Concepts and Benefits of Motion Offense

By Mike Hurley

The motion offense is one of the most widely used and utilized basketball offenses around the world today. It is used by teams at all levels, ranging from youth, to high school, to college, and up to the professional ranks. Why is it so widely implemented? Because it allows players to play and think as basketball players, and not robots. Players respond to what the defense is doing, and attack accordingly. Hall of Fame coaches like Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Greg Popovich, among many others, all run variations of motion, and all have been successful at incorporating it with their respective teams.

Below are concepts to help teach the motion offense to your teams, allowing you to get more production from your players.

Floor Spacing: One of the most pivotal aspects of the motion offense is to have proper floor spacing. When players spread the floor, it forces the defense to spread out as well – whether in man or zone. Having space creates a multitude of options for each of your players, such as a dribble drive, drive and kick or spot up and shoot situation.

Ball & Player Movement: Nothing gets a motion offense working better (and a defense out of position) like quick ball and player movement. When the ball “sticks” or any time a player holds the ball, it causes the offense to become stagnant and slow. Getting the ball and players to move forces the defense to work harder, and create open spaces for your players.

Balance Urgency vs Patience: One of the biggest things I have noticed while coaching youth players when teaching set plays is that players become more consumed about running plays correctly, rather than playing to score. In motion offense, and in any offense, players need to play quick and sprint to the next spot. By playing fast, you force the defense to play fast with you, thus opening more opportunity on the offensive end.

However, teams need a delicate balance of patience as well. Unlike the NBA and NCAA, many high school levels operate without a shot clock (some states have incorporated a shot clock with basketball in recent years). Youth levels do not incorporate a shot clock. This allows high school and youth coaches to teach patience with team offense. Although I mentioned urgency above, there needs to be a balance – there is no rush to get up a bad shot, rather look for the best shot.

Read Your Defender: Tight man-to-man defense: Back-cut; Relaxed man-to-man defense (inside the 3pt line): Front- cut. Offensive players should always read how their defender is playing them, as it allows them ways to create spacing. If defenders are playing tight man defense, players can create space by back-cutting their man towards the basket. If they are playing off (inside the 3pt line), then they can front-cut because the space is already given and passing lane open.

Unpredictability: Perhaps the best effect of the motion offense is its unpredictability and the difficulty teams have in scouting and coaching against it. With a motion offense, players are taught progressions and actions against a defense, rather than a set play where players routinely make the same moves. When players are free to think, and react against a defense, it is not only a dangerous attack your team can take advantage of, but it is also enjoyable to watch.

Screening: One of the most important actions within a motion offense is screening. All five players on the court need to be able to screen for one another, thus creating space for their teammates who are constantly moving. Screening also forces the defense to adjust (and potentially create open lanes and/or mismatches). How a team defends a screen can be an excellent area to attack, offensively.

Communication: All successful teams and organizations are full of strong communicators.  They are open, honest and up front with one another. Basketball teams are no different.  If a team cannot communicate on the floor – via verbal and nonverbal signals – it will struggle to consistently perform and be successful. Players need to be able to talk to one another, and trust each other, to make sure everyone is in the right spot at the right time.

Find the Open Man/Be the Open Man: When utilizing all these traits, players can create space and become open against their defender. Players should look to not only find the open man, but also be the open man – as these skills also allow non-ballhandlers to create space and opportunity for the team.

Find the Open Man/Be the Open Man: When utilizing all these traits, players can create space and become open against their defender. Players should look to not only find the open man, but also be the open man as well – as these skills also allow non-ballhandlers to create space and opportunity for the team as well. As soon as a player moves the ball on offense, that player needs to work to get open in order to keep the offense moving and flowing.

Flexibility: The motion offense allows teams to attack from a variety of alignments (50, 41, 4-1 High, 4-1 Low, 3-2). Each a diverse and unique set that can throw different looks at a defense. While the starting position may be set, the process and movements are not. Incorporating the motion into different starting alignments is like running a variety of different offenses, which forces the opponents to prepare for more looks and keep them guessing in games.

Overall, the motion offense has many benefits. Players enjoy the freedom and power to make decisions based on what the defense gives them. Incorporating motion into your team’s offensive philosophy will help make your squad much tougher to beat. Make sure to visit the FastModel Sports PlayBank to find a wide range of motion sets and diagrams ready to download directly into your FastDraw library.

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Athletic Director, Saint Clement Wolverines | Assistant Varsity Boys Basketball Coach, Saint Ignatius College Prep Wolfpack | Marquette University Graduate.
September 27, 2017 – Monaco, France – Justin Cobbs (Credit Image: © Panoramic via ZUMA Press)

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