Motion Offense – Basic

The motion offense is a generic term for any offense that uses court movement, cuts to the ball or the basket, and good screen setting.  The one thing that separates the Motion offense from others is that it is quite flexible – you don’t have to have set plays every time you bring the ball down the court.

Instead, the Motion Offense is focused on teaching players to use a basic set of rules for their movements, and then to react to what is being done defensively on the court.  With the variation in defense, the motion offense has a variety of looks and several different options available.  We’ll take a look at the basic 3 out – 2 in offense.  The other variations of this offense are:

-“ The 4 out – 1 in
-“ The 5 out
-“ The 1-3-1
-“ The 1-4

… and in each of those there are variations. 

3 out – 2 in

This is a basic motion offense that you could see at any high school or even college level game.  It will most often utilize one strong, ball handling point guard, 2 wingers (on the perimeter) and 2 post players.  In the motion offense, you usually play to your skills and design your motion offense plays based on those strengths.  It can be run against a zone defense, or a man-to-man.

Here are a few basic rules of thumb for the motion offense:

-“ The point guard always bring the ball up because the offense is set off their direction.  The point guard is always the last line of defense against the fast break and does not rebound (unless he or she drives the lane).

-“ The perimeter forward need to be versatile players that can either drive the lane, set screens and be quick enough to find the open areas of the court.  They also need to be ball-smart so they can read what a defender is doing and react according to the basic concepts of the motion offense.

-“ The post players need to be agile enough to set screens and cut to the hoop off of a pick and roll, and tough enough to grind it out on the boards against some of the toughest man-to-man and zone defenses.

-“ This is more of a concept offense than a ‘set play’ offense.  Once the players know how to read and react to an opposing defense, then a coach can design set plays based on the defensive alignment of his opposition.

-“ The key to this offense being successful is balance and spacing.  Too much crowding keeps the shooting lanes and driving lanes closed.  Passes are easily intercepted and screens are ineffective.

Basic 3 out – 2 in alignment


These are the options that the players in the motion offense have.  Dribbling is usually not an option unless a player is in trouble (because of a double team or trap), to open a passing or driving lane, or if they are in danger of having a 5 second violation.  Otherwise, it is pass, screen, drive or cut to the hole. 

The 1 man (point guard) brings the ball up the court and has one of four options:

-“ Drive to the hoop
-“ Pass to the 2 or 3 man
-“ Pass to the post
-“ Wait for a screen and run the offense from the corner of the perimeter

So, looking at the graphic on the previous page you will see that with the basic 3 out – 2 in motion offense you have plenty of options:

-“ The 1 man can pass to the 2 or 3 man on the outside, or as they are cutting to the hoop; either over the top of their defender, or back door.  If the point guard passes it wide to the 2 or 3 man, he or she can cut through the key for a return pass.
-“ The 1 man can pass to the high post coming to the top of the key, or use the high post as a decoy to hit the back door wing route. If the guard hits the post with a pass, the wing can still cut back door and get a pass from the high post.
-“ The point guard can drive to the hoop on a screen from the wing, or use the screen to run the offense from the wing.
-“ The one post player can set a screen and the other can go back door or over the top (based on the defense) to get a pass from the point guard.

This is just the first step of the offense – done from the point guard position.  Even though the graphic shows only one side, you can mirror the image and run the same offense on the other side.  Also, with each pass around the perimeter you can set the offense from that point.  The great thing about this offense is that it can be adapted to whatever defense is being run against you.  Also, it is open to many different options at the coaches’ and players’ discretion.

Keys to the Motion offense

-“ Don’t dribble unless you have to.  It is a passing and moving offense.  Each pass should be followed by a triple threat position. 
-“ Your players need to learn to read and recognize where there are openings in a defense – and then exploit them.  Once they understand the different options they have this offense can be quite successful.
-“ A good ball control and passing point guard is essential – they set the offense and make the first pass.

The motion offense is just that – full of motion.  With each pass that is made, the players react to where the ball is going, and look for an opening to make a play.  Once the wing gets the ball, they can pass to the post; when the post gets the ball it can pass to the back door cutting winger, etc.

Motion offense is the first basic team offense you can look at.