Motion Offense – Three-Player Drills

By Randy Sherman

In Vol. 6 of the FastModel Motion Offense Forum we progress to three-player drills to teach passing, screening, cutting, floor balance and reading the defense. 

If you have been following this series on building a motion offense you have probably noticed a few patterns in the progressions. First, introduce the concept without a defense. Second, add defense to the cutting player and control the defender’s options. Third, relax the rules on the defender. And lastly, defend the screener and the cutter and simulate live action.

We follow that progression as we add more and more players and advance towards five man motion. In this entry into the series we will advance to three-player drills.

In previous entries, coaches/managers have served as passers in the drills and players focused on screening and cutting techniques. At the point of three player drills, coaches should no longer be needed as passers. The goal is, of course, to have your players become adept at making the passes and seeing the reads as they transpire.

Three-player drills are especially valuable because, at its core, motion offense is a screener, a cutter and a passer. The best motion offenses center the ball and have two screening action for the passer to read. We begin by teaching this concept using three-player drills. The first three-player drill to introduce is the 3-on-1 Live halfcourt drill.

Arrange your team into groups of three. When on offense, the trio will have two screeners and one cutter. The cutter, and only the cutter, will be defended and only he/she can score. The offensive team must make two passes before the cutter can get a touch. It is the job of the screeners to free him/her for a score using the motion offense concepts we have learned.

Please click on the graphic below for full drill details:

motion6From there, advance into 3-on-3 live play with the same rules as the 3-on-1 Live drill above. Each trio will feature two screeners and one cutter and everyone is defended. Begin in a top-side-side alignment. Screeners must screen for the cutter and they cannot screen for one another. The cutter can only touch the basketball after two passes have been completed. The cutter can start on either wing. The offense applies motion offense concepts and maintains top-side-side alignment throughout the possession.

Endless motion offense concepts will present themselves during 3-on-3 live play but you must stay within your screening rules and maintain floor balance. Emphasize all the screening fundamentals such as basket cutting, reading the defense and completing the correct second cuts.

Use this as an opportunity to coach your defense as well. Assign an assistant to be the offensive or defensive coordinator and you coach the other side of the ball.

3/3 Live Possible Restrictions:

  • Possession must start with a shallow/flare
  • Possession must start with a cross screen for the cutter
  • Only the cutter can score
  • Only a screener can score (emphasizes second cutters)
  • Begin with ball on wing with the cutter on top and start with a flare screen
  • Minimum number of passes
  • Create your own restrictions to address issues in your offense!

3/3 Live Variations:

  • Make it full court! Have another trio waiting on the other end. When team gets a stop, they transition.
  • Start with a closeout. Have defense on the baseline beside the coach with the offense spaced on the perimeter. Coach rolls the ball out to either of the players behind the arc and defense must close out to the correct position with proper technique.
  • Have offense work against various defensive scenarios such as packline rules, pressure man rules and switches.
  • Allow the offense to pass to a coach who is standing behind them at any time during the possession. The coach can then pass to the cutter. This introduces staggers and baseline screens as both screeners are now free to screen for the cutter. It also challenges the defense with a numbers disadvantage!
  • Keep score for every team! Put something on the line.

Three-player drills are vital to motion offense and should be a cornerstone of practice. Because these are live drills that feature tons of offensive actions, practices may be very simple in design but full of live action and competitiveness. Offensive and defensive concepts can be coached simultaneously.

Practices can look something like this: warm up and do some full court transition drills for conditioning. Then use 1/0 chair drills and 2/0 shooting drills to hone offensive technique and motion offense fundamentals. Then have a 2/1 and 2/2 Live period. Then a 3/1 and 3/3 Live period. Then a 4/2 and 4/4 Live period which we will address in the next entry into the series.

Continue the motion offense conversation: 

Explore and 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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