Motion Offense – Transition Attack

By Randy Sherman

Tips for connecting the primary break attack with four-out motion offense as seamlessly as possibly.  

While building a motion offense with excellence in the halfcourt in mind is vital, flowing into that offense from the transition game can improve possessions. Designing an up-tempo transition offense that connects with your motion offense is paramount.

Being “seamless” is the goal. The flow from transition offense to motion offense should be smooth and virtually undetectable. Avoid instances where resetting spacing or alignment and “tucking the ball and making a call” are necessary. Let’s look at a simple flow from the transition attack to a four-out/one-in motion offense.

The concept of “first three steps” must be a part of your culture. You cannot dabble.

The main determinant of scoring in transition is what players do with their first three steps after their team gains possession. Creating clear roles for your team means the three players not involved with the rebound/entry pass and the outlet are free to get to top speed and fill their lanes in the first three steps. The concept of “first three steps” must be a part of your culture. You cannot dabble. Begin instilling this mindset day one.

Role Definition

Begin by designating a player to be the inbounder. He/she always inbounds the ball after every opponents made field goal. By knowing who is the inbounder and knowing that role does not change the other players are free to rapidly carry out their duty of getting to top speed in their first three steps. Plus they become adept at that skill over time.

Tips for inbounders:

  • Crash the boards! When you see the ball go through the net try to catch it before it hits the floor.
  • Always inbound the ball on the right side of the backboard
  • Hover Step: Reach your left foot out-of-bounds and pivot around it. Hover the right foot as you pivot and fire the ball to the outlet box. Ideally, the right foot never touches ground out of bounds and you make the outlet on the run. If you whip around and see a full court press land the foot out-of-bounds and make the outlet.
  • Run hard to fill in behind the break. (Trailer)
  • When you gather a live rebound, look to make outlet to the outlet box on the nearest sideline
  • Typically, assign a forward (4) to be the inbounder

It is also beneficial to designate a constant outlet receiver. If players know exactly who to look for and exactly where to find them it speeds up the execution of the outlet.

Typically, a point guard serves as the outlet receiver and they get to the outlet box on the right side of the floor after made field goals by your opponents.

Tips for outlet receivers:

  • On opponent FGM get to the outlet box on the right sideline.
  • On opponent FGA that your team rebounds get to the outlet box on the sideline nearest the rebound.
  • Receive outlet in the outlet box on the shuffle facing the interior of the court
  • Call for the outlet
  • If denied, “sickle cut” across the court to uncover
  • Whip around and look to “pitch ahead” to ballside wing
  • If you cannot pitch ahead to the ballside wing, “dribble through the wake” and pitch ahead to the weakside wing
  • Throw the ball over the halfcourt line!

By designating an inbounder, predetermining an outlet receiver and assigning an area in which to receive outlets, the other three players are free to sprint release and get to top speed in the first three steps.

Rim Run

The “big” not assigned inbounding responsibilities should take the challenge to out-sprint the opposing “big” on every trip. Putting vertical pressure on the interior defenders helps get the ball inside early in the possession.

On a live ball rebound, the big that did not secure the board executes the rim run.

Tips for rim runs:

  • Get to top speed in your first three steps.
  • Every possession there is a footrace between you and your defender. I want you to go undefeated.
  • Be aware that the “1-5” pass may be coming your way.
  • When you arrive into the paint either “chop down” and seal your man behind you or hit and spin and post with two feet in the paint.

Width From The Wings

Relentlessly pitching the ball ahead on the break is what can eventually break the back of your opponent. To best achieve this wings must get width and run hard. The goal is to pass the ball over the halfcourt line dozens and dozens of times per game.

Use the holes in the court where the volleyball standards fit as a tool to help you (“pole holes”). Wings should run outside of those holes and look back over their inside shoulder as they run.

Tips for wings:

  • Release and run! You have NO outlet responsibility. Top speed in the first three steps.
  • If you do not receive the “pitch ahead,” bounce off the baseline to the motion line.
  • On the long pass look to attack if the numbers are there (jailbreak)
  • Take the transition three
  • Look inside to the rim runner

Developing the habit of running off of every rebound and opponent made field goal is vital. For utmost effectiveness, this should be an identity.

But a primary push is one thing, connecting it to your motion offense is another. Again, being seamless is the goal. You accumulate transition points via a blazing primary push. When that does not happen, make quickly and seamlessly flowing into motion your goal.

Running secondary break actions can be effective. There are certainly benefits to hitting the defense with some great secondary action early in the possession. Make sure your secondary break options “terminate” in the same alignment (4-out, 3-out/2-in) as your “base offense” to avoid a clunky rift between the secondary break and the base offense.

For ultimate seamless action, get right into motion offense off the break.

If 1 pitches ahead to 2 and 2 cannot drive, shoot or feed the rim runner, they begin ball reversal to 1 filling in. Below are the offensive “sprint to” spots.


1 then looks to turn it to 4. Upon 4’s catch you are in your motion offense. Motion rules are initiated when the ball goes “to or through” the trailer (4).

1 is a screener, thus after passing to 4 (another screener) they basket cut into a downscreen for 2. 4 can fully reverse the ball to 3 or throw back to the action of 2 coming off the screen.

If 4 were being denied the reversal, they would not fight the defense or v-cut back and forth to uncover slowing down ball reversal. Simply run into the downscreen for 3 on the weakside.

4 has other options after receiving the pass as well. They can fully reverse to 3 and basket cut. They can dribble handoff to 3 or even stagger away with 1 for 2.

The greater issue is that the team made a hard primary push, looked for numbers advantages or a quick post entry then flowed seamlessly into their base offense. No pause. No reset. No alignment adjustment. No “tuck the ball and make a call” needed.

Simplify the transition attack; after all, the primary push is the main point generator and that comes from what you do with your first three steps in the backcourt. Simplicity creates clarity and clarity lends itself to speed. Flow quickly and seamlessly into your offense and let your players make plays in the screening game.

Continue the motion offense conversation: 

For help with installing a transition game and a motion offense attack, check out the RAMP program.

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.
January 25, 2015: Rhode Island Rams guard Biggie Minnis (10) on the fastbreak during the first half of an NCAA basketball game between the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Rhode Island Rams at the Ryan Center in Kingston, Rhode Island. Rhode Island defeated St. Bonaventure 53-48. Anthony Nesmith/Cal Sport Media(Credit Image: © Anthony Nesmith/Cal Sport Media/

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  1. Coach McMullen said:

    Excellent write-up on a foundation for transition offense. Its good to hear it framed up by another coach. I’ll be stealing a handful of your points this year during our 1st few days in November to change up how we teach it! 🙂

    We flow into a 3 out 2 in wing pick/roll continuity action (e.g., Donovan-Florida, many others…). Another point we use with our kids when installing, is to also highlight the type of attributes a player needs to have/develop to thrive in that role. For example; the 5 (Rim Runner) needs to not only win the race to the basket (read: fast), but be one of our /if not the best/ back to the basket players. Must have a legitimate scoring threat as the spear of your transition attack.

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