Motion Offense – Cutting And Screening Basics

By Randy Sherman

In the premier of the FastModel Motion Offense Forum last week, we introduced the foundation of motion offense – the basket cut. Building the habit of basket cutting is essential to motion offense and it leads us to our next progressions.

There are new concept to be introduced, but the basket cut will be referred back to often.

Today, let’s begin by learning the basic downscreen, the four cuts that are used in motion offense and introduce some methods of teaching them.

The four cuts fit neatly into two categories.

Inside Cuts

    • Curl – executed when defender trails or chases the cutter
    • Back – executed when defender jumps above the screener or “guesses” or overplays on the cut

Outside Cuts

    • Out – executed when the defender goes ball side of the screen
    • Straight –executed when defender runs into the screen

To isolate these actions and teach timing in detail, using the drill 1/0 With Chair is a good starting point. Set up a folding chair on the court with the back of the chair angled towards the top of the circle. This emulates the eventual position of the screener when executing a downscreen.

Players on the wing have a basketball and they pass to a coach/manager/teammate who is centered. Here are the key teaching elements:

  • “Walk the arc” (Don Meyer) – this refers to setting up the cut and using a change of tempo to use the screen effectively. Players should walk into the set up and get to the plane of the screener (chair).
  • Sprint the cut directly at the chair!
  • Call your cut! (“Curl! Curl! Curl!”)
  • Tight cuts score!

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Make sure you run the drill on both side of the floor. Optimally, there would be four lines and four chairs with two on each end plus a coach passing and players rotating through the drill all over the gym! It should be loud with players calling cuts.

This is your basic shooting drill for motion offense. Set the chairs up before and after practice and players can partner and run these cuts on their own. Game shots, game shots, at game speed!

2/0 With a Coach

After the cuts are introduced, it is time to progress to the introduction of the downscreen. The downscreen is the most common screen in motion offense. If you run four-out, three-out/two-in or five out, it does not matter, players will set downscreens.

The first step in the downscreen is the basket cut. After passing, the player must basket cut. If the defender does not jump to the ball then there is a give-and-go opportunity. But assuming the defender jumps to the ball on the pass, the basket cut gets him on the ball side and frees the player to make a downscreen. The basket cut sets the screening angle for the downscreen.

In this 2/0 drill emphasize a hard step with the near foot after the pass is made from the slot to the coach.

Here are some key teaching elements:

  • Coaches: demonstrate why each cut is made and explain that the curl is for the trail, the back is for the overplay, the out is for when a defender goes ball side and the straight is for when a defender runs into the screen
  • Screeners: jumpstop into the screen just off the elbow. Back should be pointing at the top of circle
  • Cutters: when pass is made to coach, begin walking the arc and setting up the cut.
  • Screeners: Talk! Call the screen. “Joey! Joey! Downscreen!” Throw up a fist as a signal as well.
  • Cutters: after walking the arch run directly at the screener and miss him/her late
  • Cutters: call your cut! (“Curl! Curl! Curl!”)
  • Coaches: with no defense you determine the cuts in the drill. I recommend teaching the inside cuts first (Curl, Back). Set 8:00 on the clock and go through the four cuts for two minutes each as an idea. (longer if needed)
  • Coaches: Empasize the concept of second cutters! If the cutter makes an inside cut, the screener makes an outside cut and vice versa.
  • Coaches: Always pass to the cutter first in this drill.
  • Coaches: On the out cut, the screener must change the angle of the screen and pin imaginary defender into the lane!

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Progress through the cuts and flip the drill and run it on both sides of the floor.

This is a foundation drill that is a shooting drill for motion teams. These are your shots and the ones to be practicing. Use them during a pregame warm up! Game shots, game spots, at game speed!

Building these motion offense habits are essential before adding defenders and going live. Players should grasp the concepts of walking the arc, running tight to the screen, second cutters, jump-stopping into the screen before progressing.

There are two places to continue this motion offense discussion, ask questions and offer your own ideas:


LinkedIn Discussion Group:

Use the Twitter hashtag #MotionOffenseTips as well!

Any questions: Happy to talk hoops any time day or night! If you would like to be added to the motion offense mailing list, email and let me know!

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.

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  1. Mark Chapman said:

    How long do you use these 1/0 to 4/0 drills in the preseason before progressing into the next phase with defenders?

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