A Coach's Guide to Basketball Motion Offense

STACK Expert Kyle Ohman differentiates motion offenses from set plays and offers teaching points and video illustrations of effective motion offense plays.

Basketball Motion Offense

A basketball motion offense requires more nimble thinking than a set play. Rather than having a defined beginning and end, a motion offense is more spontaneous, running for as long as the clock allows. Each player follows a set of movements, and whenever the ball moves or a player cuts, the players respond accordingly.

Set plays are usually run for specific players to get specific shots. Teams that run a motion offense read the defense and take advantage of breakdowns to get the best available shot. Players involved in the offense need to quickly size up the situation and not be robots.

Most motion offenses are not extremely complicated. They can be used by middle school teams and up.

Motion offenses work to your advantage because they keep your offense from getting stagnant. By running multiple actions over and over, motion offenses also exploit a defense that doesn't communicate well. Players who don't work well together eventually break down and lose opportunities at the basket.

But watch out—the motion offense can fall short if players aren't thinking on their feet. If they're simply running a play just to run it and are not reading the defense, they will be easy to guard. They need to be able to think the game and then take advantage of what the defense is giving them.

Teaching Points for Motion Offense

Here are a few points you need to make clear to your players when teaching them to run a motion offense. It may take a little bit longer at the start to teach them all of these details, but it will pay off in the long run.

  • Be hard on every cut, even if you are not going to get the ball. Hard cuts will open up scoring opportunities for your teammates.
  • Set good screens and react out of them. If you set a good screen and the defense overreacts to provide help, your team should get an open shot.
  • Don't be a robot. Read the defense and make the right play.
  • Know when to break the play off and when not to. If you catch the ball in a favorable spot, it may be OK to go one-on-one or take advantage of a mismatch.

Motion Offense Plays

Below are a few good basketball motion offenses for you to check out and put into your playbook if you like them. Notice the offensive passes and the quality of screens the players set for each other.

Evansville Motion Offense (12-13)


Providence Friars (11-12)

West Virginia (08-09)

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Photo: blackbirdshoopsjournal.com

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