post outlet, a reversal outlet, and an opposite outlet. How the players get there is largely unimportant. As the ball moves, the players try to slide into "dead spots" in the zone. A "dead spot" is an area that might be unguarded due to some type of confusion or overlapping in defensive coverage. Each time the ball moves, the zone has to adjust and those "dead spots" change as well.

Aside from searching those dead spots, there really is very little difference between constructing a zone or man offense.

In this example of a zone offensive setup

2 has the ball on the wing

1 searches for "dead spots" on top and serves as ball reversal

3 is the opposite option and searches for "dead spots" on the weakside

4 is the post option

5 looks along the baseline for "dead spots."

What is Most Important When Teaching an Offense

While these offensive types are very diverse, there are common threads between all of them.


The most valuable commodity in any offense is space. Proper spacing provides operating room for offensive players, good opportunities for screening and allows you to control matchups. In addition, good spacing forces the defense to make decisions and adjustments that are contrary to good defense. It limits help possibilities, creates bad matchups and switches and allows time for the offense to study the floor when making decisions.


Passing angle, screening angles, cutting angle and driving angles are critical to the success of any offense. It is more important to the success of the offensive play than the pattern of play itself. A perfectly constructed play is doomed to fail if players don't make proper and efficient movements.


Having a player open at a time when he cannot receive the ball is useless. So is making a cut or coming off a screen when the ball is not ready for delivery. Coming off a screen before the screen has a chance to be set will not accomplish its purpose. Proper timing is essential to offensive success.

Role Definition

Your players have to know what they are expected to do within their offense and what their abilities and talent can bring to the team. This is an area that more coaches fail to address than any other. Do you want your 5-man to dribble and shoot 3's? If not, you have to tell him, if you do, you have to tell him that, too. Do you want your 4'9" point guard to post up on their 6-8 center? If not, you have to tell him. We have all had players who are great people, work very hard but could not hit water if they fell off a dock. Do you want him shooting 3's when the best shooter in the state is the next pass? If not, you have to tell him. Coaches have trouble telling players not to shoot "that" shot. They are concerned about their player's confidence or running the risk of not being liked. It is impossible to steer a player toward his strengths without pushing him away from his weaknesses.


Every offense has to have an objective. You should not run your "#2" play without teaching your team that the objective is to get the ball to John on the block. You might think that this is readily apparent due to the nature of the play, but it is not. Remember, you as a coach, developed the play and can see the big picture, players live pass to pass.

Cuts and Screens

The Laws of Learning teach you that one of the biggest obstacles to learning is the lack of a common language. Terminology is important and has to be consistent through your team.

All offenses involve cuts and most involve screens. Each must be defined so when you speak, your team understands. Below are some cuts and terminology that I use. You might call them something else, and that's okay, as long as your terminology is the same every time you use it with your team.

Basket Cut
Back Door
Flash Post
High Flash
Screen Down
Screen Across
New York Screen
Slash Screen
Flare Screen and Cut
Horns Up
Zipper Screen and Cut
Back Screen
UCLA Screen and Cut
Stagger Screen
Double Screen
Slash Cut
Curl Cut
Fade Cut
Wing Ball Screen
High Ball Screen

These are just examples and are my terminology and I use it so you might better understand the offensive examples in this section. In other sections we will discuss the specifics of each but in this offensive section they are intended to help with the overall big picture of constructing an offense.


Please note that coaches have their own options and wrinkles in everything they do. Below are offensive examples drawn from my experience and in no way indicate that they are the only way to run them. Sets, options, keys, etc. should all be adapted to the personnel and the coach's personal style.

These samples are only meant to give a better understanding of the big picture of types of offenses. We only give a brief description of each type of offense.

Free Form Offense

As stated in the section above, this type of offense moves based on rules as opposed to pre-planned cuts.

5 Out Motion


All players must have ball skills and be able to make shots from the perimeter



There are 8 spots on the floor. When cutting, fill one of them and try to free a teammate on the way.

Make the next open pass.

After passing, player has 2 options: Basket cut or accept a flare screen.

When basket cutting, come out opposite the ball. Other players adjust to the open spot.

Look opposite the pass you receive for your next pass.

Fill a post spot for a maximum of 2 passes.

  • 5 passes before a perimeter shot.
  • Ball must be reversed twice before dribble penetration.
  • No 3's before the ball touches the post once.

Sample cuts 5 Out Motion

  1. 1 passes to 2
  2. 1 basketcuts
  3. 3 and 5 fill spots

  1. 2 passes to 3
  2. 5 Screens Down for 1

  1. 3 passes to 1
  2. 2 flares for 3
  3. 4 flashes high

  1. 1 flair passes to 3

  1. 1 screens down for 5
  2. 2 UCLA cuts off 4
  3. 3 passes to 2 for layup

Continuity Offenses

Flex Offense


All players must have ball skills and be able to make shots from the perimeter. 4, 5 and possibly 3 must be comfortable posting up.

Basic Instructions
  1. Starting out of a double stack

  1. 1 declares a side with the dribble
  2. 3 cuts to strong side corner
  3. 5 cuts to weakside corner
  4. 2 cuts to weakside top

  1. 1 passes to 2
  2. 4 backscreens for 3

  1. 3 cuts to ballside block
  2. 4 peels back and seals in the lane
  3. 2 looks to 4 for post play option

  1. 2 passes to 5
  2. 2 screens for 1

  1. 5 looks to 3 for low post option

  1. 5 passes to 1
  2. 2 downs screens for 4

  1. 1 passes to 4 for shot option
  2. 2 cuts to corner
  3. 3 back screens for 5
  4. 5 cuts to ballside block
  5. 3 peels back and seals in the lane

  1. 4 passes to 3 for post option

  1. 4 passes to 2
  2. 2 passes to 5 for post up option
  3. 4 cross screens for 1

  1. 2 passes to 1
  2. 4 down screens for 3

  1. 1 passes to 3 for shot option
  2. 4 pops to corner
  3. 5 backscreens for 2
  4. 2 cuts to ballside block
  5. 5 peels back for post seal

  1. 3 looks to 5 for post option

  1. 3 passes to 4
  2. 4 looks to 2 for post up option
  3. 3 cross screens for 1

  1. 4 passes to 1
  2. 3 down screens for 5

  1. 1 passes to 5 for shot option
  2. 3 pops to corner
  3. 2 backscreens for 4
  4. 4 cuts to ballside block
  5. 2 peels back and seals

  1. 5 passes to 2 for post up option

  1. 5 passes to 3
  2. 3 passes to 4 for post up option
  3. 5 cross screens for 1

  1. 3 passes to 1
  2. 5 down screens for 2

  1. Entire offense has now turned over and all players are back where they have started

Tennessee Shuffle


All players must have ball skills and be able to make shots from the perimeter. 4, 5 and possibly 3 must be comfortable posting up.

Set is a box, however you can start in any set

Basic Instructions

  1. Starting on the right side
  2. 4 pops to right wing
  3. 2 pops to corner
  4. 1 passes to 4

  1. Cuts in order
  2. 1 cuts through middle to opposite baseline
  3. 5 flashes to right block
  4. 3 flashes to top

  1. 4 passes to 3 for shot option
  2. 1 pops to wing

  1. 3 passes to 1 for shot option

  1. 5 backscreens for 4
  2. 4 cuts to opposite block
  3. 1 looks to 4 for post up option

  1. 5 and 3 stagger screen for 2
  2. 2 cuts to top
  3. 1 passes to 2 for shot option

  1. 2 passes to 3

  1. Cuts in order
  2. 2 cuts through middle to opposite baseline
  3. 1 flashes to ball side block
  4. 4 flashes to top

  1. 3 passes to 4 for shot option
  2. 2 pops to wing
  3. 4 passes to 2

  1. 1 backscreens for 3
  2. 2 looks to 3 for post up option

  1. 1 and 4 stagger screen for 5
  2. 5 cuts to the top
  3. 2 passes to 5 for shot option

  1. 5 passes to 4
  2. Cuts in order
  3. 5 cuts to opposite baseline
  4. 2 flashes to ballside block
  5. 3 flashes to the top

  1. 4 passes to 3 for shot option
  2. 5 pops to the wing
  3. 3 passes to 5

  1. 2 backscreens for 4
  2. 4 cuts to opposite block
  3. 5 looks to 4 for post up option

  1. 2 and 3 stagger screen for 1
  2. 1 cuts to top
  3. 5 passes to 1 for shoot option

  1. 1 passes to 3
  2. Cuts in order
  3. 1 cuts to opposite baseline
  4. 5 flashes to block
  5. 4 flashes to top

  1. 3 passes to 4 for shot option
  2. 1 pops to wing
  3. 4 passes to 1

  1. 5 backscreens for 3
  2. 3 cuts to opposite baseline
  3. 1 looks to 3 for post up option

  1. 5 and 5 stagger screen for 2
  2. 2 cuts to top
  3. 1 passes to 2 for shot option

  1. Offense continues to turn over continuously

Called Play Offense

UCLA High-Low Post (1-4 Set) – These are only 3 of many options


1- Point Guard

2,3 – Shooters

4,5 – Post Players

Basic Option

  1. 1 declares a side
  2. 1 passes to 2
  3. 4 sinks to low block

  1. 5 steps up and backscreens for 1
  2. 1 UCLA cuts to block
  3. 2 passes to 1 for layup option

  1. 5 steps out
  2. 2 passes to 5
  3. 4 ducks into the lane

  1. 2 downscreens for 1
  2. 5 passes to 4 for duck in option
  3. 5 passes to 1 for shot option

  1. 5 passes to 3
  2. 4 seals in the lane
  3. 3 passes to 4 for low post option

"Stagger" Option

  1. 1 declares a side with dribble
  2. 1 passes to 2
  3. 4 sinks to block

  1. 5 steps up and backscreens for 1
  2. 1 UCLA cuts to block
  3. 2 passes to 1 for layup option

  1. 5 steps out to ball screen for 2
  2. 3 sinks
  3. 2 comes off dribble screen

  1. 3 and 4 stagger screen for 1
  2. 1 comes off screens
  3. 2 passes to 1 for shot

"Reverse" Option

  1. 1 declares a side with dribble
  2. 1 passes to 2
  3. 4 sinks to block

  1. 5 backscreens for 1
  2. 1 UCLA cuts to block
  3. 2 passes to 1 for layup option

  1. 5 steps out
  2. 2 passes to 5

  1. 4 backscreens for 3
  2. 1 and 2 step to stagger screen
  3. 3 cuts off 3 screens

  1. 5 passes to 3 for shot option
  2. 1 and 2 stagger screen for 4
  3. 4 cuts to ball side block

  1. 1 pops to wing
  2. 2 continues out of the lane
  3. 1 passes to 4 for low post option

Quick Hitters

These plays are designed to get a particular player a shot in a particular spot. Some have secondary options but that is only if the primary shooter is defended.

5 – Up


1 – Point guard

2 – Best Scorer

3 – Best shooter

4,5 – Post men, screeners

  1. 1 dribbles at 2
  2. 2 goes back door and stops at the block

  1. 5 turns to screen
  2. 2 zipper cuts to top
  3. 3 cuts to corner
  4. 1 passes to 2 for shot option

  1. On the catch, 4 immediately sets ballscreen for 2
  2. 2 uses ball screen or shot, layup or spot-up pass to 3 for shot.

America's Play

This is called "America's Play" due to the fact that at one point, it seemed as if everybody in America was running it.


1 – Point guard

2 – Best shooter

3, 4 – Big forwards

5 – Best low post players


  1. 4 steps up and sets ball screen
  2. 1 dribbles off ball screen to wing
  3. 2 sets cross screen for 5
  4. 5 flashes to block

  1. 1 looks to 5 for post up option
  2. 3 and 4 come together on foul line for double screen

  1. 2 cuts off double screen
  2. 1 passes to 2 for shot

3 Special

This is designed to get your best shooter a 3 point shot


1 – Point guard

2 – Best shooter

3 – Secondary shooter

4,5 – Screeners

  1. 2 steps up to ball screen
  2. 5 cross screens for 3
  3. 1 dribbles off ball screen
  4. 3 cuts to corner

  1. Immediately after 1 clears screen by 2
  2. 4 flair screens for 2
  3. 2 cuts over the top outside the 3 point line

  1. 1 throws flair pass to 2 for shot

Zone Offense



1 Point guard – ball reversal

2, 3, 4, - shooters

5 – Post

Basic Instructions
  1. 1 declares a side with the dribble
  2. 4 pops opposite
  3. 1 passes to 4

  1. 4 passes to 3
  2. 5 cuts to mid post
  3. 2 cuts to baseline mid-point
  4. 4 cuts opposite

  1. 3 looks for strong side passing triangle

  1. 1 cuts to ball
  2. 4 pops to the wing
  3. 3 passes to 1

  1. 1 passes to 4
  2. 5 cuts to mid post
  3. 3 cuts to baseline mid-point

  1. 4 looks to strong side passing triangle

  1. 1 cuts to ball side
  2. 2 pops to wing
  3. 4 passes to 1

  1. 1 passes to 2
  2. 5 cuts to mid post
  3. 4 cuts to base line mid point

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Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

John says:
12/20/2007 at 7:21:54 AM

I can not express my joy and gratitude about being allowed to be part of your website coaching family.

All of us who read your site are continously blessed by the materials you provide.

Thank you......


andrew says:
12/20/2007 at 10:33:19 AM

Community offense also called flex is a great offense and I find a lot of very effective openings, one major thing that requires that offense to work is spacing and opening up to the ball after your screens, which then turns into the defense staying behind the picker that extra 1/2 a second. There are also many openings to that offense. Many call it "Flex"


Jeff says:
12/20/2007 at 10:42:03 AM

"Sample cuts 5 Out Motion": #4 has typo. Should be "2 passes to 3".

Thanks for all the good information. Keep up the good work.


Jeff Haefner says:
12/20/2007 at 1:24:51 PM

Got it fixed. Thanks!


wael says:
12/20/2007 at 2:01:46 PM

it's avery usefull,i'm very happy for this important information.thank u,i have some problem with my youth new girls team:
1-afraid of the other teams even it's not strong team.
2-the offense is not good and so is the deffense.
3-they forget every plane i said it and didn't use it.
please tell me what can i do to make ateam like this aperfect team,we have now astopping period,so advice me,plz


Joe (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
12/20/2007 at 4:16:45 PM

Hi Wael,

My first piece of advice would be to get a sound fundamental base on offense and defense before getting too detailed with offenses and defenses. Here's a link to our fundamentals page:

We also recently came out with a Man to Man Defensive System that takes you through the process step by step to develop a man to man defense. Here's the link if you're intersted in that:

We have also answered alot of youth questions along with other stuff as well at this link:

And you'll also need to be very patient with your young players.


emil says:
12/20/2007 at 5:23:45 PM

Very good but do you have something more fresh -new and more complete.some european basketball ideas cause the larger part of your advices are more suited for usa style of basketball and not explained to the last option.a real help would be drills for lets say guard and wing penetrations and positioning of other players after penetration on a 5 out ,4 out 1 in and on 3 out 2 in but complete.
I appreciate what you are doing and keep up the good work.


Fauzi Ibrahim says:
12/21/2007 at 11:41:11 AM


i am from malaysia and are interested in set plays for short players (avr. height: 1.75m)
so i really need some help here
need something fast and effective plays

thank you


maskom says:
12/26/2007 at 1:13:07 AM

come to think of this. with these exciting stuffs on basketball, all these ideas and concepts, philosophies, still basketball is not mastered untill things aren't worked out. it is to the coach's creativity and ingenuity that the game can be raised to the highest level. best of luck to us!


jeff chapman says:
1/6/2008 at 10:24:24 AM

Great Stuff


travis pratt says:
1/6/2008 at 8:28:35 PM

thank you


mike says:
2/17/2008 at 11:15:08 AM

can you e-mail more zone and inbound plays?


Ken says:
2/28/2008 at 3:58:30 PM

Is a motion 4 out 1 in offense too complicated for 3rd-4th graders to learn? Do you have any you recommend?


Jeff Haefner says:
2/29/2008 at 7:58:08 AM


Honestly, it's difficult to teach any offense to 3rd and 4th graders.

The 4 out 1 in motion might be ok, but here are our suggestions:

1) Don't work on offense much at all. Young kids need to work on almost all skill development (shooting form, ballhandling, passing, etc).

2) Use a subset of a simple offense so you don't waste too much time trying to teach kids the correct movements of an offense.

Personally, I like to put them in set starting point, which they should remember for proper spacing purposes (4 out 1 in would work fine). Then teach them two different movements (you can see different cuts and screen above).

That's it. Spend a little time working on spacing (you can try putting tape on the floor so they can see their correct positions on the floor). And spend a little time teaching a few basic cuts or screens. Then go back to skill development.

So to make a long story short, I don't think a 4-1 motion is too complicated, as long as you only teach a VERY small subset of the offense and limit the time you spend teaching it.

The other benefit to teaching motion is you are teaching some skill. Moving without the ball and proper screening is a skill. Remembering 50 different sequences and set plays are NOT skills.

If you want a set patter instead of motion, you can try this:

You can also read similar advice in our youth coaching section:

Hope this helps.

Jeff Haefner


Ken says:
3/18/2008 at 8:16:54 AM

Thanks Jeff. I also have a 7th grade team, will that 4-1 motion be effective against zones?


Jeff Haefner says:
3/18/2008 at 4:02:20 PM

Ken -

A motion can be effective against zones with the right rules. Don Kelbick is writing a Motion Offense book for us and I'd really like you to read some of that information because he does a great job of explaining all this stuff. He's adding a bunch of diagrams and filling in the blanks so it hopefully it will be done before too long.

In any case, when using a motion against a zone, you generally want to position players in the gaps against the zone. So your 4-1 formation might not always work. But that's ok because you can just develop some simple rules when facing zones.

Against a 2-3 zone you might want a 1-3-1 set to put players in the gaps. Against a 1-2-2 your 4-1 set might work fine but a 2-3 set could be more effective. It all depends on your personnel, coaching philosophy, etc.

Spacing, ball reversals, and good movement all work effectively against zone and man defense. Many times "motion offense" coaches will only add some formation rules and give players general tips on attacking zones. For example, in break down drills, the coach might point out the pass to the short corner, then hitting the middle player diving to the basket. That's a very effective movement against the zone.

Hope this helps.



Ken says:
3/18/2008 at 4:59:50 PM

Thanks for that great information Jeff. I'm just trying to find an attacking type of offense that I can utilize players who can get to the basket and utilize mid range jumpshots. I'll be waiting for that information from Don Kelbick.


Linton Garner says:
4/11/2008 at 11:35:34 AM

Just wantedto let you guys know this is a great website and I look forward to getting the newsletter

Thanks again

Linton Garner


Frank says:
4/22/2008 at 7:46:37 PM

Great plays!Do you have any plays that can be set up during a time out?Sometimes my players get confused when there are too many steps involved.They need something effective but not too complicated.


Joe Haefner (Co-Founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
4/22/2008 at 8:04:34 PM

Hi Frank,

It is very hard for players to execute after seeing for the first time on a clipboard. My advice would be to practice the plays in practice before trying to use them during a game.

Then, you can have a play card to remind yourself of all of the plays you have practiced. During a timeout, you can draw it up on the clipboard to remind the players of the play.

You can reference plays on our site at this link:

You can also reference plays in our free Breakthrough Plays ebook by signing up for the ebook at this link:


Mark says:
6/18/2008 at 5:21:21 PM

I teach the dribble motion and have for the last 6 years coaching. Buut i am also very interested in the Triangle offense and its press break. Is there any way i can get more information on the basic reads and reactions this offense offers against man to man defense (preferably with the relocations off dribble drives)?


KENT-FU says:
8/5/2008 at 8:57:11 AM



Bart says:
11/18/2008 at 6:46:11 AM

I'm starting to appreciate this website more and more. Have gotten some of your products and really liked them. Keep up the good work.


Tim says:
2/24/2009 at 11:26:52 AM

I really appreciate the website keep up the good work


CG says:
4/2/2009 at 12:48:56 AM

First time reading this site; found some great drills and fundamental to help coaching the teams. Will continue to tap into the useful information and resources available. Thanks and great work.


TOFU says:
6/8/2009 at 12:26:19 PM




Darryl Bayliss says:
6/16/2009 at 7:36:02 PM


I come from New Zealand and where i have growin up it is a big basketball town but ive neva had a coach growing up. This site is about the closest thing ive had to a coach an im now 22. keep up the site it is primo


DC says:
6/26/2009 at 7:19:25 PM


Zone Offense is for use against a Zone Defense. You would not run it against a man-to-man defense. The way you know you''re playing against a zone is to have your point guard pass to one of the wings and then cut to the basket. If the defensive player who was matched up with your point guard at the top of the key does not follow, you''re facing some sort of zone defense.

I would tell you to start with the 5 out motion against man-to-man defenses, unless you believe you have a distinct advantage with a dominant post (big) player.

Even if you and your players are all new to the game, the concepts of "pass and go away" and "pass and cut to the basket" are easily taught, grasped and built upon. You can then progress from players merely "trading places" and "moving around" to setting effective screens, and then to reading how the defense plays against the screens, and reacting to take advantage of the defense''s strategy.


shady kim says:
8/11/2009 at 4:36:05 AM

Am happy to get such kind of free tips thanks and i encourage you to continue that way cheers Guys we want to be good players like Kobe of lakers.


Tom says:
10/9/2009 at 1:03:32 PM

Thank you so much to those who have contributed to this site. No doubt this is a serviceable tool for current and new coaches alike. I'm not a huge fan of becoming a 'system' coach myself, but this has certainly given me some much appreciated insight into what styles of offenses i will likely employ for a generic squad. Cheers once again!



Mike says:
1/7/2010 at 11:26:38 AM

Just discovered this site and love it so far!!

The Triangle offense, which you attribute to Phil Jackson, was actually pioneered by Sam Barry (USC''s hall-of-fame head coach of multiple sports) and later refined by should-be-hall-of-famer Tex Winter, once a successful college head coach (most notably Kansas State 1953-68) and long-time assistant in the NBA. Winter used the triangle in coaching highly successful KSU teams in the 50's and 60's, long before Jackson was coaching anywhere.

Jackson first met Winter in the late 80''s with the Bulls and adopted Winter''s version of the triangle shortly after.


Scott says:
2/18/2010 at 9:35:33 PM

Andrew, it''''s a Continuity offense not community. Secondly if you reread the article, you will notice that they do mention that the name of that certain offense is called flex.

Great website great for all coachs at all levels, teaching players at all levels.


ED says:
6/16/2010 at 12:34:54 AM

Hi I'm a new coach for a girls 6th grade ball team. We played a game this week against a good team that had 3 players waiting for us as soon as our girls brought it across the half court line. then they trapped us and if we managed to get it to another guard on the side they trapped us there. Where should I position the girls to be able to beat this? We never were able to even have any kind of offense running.
Thanks ED


Jeff Haefner says:
7/21/2010 at 8:31:02 AM


Sorry we didn't respond right away. Didn't see this comment until now.

My first response is that 6th graders should not be pressing and trapping. That doesn't help with player development at that age. If possible, find another league that doesn't allow presses.

When beating pressure, the most important things are:

- spacing, with a player always 3 feet behind the ball
- ball reversals
- avoiding danger areas (just past half court near the side line)
- getting the ball in the middle
- spacing (yes I'm saying it again)

It's also important to mix things up using pass fakes (in addition to ball reversals) to move the defense. Here's a diagram showing the basic spacing (which is the same in full and half court):

I'm finishing up a PDF report and video that shows exactly how to beat pressure and avoid turnovers. I'll send an announcement and link to everyone on our newsletter list, so you might want to sign up for that.
I think the free PDF and video will really help you.


Rob says:
9/14/2010 at 8:55:48 AM

I love your work! Thank you for providing this valuable resource. I'm from Melbourne, Oz, and the game has been extremely popular here for 30 years or so. It will continue to grow because people like you care to share. Keep it coming!


betty says:
12/14/2010 at 2:57:38 PM

Hi! Love the site.
I played through college on a Div 3 women's team, but it's been a long time since playing. I am now coaching a grade 3&4 girls team. We played another team with older kids and it did not go well (26-8 loss). But, the kids had fun anyway and really didn't do anything too bad to what we went over. We have other things to address, so I hope rebounding and defense will improve a bit in the next few weeks. My biggest issue to address on offense is getting the kids open to pass the ball. The ball handler was constantly being double teamed when stopped at the wing to pass. The other girls were moving, even coming close enough to HAND OFF the ball it seemed, but the pass was not coming. I think some was intimidation, some was inexperience to give the elbow :), some was other players not getting open, but really I think the refs should have blown the whistle a few times when the ball was not moving for 5 seconds. The girls were really frustrated at this during the game.

So, what is the best drill to get the kids to get open! Or is it making quicker passes right away? The ball handler was doing a good job holding the pivot (had to teach that using at least 2 of your drills after the first practice), but there was no one open to pass to while they were swarmed with very aggressive defenders.

I am going to ask the refs about this for the next game, but I would prefer to get the kids to improve some skills to avoid the situation.


Joe Haefner says:
12/14/2010 at 7:47:25 PM

Hi Betty,

Thank you for the kind words. In regards to your 3rd grade team, that's just a developmental issue. They are too weak and lack the experience to know how to handle these situations. They can barely dribble the ball and pass the ball. Now, you add a defender, then two defenders... Good luck! :)

I would suggest that you read some of these forum posts. I think they would help put some things in perspective for working with that age group.


Kip Donegan says:
11/1/2011 at 5:31:31 PM

I love all of these different ways you have illustrated on how players can get open. I'm always trying to get my boys to stop watching the ball. I've told that at any given time, 80% of the time the ball isn't in your hands. Great advice!!


JD says:
11/29/2011 at 1:49:15 PM


Great site. I have a question.

I am coaching a 4th grade team that has alot of height but are weak in the dribbling area.

We see all zone defenses. I see your suggestion above regarding what to teach 3rd/4th grade teams.

Which offense would you suggest to suit our team?



tom says:
5/26/2012 at 10:15:27 PM

very good!,,this website is very helpful for us players!,


Emmanuel Ochago says:
9/9/2013 at 10:23:35 AM

hi am a new and young coach in our school team.What is the easiest way of teaching a new basketball offense?


Ken Sartini says:
9/9/2013 at 10:36:14 AM

Emmanuel -

There are a lot of ways of going about this... but I am of the Whole / Part ? Whole philosophy.

1- Show them the entire offense

2- Then break it down by parts

3- Then put the whole offense together

You can go slowly at first.... then about half speed.... then let them get after it. JMO


cOACH lOW says:
10/20/2013 at 11:52:32 AM

Thank you for sharing with others.


Sheryl says:
1/6/2014 at 1:20:41 AM

I coach an 11-12 year old girls team and I run the motion offense. This is the third year we have done this offense with my team and we are finally playing it beautifully. It takes time for the girls to learn it, but if you are committed to it, and keep working at it, you will see your team understanding it and executing it. The first year I received criticism because in games we spent much time passing around the perimeter, not looking to hit cutters or to go to the basket, and would lose the ball due to a bad pass or someone not continuing her cut to receive the ball. Repetition, repetition, repetition, and it pays off! This season I have received numerous compliments on my team's play by referees, other coaches, and parents from both teams. It has taken 2 1/2 years to get to this point. My point is, embrace your philosophy, stick to it, teach it, repeat teaching it millions of times, and be positive and patient. It is so nice as a coach to sit back when we are on offense and watch the girls create their magic. It takes time to learn this offense but it sure pays off!


Ken Sartini says:
1/6/2014 at 9:41:48 AM

Sheryl -

Kudos for sticking to your guns and philosophy. It is hard to teach young kids how to execute things properly, but as you say, REPETITION is the key!

Don't listen to what others have to say, there are a 100 coaches sitting in the stands who THINK they know how to coach the game.... after all, they never lose a game up there. :-)

Congratulations and keep up the good work... oh yeah, thanks for sharing this with all the other coaches. Too bad we cant reach every youth coach.


fro says:
1/15/2014 at 3:06:45 AM

Just a friendly FYI, under the Called Play UCLA High-Low offense, there''s a typo.

6. 1 passes to 1 for layup option

Should read 2 passes to 1 for layup option.

Thanks for the read.


Joe Haefner says:
1/15/2014 at 8:15:08 AM

Thanks, Fro. Got it fixed.


Coach Judi says:
1/15/2014 at 3:20:27 PM

I stumbled on a 4 corner passing drill that moves 3 balls at a time. One pass cut the diagonal and there were 2 more passes. It worked on moving to the ball. Have you seen or know of one?


Jeff Haefner says:
1/22/2014 at 7:42:56 AM

Judi - Here are three different 4 corner passing drills:


Homegrown2014 says:
2/6/2014 at 12:09:50 PM

I am now a great coach


Peter Wandukwa says:
7/10/2014 at 12:33:21 PM



dan says:
11/6/2014 at 9:25:15 AM

I have a one question. What is difference between downscreen and zipper.
Im coach from argentina, greetings. good job with your website.


Jeff Haefner says:
11/6/2014 at 10:14:40 AM

A zipper is a cut where the player comes up with lane line. For example, they might be on the low block, then they cut up the lane line to the guard spot on the perimeter. You can zipper cut with or without a screen.


larry butler says:
4/13/2015 at 12:21:49 PM

Hello, I coach 7th and 8th girl. I have 1 and half shooters and 1 ball handlers. What kind of offense and defense should I run, girls are not that skilled.Thanks

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
4/21/2015 at 4:43:52 PM


Unfortunately, it's not going to matter what offense and defense you run over the long run if your players are not skilled.

The key to their success over the long run is having a coach who is going to practice fundamentals.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful:




Jon says:
9/19/2016 at 9:13:11 AM

Coaching High School Girls its a rebuilding year we are a very young team. We had a winning record last year in a very competitive part Indiana. We lost 5 starting Seniors and have only 2 returning Varsity players with significant minutes. When we sub we will take on different look. Sometimes we will be a 3 out 2 in type team others we will be 4 out 1 or 5 out 0 in just depends on who is on floor. At times we will be playing freshman we have only 1 or 2 Seniors. I have been a coach that has ran Dribble Drive, Read and React, Flex, Motion, Pattern Offenses and Quick Hitters. The two years I ran Flex I went 35 wins and 6 loses. Both years I didn't have true point guard. We had descent size lots of 2s, 3's and 4s with a few 5s. Flex fit the personnel. This year we are looking at teaching true motion and just adjust how many we have inside based on who is on the floor. Will probably need a transition game into motion and 3 quick hitters. Also looking at Wisconsin Swing and I kinda like idea of Princeton. Any suggestions?

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
9/19/2016 at 1:31:35 PM

Jon - Sounds like motion is the way to go... gives you total flexibility. Princeton and Swing might work fine too but I'm less familiar with those. For motion I have run 5 out when we have 3 solid post guys that I often played at the same time... it caused problems for opponents because we could take advantage of mismatches for at least one of our post guys. There are lots of ways to post from 5 out which most people don't think of that when running that offense. Bottom line is motion gives you all kinds of flexibility. You can also morph from 5-out to 4-out to 3-out if you want. If you need anything else or need any resources, let us know.


Sam says:
11/30/2016 at 6:10:28 AM

Who''s the author of this interesting article? Thanks

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
12/2/2016 at 8:00:28 AM

Don Kelbick wrote this article.


billy bob joe jr the third says:
10/3/2018 at 5:30:08 PM

hahahahah great stuff


Coach J says:
5/31/2019 at 9:11:15 AM

Amazing stuff on here!
However, you said: "It is impossible to steer a player toward his strengths without pushing him away from his weaknesses."
I completely disagree. When you steer a player to their strengths, they focus on using them primarily in games and gives them the confidence to confidently work on the areas of their game which they already know need work. Players often know their weaknesses, but ignore them to their (and your) eventual detriment. Don't make them ignore them, allow them to confidently work on them knowing they just haven't yet spent the time it takes to be good at that skill.


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