Time to read 14 min
Written by: Chris Hungerford
Time to read 14 min
Coaching your team's basketball plays can sometimes be an overwhelming experience.
As a coach, there are so many different types of plays you can run to get your team high-percentage shots.
Every coach and team needs a variety of basketball plays to get high-percentage shots and scoring opportunities for their players. One of the beautiful things about basketball is there are a variety of ways to get good shots - using a pick and roll or ball screen play, screen the screener plays, plays from a box set, plays for a post player or a point guard, plays against a zone defense, low post plays, cross screenplays, and more.
You can run plays from a box formation or the high post. You can put players on the weak side of the court or the ball side corner. You can run a play for a 3-point shot, a 2-point jump shot, or a shot in the post. You can even run plays in an attempt to get to the free-throw line.
As you can see, coaching a team and teaching them basketball plays can present a coach and team with a lot of options.
It is a coach's dream to draw up a set play that is executed perfectly, called at the right time, or even wins a game for their team.
Before you can draw up that dream play for a winning shot, though, you must have a firm grasp and understanding of the different types of basketball offensive plays to choose from.
In this article, we'll cover types of basketball plays, how to diagram plays, plays for youth basketball teams, common basketball actions, situational plays, and much more!
There are several types of basketball plays: half court offensive sets, baseline and sideline out of bounds sets, motion offenses, press breaks, and zone offenses.
An offensive set in the half-court is any time your team has the ball, calls a play, and has to run it against a set defense.
With these sets, you'll be looking for scoring opportunities and an open shot against a man's defense. These are also referred to as quick hitters.
These plays are often designed to get specific actions like pick and roll, ball screen, dribble handoffs, cross screens for post players, or backdoor cuts.
They are also used to get specific players the ball in scoring areas.
For example, if you have a great shooter, you might run a play to spring them free with multiple screens.
If you have a good ball handler or point guard, you might run more pick-and-roll type plays.
If you have a dominant post player, you will want to run plays that get them touches inside and near the paint or in the low post.
The best times to use a half-court offensive set play are after timeouts, to stop a run, to get your best players good shots, or when your team just needs a boost.
When players run a play they are confident in, it can really boost the morale and motivation of your team!
A motion offense can be implemented in a few ways to present scoring opportunities as well.
Some coaches prefer motion offense that follows a continual pattern - these coaches run offenses like flex, Princeton, pass and screen away, the Swing Offense, and more.
Other coaches prefer to run motion offense from a certain alignment like 5-out or 4-out and give their players certain rules to follow, reads to react to, and principles to respond to.
These coaches prefer to coach concepts and let their players make decisions rather than run a set play.
Zone offense is just like Man Offense in a lot of ways.
When coaching, you can run set plays that screen the zone defenders.
Or you can run a motion-based offense against a zone.
You can even ball screen a zone defense.
The most common zone defense is the 2-3 zone, but there are different types of plays you can run against different types of zones as well.
Whatever you decide to run on zone offense, the popular and effective ways to attack it are by getting the ball in the high post or low post for post players to score inside or kicking out to your shooters for high-percentage scoring opportunities.
Coaches should have options when they are throwing the ball in under their own basket.
Each team should have baseline out-of-bounds options against a zone or man defense.
These types of basketball plays can be run out of different formations - common ones include a box formation or box set, screen the screener plays (setting a screen for the player who just set a screen), and trying to get a shot on the block.
As a coach, you could also decide to not worry about scoring on the baseline out of bounds plays and just focus on getting the ball into your offensive players without turning the ball over.
Most coaches elect to simply get the ball inbounded without turning it over when they throw it in from the sideline. They will sometimes start the play in a box formation or a line formation.
Some coaches, however, prefer to run a play from this location as well.
Coaches could also throw the ball into their point guard and flow right into their basketball plays in the half-court (whatever it is they run on offense).
Just like when using a half-court offense and inbounds offense, coaches should have a press break that works against zone press and a press break that works against full-court man-to-man.
Against a zone press, the best way to attack is by throwing the ball to the middle.
Most teams will have a post-player flash middle and then look opposite to break the press.
The best tactic when going against a man's press defense is to get the ball into the point guard, have the other players clear out, and have your point guard bring the ball up the floor.
Coaches could also elect to try and beat the press defense with a long pass down the floor.
In addition to basic plays running in the half-court, coaches would be wise to have plays available to run in special situations.
These situations would primarily revolve around the time and score of the game.
Each of these situations requires a certain type of play to give your team the best chance for success.
When watching any level of basketball, some common and popular types of basketball plays will occur.
Some coaches even run one type of Princeton Offense play and add it to their offensive game plan.
This motion continues over and over until a player gets a high-percentage scoring opportunity - either in the low post, high post, or for a 3-point shot.
This simple play teaches basic things like how to cut, how to follow proper spacing, how to use a screen and how to set a screen, weak side action, and more. It also involves your post players in a cross-screen.
The offense for youth players should be very simple and focused on teaching good decision-making. Coaches could give their players certain rules and guidelines to follow on offense as well when they play in drills, scrimmages, and games.
A general rule, however, is that the fewer plays there are for youth basketball players, the better.
There are several formations that are common with offensive basketball plays.
This is an effective offense if your players are of similar size and skill level. You can also run this basketball offense if you don't have a lot of players who can score on a defender in the post.
Being able to draw up basketball plays in an accurate manner is an underrated coaching skill.
Now that you are equipped with so much information, it's time to decide what plays you're actually going to run with your team.
Unfortunately, you can't run every single quality play you see during a game or on the internet.
You have to go through the work of choosing which basketball plays are the most effective for your team.
You simply can't run the same types of plays with your rec league team that you see the Golden State Warriors running. It won't work!
One of your jobs as a coach is to put the age of your players into consideration when designing your plays.
Whatever it is that you'll see during the season from most teams (and the best teams) on your schedule on defense...you'll need to have a counter or two in place.
Teach your players to resist the urge to run to the basketball. Instead, teach them to be patient, maintain good spacing, and let the action come to them!
Hopefully, this article has been helpful in some capacity in teaching your team how to run basketball plays in an effective and optimal manner.
Each team and player are different - as a coach, you must do the work of analyzing your team, deciding what offense best fits your team, and motivating your team and players to buy into your vision for their success.
Take the information from this guide to help you make those winning decisions.
Our best advice? Design your offense around your players, their strengths and weaknesses, and with the intention of getting the right players the right shots at the right time.
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