Motion Offense – Flare Screen Essentials

By Randy Sherman

In the latest entry into the FastModel Motion Offense Forum, Vol. 4 deals with such topics as designating screeners and cutters, shallow cuts and flare screens.

Fairly soon into your installation of motion offense, you will need to decide if you are going to designate players as either screeners or cutters in your offense. That decision can be based on personnel or your personal preference as a coach. And there are options if designating screeners and cutters is not in your plans.

If left free from such restrictions, players in a motion offenses will evolve into such roles. The question is, will these roles fit your evaluation of your team? Will the players that need to be getting the bulk of the shots get those shots if left to their own devices?

For the purpose of this series, the drill progressions that lead to the installation of a full motion offense will feature designated screeners and cutters. Here are some thoughts on the matter:

  • Teams will have very few players who can make all four cuts to score
  • The most complete offensive players should be receiving the screens (and most of the shots)
  • Giving players a defined role clears up much of the confusion about what to “do” in a motion offense
  • Allows screeners to “play off” of your most skilled players
  • Given a specific role, players will become better at it over time. Screeners will become better screeners, cutters will become better cutters

There are screening principles other than designating screeners and cutters such as:

  • Inside man always screens for outside man (“inside” meaning the player closest to the midline)
  • Screen for the player below you (towards the baseline)
  • Pass and screen away

None of these give individual players as clearly defined roles as designating screeners and cutters.

Introduction to Shallow Cuts

The shallow cut is an integral part of motion offense. It can serve as a pressure release, put a guard in the post, set up a flare screen or make for the best backdoor cut in basketball.

A shallow cut occurs when a player with the ball on the point or high elbow (slot) dribbles at the wing. The player on the wing then cuts hard to the block, pauses in the post, then sprints to fill the high elbow. The two players essentially trade places.

Use it when a screener is above a cutter to introduce variety into motion offense. The shallow cut is the foundational skill before introducing the flare screen.


2/0 Shallow & Shallow Back Drill


If the defender overplays the fill and denies the pass back to the high elbow, plant and go backdoor. This is one of the best backdoor opportunities in basketball.
Introduction to Flare Screen

In the previous entry to the motion offense series, we discussed downscreens and progressed to the point of defending the cutter and playing two-on-one. Before advancing to two-on-two live play it is important to introduce the flare screen for the screener will not always be above the cutter.

Connecting the shallow cut with the flare screen into this 2/0 Shallow Flare Drill is a great way to integrate both elements.

2/0 Shallow Cut Flair Drill

2/0 Shallow Cut Flair Drill

The screener starts with the ball on the high elbow and dribbles at the wing sending him/her on a shallow cut. Once the high elbow is filled, the ball is reversed to the coach. On the flight of the pass to coach, screener sprints into the flare screen. Below are some tips on flare screen techniques.

Some keys to effective flare screens:

  • The screeners back should be pointed to the corner of the court.
  • The cutter sets up the flare screen by first making a basket cut to get his defender to the ball side.
  • The screener should jump stop into the screen and allow the cutter to rub the defender off of him.
  • After you screen, separate!
  • The cutter should not settle on the same plane as the screener
  • Use verbal cues! The screener should call the cutters name and yell “Flare! Flare!”
  • If the cutter’s defender goes under the flare screen, the screener should change the angle of the screen and the cutter should out cut.
  • If the screener’s man helps too long or too far the screener can slip the flare screen to the basket. Also slip versus switches!
  • If the cutter’s defender chases over the top of the flare, curl the flare all the way to the basket.
  • The passer must bring the ball with the dribble to the flare screen action.
  • If the flare is ineffective or not timed with the ball, rescreen!

Progress the flare screen drill to two-on-one by adding defense to the cutter (2) and specifying how you want the defender to play the flare screen action. Once that is understood, allow the defender to play the flare screen however they choose.

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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  5. Jacob Robidou said:

    Hi Coach,

    Do you ever set flare screens slot to slot ? I like to use them as a set up for a slip to the ball-side block (ball on wing). Or I screen the screener by setting a back screen for the flare screener with my post player. We seldom throw to the cutter but instead ball fake and look inside on this action.

    The princeton chin series essentially uses a slot to slot flare action. Would you mind commenting on why you dont use it in your motion offense? Do you look to set any screens slot to slot? For example if a pass is made from slot to wing and the ball side slot screens away for the weakside slot ?

  6. Randy Sherman said:

    We did not screen away slot to slot. A player might have done it and it wouldn’t have been “wrong” per se, but often (not always) that would’ve been a screener screening for another screener and we did not do that. I don’t think it’s a bad idea and if it was within our screening rules we could do it.

    Have heard Majerus say that that screen doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the defense and it was easy to switch so they didn’t do it either.

    If the slot to wing pass is made on the open block side I want the slot player to cut rim, thus opening a double gap for wing player.

    • Jacob Robidou said:

      Thanks Coach. I read Majerus’s opinion on the slot to slot screen awhile back as well. I was just interested in your take.

      Thanks again