Thoughts of former GB Mens Head Coach and NBA assistant coach Chris Finch on developing a motion offense


    1. It is important to have a philosophy of how you want or think the game should be played.
    2. There are many different and effective approaches to the game – pick one!
    3. Having a philosophy you believe in makes it easier to “sell” your ideas to your team.
    4. Remain open-minded, continually learn, adapt, and experiment but stay true to your philosophy.



    1. Allows the coach the ability to build around team’s strengths.
    2. Can be used effectively without specific positional players, (i.e. point guard, center, etc).
    3. Allows you to substitute more freely in games and play more players.
    4. Effective against man and zone defenses.
    5. Can be practiced with short numbers in training (i.e. 3 on 3, 4 on 4, etc).


    1. Players enjoy the freedom they are given to use their developed skills.
    2. Flows seamlessly from a transition game.
    3. All players are involved in every trip down the floor. 

Develops trust and basketball intelligence in your players.

    1. Players learn to share the ball and work for each other.
    2. Coach must be able to relinquish control and trust players.
    3. Constant repetition of the games subtleties continually teaches and reinforces.
    4. Players learn to play all over the floor (i.e. post and perimeter)


    1. Keeps your opponents off-balance.
    2. Un-scoutable.
    3. When all else fails…it’s the essence of basketball.



A freelance “read and react” attack based on fundamentals with a simple set of rules.

It is not “street ball” or “run and gun.” – It requires teamwork, discipline and intelligence.

A system based on the following components:

    1. 5 players moving in concert with each other and the ball
    2. Role definition
    3. Spacing, balance and player movement
    4. Screening
    5. Ball movement / ball reversal
    6. Shot selection



 Involvement – all 5 players are required to be mentally and physically involved in every play.

Role definition

    1. Coach decides who plays where, who shoots from where, who screens, etc.
    2. “Equal opportunity” offense does not mean everyone can shoot at any time.
    3. It is best if players’ roles were to evolve naturally within the offense based on skills.

Spacing, balance and player movement

    1. Start high and wide to allow backdoors, early penetration and screening options/angles.
    2. Maintain spacing 15-18 feet apart at all times.
    3. Floor should be balanced with a reversal man at all times.
    4. At times motion offense will become unbalanced; simply recognize and rebalance.
    5. Stress movement, especially after passing.
    6. Avoid making two simultaneously movements in the same direction.
    7. Recognise the times to wait, stand or space without movement.


    1. One of the most effective ways to break down a defense.
    2. Making contact and setting effective legal screens.
    3. Reading screens vs. straight man, switching man and zones.

Ball movement / Reversal

    1. Limit the use of the dribble to attack the basket, balance the floor or escape trouble.
    2. Ball reversal is the key to getting an open shot.
    3. Stress consecutive passes. “Let the ball do the work.”
    4. Do not pass away from screening action.
    5. Get the ball inside as early and as much as possible to pressure the defense.

Shot Selection

    1. Work for high percentage, open shots.
    2. Define for your players what a good shot is.
    3. Understanding shot selection in the context and flow of the game.
    4. Rebounding coverage.



  1. 5 Out – All 5 players occupying all areas of the floor. Post and perimeter interchangeable.
  2. 4 Out – 4 perimeter players moving around a single post. Perimeter players may post too.
  3. 3 Out/2 In – 2 low posts working primarily inside.
  4. High-Low* – 3 perimeter around 2 posts who move primarily between the high and low post.
  5. Box Set – 3 perimeter around 2 posts which features a baseline runner.

* see attached notes on complete rules to a High-Low Motion Offense



Part Method Teaching = introduce the whole concept, then break it down and build it back up.

Drills – 1 on 1

  1. Explode to the Basket – stressing getting open and quick moves on the catch.
  2. Three Moves Explode – version of above, offense must get open 3 times.
  3. Inside – working on establishing good post position and making moves.

Drills – 2 on 2

  1. Screening – setting and reading screens. Start 2 on 0, then 2 on 1 using all types of screens; down, cross, back, flair, ball, re-screen.
  2. Inside – posts work on passing, screening, sealing and crashing together.
  • Guard Exchange or 2 on 2 on a side.

Drills 3 on 3

  1. 3 on 3 on the perimeter
  2. 2 out, 1 in
  • 1 out, 2 in
  1. on a side
  2. 3 on 3 or 3 on 4 penetrate and kick

Drills 4 on 4

  1. High-Low action
  2. 3 Out/1 In feeding and screening for the post
  • Only the Screener Can Score


50 Passes – 5 on 5 (or 4 on 4) game which stresses passing, moving and screening.

  1. Rules and Scoring:
  2. No dribbling allowed.
  3. 1 point for every pass completed, 5 points for a lay up or foul, other baskets count as normal.
  4. Must score within 24 seconds.
  5. If a team scores they retain possession and begin again.
  6. Turnovers change possession.
  7. First team to total 50 points wins.

Motion offense with restrictions – Placing demands or limits on your team to emphasize specific actions or rules. Some examples are:

  1. No Dribble or limit dribble to drive only.
  2. Must throw a certain number of passes before taking an outside shot.
  3. Must reverse the ball a certain number of times (usually 2-3).
  4. The low post must touch the ball twice before an outside shot is taken.
  5. Work the offense for a particular player to score.
  6. Work the offense for a 3 point shot.
  7. Work the offense until we get a specific situation (wing isolation, backscreen-rescreen, pass and cut, screen across for the post, wing post up, etc).

No score scrimmaging – Play a controlled scrimmage with no score. Instead the coach grades shot selection awarding points for good shots taken when open, that are high percentage, within the context and flow of the game and when there is good rebound coverage.

Box, Break and Read – Begin with 5 on 5 random movement where every pass is passed back to the coach. Emphasize screening, spacing and moving after passing. The coach shoots the ball, the defense boxes out and the offense crashes hard. After the ball is secured the defense breaks 5 on 0 and runs the offense “dummy” at the opposite basket. After they accomplish their given task (set number of passes, restriction, etc) they return to the original end against a waiting and set defense. While the team with the ball is at the opposite end running 5 on 0 motion the coach instructs the waiting team as to what type of defense to play.       Some typical defenses are:

  1. Straight man to man (pressure, sagging, denial)
  2. Switching man to man. Can either switch all screens or “like” screens.
  3. Various zones (2-3, 3-2, 1-3-1)
  4. Trapping defenses, either full or half court.
  5. Junk (Box and 1, Triangle and 2)
  6. What ever your next opponent will be using against you

6 on 5, 5 on 4 or 4 on 3 – To emphasize spacing, moving and execution to create an open shot give the defense a 1 (or even 2) man advantage. Players will soon see the real value of ball and player movement and how to quickly recognize open opportunities to drive, pass or shoot. This drill is excellent because it makes practice harder than games and that is something every coach should try to achieve.



  1. Do something for someone else. Try to get someone else a shot by screening and moving.
  2. Pay attention to the man in front of you. He will often dictate your movement.
  3. No offence can survive players who cannot pass and catch. Turnovers kill!
  4. Reverse the ball.
  5. Move with a purpose.
  6. Don’t rush, slow down, execute. One good screen is better than 10 poor ones.
  7. Win the “game within the game.” Who is reacting to whom? Put pressure on the defence.
  8. Try to get your players to think 2 passes ahead. Anticipate what their teammates will do.
  9. Master the 3 dynamics of player interaction: Post-post, perimeter-perimeter, and post-perimeter.
  10. You can shoot, dribble and even pass too much but you can never rebound too much.
  11. Play offence until you score, play defence until you get the ball. Transition is part of each.
  12. Patience! Motion offence takes time for all players to understand and feel comfortable.



Entries – Coaches can design various ways to enter their motion offense.

Transition – motion offense allows for a seamless joining of a transition game and a half court attack.

From the Running Game – A dedicated commitment to the running game puts the defense in a vulnerable position by forcing them to retreat to protect the basket and/or lane and thereby opening up passing entries into motion. We call this “flattening out the defense.” It also forces the defense to continually react out of the lane and opens up penetration and reversal opportunities.

From a Secondary Break – There are many patterned secondary break options that flow nicely into motion offenses. Be sure to pick or design one that puts your players where you want them easily at its conclusion.

Halfcourt – Simple half court actions can be designed to handle pressure or enter motion offense. These include:

  1. Double downscreens.
  2. Backscreen flairs.
  3. Cross screens.
  4. Staggered screens.
  5. Ballscreens.

Changing Motions – If you use multiple motion offenses you can switch from one to another during a game to take advantage or personnel matchups.  For example, you can force a big team to play on the perimeter or a small to play inside. You can also switch motion offenses according to your substitutions and your team will slightly alters its movements and emphasis without changing its style, most of the time without the opponent even noticing.

Drawing up plays in timeouts – Since your players will be playing with a “free mind” and an understanding of basketball basics they will become very adept at picking up and executing simple plays designed in timeouts to take advantage of certain situations, i.e. clock, mismatch or getting a specific shot attempt.