Basketball Plays: The Art of Running Set Plays and Scoring More Points

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It seems that almost everyone loves to draw up set plays and come up with new ways to get easy buckets for their team.

It's not surprising because there's nothing more exciting than drawing up a special play to get a basket when you really need it!

Imagine for a moment...

Your team is down by one.

There's 8 seconds left in the game.

You draw up a special play during time a out.

Your players execute to perfection...

And your team makes a wide open lay up right as the buzzer goes off and they win the game!!!

Does it get any better than that?

I think this is why so many people are intrigued by the set play and they're always trying to find new ones. It's a lot of fun!

But before we get too far, let's define a set play so we're all on the same page...
What is a set play?

A set play is a strategically planned and choreographed sequence of movements to get open shots and score points. Generally speaking the sequence is run through just one time.

Set plays are quick hitters to score points at a certain point during the game. They should not be your entire offensive system.

When should you use set plays?

A set play typically adds a twist to an offense. It gives you the opportunity to show the defense something different to keep them off balance. Plays can run into your motion offense, or you could choose to run a play after running your offense for a certain amount of time.

Set plays are most commonly run out of the following special situations:

  • after time outs
  • at the beginning of games (right after the tip off)
  • at end of games
  • when you really need a basket
  • when your offense is stagnant
  • after your secondary break

How do you choose the right set plays for your team?

To choose the right set plays, you need to consider the following:

  • Your offensive set. It's best to choose set plays that have the same formation as your offensive set. So for example, if you run your primary offense from a box set, it's best to choose plays that have a similar box formation. This way the defense doesn't get a cue to what's coming.

  • Your personnel. This is important. If you have a phenomenal post player that is great at scoring inside, then you'll want to choose lots of plays that will get them open inside. If your post game is poor but you have great shooters and ball handlers, then choose plays that spread things out and keep the defense off balance. You'll need to carefully consider your players strengths and weaknesses when choosing your set plays.

  • Your coaching preferences and philosophy. Not much needs to be said about this because it happens naturally. But this is a consideration. Are you a conservative coach that likes to slow things down and execute in the half court? Do you want to run and gun? Do you want to shoot lots of three pointers? All this will reflect the plays that you choose.

  • Will you run the same plays and set offense every year? Or will you find new ones each year? This could obviously eliminate the plays you ran last year.

  • What are your plays designed to do? Most coaches have a dozen or so plays in their back pocket to deal with various situations. So the first thing you should is do make a list of the various situations you want to be prepared for. To give you an idea, you might want a couple plays to get post players open, a couple plays when you need a basket during the game, a couple plays for end of game situations, and a couple plays for the end of periods. But keep in mind, it's better to just have a few good plays, that your players become really good at, rather than overloading your team with too many options.

To learn how to score more points and do a good job of running effective set plays, be sure to read this article:

16 Tips for Running Effective Plays

Once you learn the basics from the article above, here are a few set plays for you to try out:

Basketball Man to Man Plays

      UNI Play

      Don Kelbick's Motion Offense

      1-3-1 Cutters



      Swing Variation

      5 Out Zinger

      4 Out Swing Rattle

      Picket Fence

      Cincy - Man or Zone

      Houston Rockets Box Set - Big Man

      3 Man Series Play

      5 Quick Hitters for Your Motion Offense

      2 Basketball Pick and Roll Plays

      3 Essential Flex Offense Plays - 1-4 High Set

      Flex Offense Play - Strong Side Ball Screen

Basketball Zone Plays



      Overload 2



      Quick Hitter Vs. 1-3-1 Zone

      Cincy - Man or Zone

Zone Plays Resource:

Beating the Zone - 75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense

Basketball Out of Bounds Plays


      Slice - Sideline

      Wide Open Spaces - Under Basket

      Post 1 - Under Basket

      Line - Press Breaker

      Cheetah - Press Breaker

      Celtics Handoff - Sideline

      Kansas St - Screen the Inbounder Play

      Chicago Bulls Vs. Orlando Magic - Baseline

      Kobe's Game-Winning 3-Pointer Vs. Grizzlies - Sideline

      Illinois's Box Z - Baseline Out of Bounds Play Against Zone

Special Situation Plays

      Foul Shot Tip-In Plays

      Foul Shot Fast Breaks

IF YOU'D LIKE MORE SET PLAYS, check out our FREE 85 page ebook with 32 great basketball plays that are neatly organized and ready for you to print out in PDF format.