The Case for Basketball Motion Offense

Reasons To Use A Motion Basketball Offense
By Lee DeForest, Basketball Coaches Club

Motion Offense is the most popular offense in basketball today. No matter the variations, from the John Calipari's Dribble Drive Motion Offense, to Bob Knight’s Screening Motion Offense, to Dick Bennett's Blocker Mover Motion Offense, to Bob Huggins’ 5 Out Open Post Motion Offense, the basic philosophy of most teams is to play a Motion Offense. Don Meyer sums it up the best when he asks, “Would you rather have a better player in March or a better play?” In a Motion Offense, five players move with a purpose to create both offensive situations that are difficult to defend and the best possible shot opportunities. There are several reasons for using this style of basketball offense. We will discuss these reasons, the components necessary to execute this basketball offense, the basic principles of Motion Offense, and key concepts.

[Related: Basketball Play Book]

Benefits of Using A Motion Basketball Offense

Difficult to Defend

The hardest offensive player to defend is the one who is moving. Furthermore, the most difficult offensive maneuver to defend is a basketball screen. Motion Offense involves five players constantly moving and screening for each other. This style is contrary to most pattern basketball offenses that do not have all five players in motion at any one time.


In Motion Offense, you can use different combinations of players without regard to traditional positions. For example, guards and forwards, number one man and number three man are all interchangeable. In addition, you can use the best type of offensive alignment and movements to take advantage of the specific group of players you have in the game at any one time. Motion Offense gives you the opportunity to use you personnel most effectively at any time during the game.


The problem with most basketball offensive systems is that the offense must react to the defenses presented by the opponent. Motion Offense rectifies this situation by giving the offense the power to attack all types of defense; consequently, the defense must react to your offense, not vice versa.


Most players truly enjoy playing in a motion basketball offense. They enjoy the freedom of movement, love the scoring opportunities it presents, and don't feel restricted by the offense. As a coach, you're not teaching the same movements over and over; therefore, the offense is more enjoyable to teach.

Player Development

The Motion Offense maximizes the abilities of each of your players. Because the offense puts the player in a positive state of mind, it allows the player to use his talents more effectively. Motion also allows the player to constantly improve, for he can use the principles he has learned under all playing situations.

Difficult to Scout

Because most basketball offenses are based on a repeated patterns, they tend to be very easy to scout, giving the opponent an added advantage. In Motion Offense, there is no predetermined movement; therefore, the opposition has a difficult time diagramming its tendencies.

Essential Components of the Motion Basketball Offense


Good passing helps avoid turnovers and puts your team in the best possible scoring positions. Most of our passing drills establish the mindset of passing away from the defense instead of passing to the offense. Moreover, the passer must not only get the ball to the recipient but also put the recipient in the best possible position to shoot the ball and score.


The key to successful movement is to move in concert with the rest of your teammates to insure the key concept of our offense, floor balance. Proper spacing is essential for a good offense. An offensive player standing still allows his defender to play off his man to give help to his teammates.


Each player must help his teammates get a better shot opportunity. The screen is the most effective way of establishing better shot opportunities. However, the passer must look for both the person being screened and the screener as potential scoring threats. In the execution of the screen two players will work together to produce a scoring opportunity.

Shot Disciplin

Despite its reputation, Motion Offense is not an equal shot opportunity offense. You, as coach, must establish what type of basketball shot each player is expected to take.


In pattern basketball offenses, the system does all of the thinking. In Motion Offense, you are only as good as your concentration. You must think before you move.

Role Identification

Each player must understand the role designated for him on the team. Shot discipline & role identification go together. Each player must be told to play within his capabilities.


Communication is key to running a good basketball motion offense. In order to establish proper floor balance and establish the best shot opportunities, players must be in constant communication. For example, demand that the screener call out the name of the player he is screening. This keeps both players alert, encourages good screens, and helps keep the floor balanced.

Basic Basketball Principles of the Motion Offense

Read the Defense

Players must develop the habit of taking what the basketball defense gives them. The offensive player must concentrate on how he is being defended and the position of his teammates. Then he moves to put himself in the best position produce a score. Offensive players must play their man on offense. If the offensive player does not have the ball two of the most basic movements are the V cut & the screen.

In the execution of the V cut the offensive player will take his man in one direction & then move quickly in another direction to get free.

In the execution of the screen two players will work together to produce a scoring opportunity. The screener must think before he moves. First he considers how the teammate is being defended and moves to set a screen at the proper angle so the teammate can make good use of the screen.

As the screener is moving to screen the player getting the screen must set his man up for the screen with a proper V cut. After screening players must maintain proper floor balance. If a player has the ball he must be in triple threat position. The player must catch & face the basket. The player must be ready to shoot, pass, or dribble. Many times players are just looking to pass the ball and aren't ready to take advantage of scoring opportunities. Offensive players must be aggressive to take advantage of the defense.

No Predetermined Movement

Keep the floor balanced, read the defense and take high percentage shots. Because player movement is completely random it is difficult for the defense to defend them.


Communication is essential for motion offense. Talking helps establish good floor balance and timing on screens. Call out the name of the player getting screened to alert him that a screen is coming.

Develop Good Habits

Players need goof offensive concepts to help develop good offensive habits. If good habits are developed the offense can react quickly and efficiently to the defense.

Motion Basketball Offense Terms and Phrases

Pass away from the defense

Move with a purpose

Think before you move

Play within your capabilities

Face the defense

Catch & face

Play your man on offense

Show a target

Be ready to shoot

Hold your screen

V cut

Motion Basketball Offense Teaching Points

When you pass, move but don't follow your pass

Don't make two simultaneous cuts into the same area

Call out the name of the player screening for

Catch & face, hold for a 2 count unless you have a good scoring opportunity right away

Don't pass too quickly

If a screener's back is to you, hold to see what develops

15-18 feet spacing on perimeter

Keep the ball off the baseline unless a scoring opportunity is available

If a single post has a scoring opportunity don't go there

Dribble only to advance the ball, improve a passing angle, go to the basket, balance the floor, or get out of trouble.

Basketball Set Play Offense
Quick Hitter Basketball Offense

Coach Bobby Knight
"We're always looking for new ways to do things. I'm forever drawing up diagrams. Every day, every practice. We try everything. Some of my ideas are pretty good, but some are pretty bad... But when they work in a game, when you see the player's execute what they've been working on - there's no finer feeling in the world." -- Coach Bobby Knight
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
"We run motion against all types of defense. This allows our squad to have a better chance of maintaining an attack state of mind. We always want our opponent to react to us. The flexibility of Motion Offense also makes it adaptable to all tempos of play." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski
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