Easy Offensive Plays

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at sjordan@alaskalife.net.

What is the most common weakness in basketball teams of all ages? Easy - it is the half court offensive game. Most young teams never really get the hang of it because of the time and discipline required to learn to work effectively at this team skill. It is far easier to teach a team to be disruptive with their defense and score off transition. When that happens, offense is a matter of making lay-ups or open jumpers.

The secret of winning at basketball usually boils down to this:

  1. Have the best full court press, if not...
  2. Be able to break a press consistently and have at least a moderately successful half court offense.

If you can break your opponent's press and thereby minimize your turnovers, then you have very likely taken the opponent's offense away from them. (see pressbreakers). Teams accustomed to running up high scores will often lose their confidence once they realize there will be few easy baskets. They will make poor decisions trying to keep up their normal scoring pace. It becomes embarrassing and frustrating for them to try and run plays in an uncomfortable environment, such as the halfcourt game is to a team that has not learned to take advantage of it.

So, if you have prepared some simple offensive routines that your players are comfortable running, that have a relatively quick shot payoff, and return the players to positions that allow the play to be initiated again without a significant reset, you may well have the upper hand at the halfcourt offense.

There are some plays diagrammed below that are easy to teach and learn. I advocate simplicity above all in choosing a half court offensive set. Why? Several reasons:

  1. Learning complicated patterns will consume a huge chunk of precious practice time.
  2. Inexperienced players will have trouble concentrating on patterns during the game.
  3. Complex plays break down easily. Sometimes one mistake by one player can throw the entire team into confusion or disarray.
  4. If the offensive play is too difficult, the kids will just stop trying to run it.
  5. When trying to run a complex pattern, the kids work so hard at following the play, they miss the open shots that are created during the process.

Basketball is a very dynamic game. In a fast paced game, the spontaneous fundamental plays create the most points. A quick give and go, pick and roll or backdoor are exploitive plays that should be used spontaneously when the opportunities are there. Once the defense is set, call a pattern, be patient, and take advantage of - not the first shot, necessarily - but the first high-quality shot. It makes no sense to waste a valuable possession on a cheap shot.

Plays Discussed in this Article

Other Plays Discussed on this Site

Two Low (best against man to man)

2lo1.gif (1342 bytes) The play starts when the point guard pass to either wing.
As soon as the pass is made, the point cuts to the opposite wing and sets a pick.

At the same time the low man on ball side also goes away from the ball to set a pick.

The two players receiving picks cut as shown.
2lo2.gif (1412 bytes) The wing (with the ball) now has two options coming towards the ball. Time the play so the big man is the first visible. If he/she is not open, the wing player cutting to the free throw line area usually is for an easy shot.

OPTION: At this point, the low post cutting to the ball can elect to set a pick for the wing with the ball.
2lo3.gif (1464 bytes) If the first two cutters do not get a pass, the original point who went left to set a screen should seal his man, then cut down the middle. Sometimes, when the defense is scurrying after the first two cutters, there is literally no one in the key.

If no one is open, the players move as shown to the original start pattern. Remember, the play works either direction.

High Low (either man or zone)

hilo1.gif (1393 bytes) The play starts when the point guard passes to either wing.

The high and low players must be on (or come to) ball side.

The wing may pass to either post, then cut to basket. This may be a give and go, or pick and roll with high post, too.

The low post may be open easier if he/she moves out corner.

Some defenses will try to prevent the pass to the post in the corner. This is a good thing! Fake a pass to your corner post, then let the corner post back door into scoring position.

hilo2.gif (1445 bytes) The point guard replaces the cutting wing player. The weak side wing moves to point.

The post player receiving the pass may shoot, or pass to the cutter, but usually passes to the new wing on ball side.

The wing that cuts through the key goes to the far corner, then moves up to wing spot.

hilo3.gif (1372 bytes) The ball is quickly rotated over to the weak side wing. A mid-range jumper is usually available. If not, pass the ball to the new point guard and repeat the play.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This plays works best if your team has the patience to rotate the ball several times. It is tiring for the defense to follow back and forth. Eventually, someone will break down. Watch for an easy pass to the high post. Sometimes you will see the low post open up, too.

Four Out (best against zone)

4out.gif (1492 bytes) This play works against a zone with either a two man or a three guard front. Seems most effective against a 3:2 zone.

Play starts when low post sets a high pick.

Point drives off pick and has three options: shoot, pick and roll with screener, or kick out to wing.
4out2.gif (1466 bytes) If the point kicks out to wing, then he/she should continue to the corner, then go baseline to the other side of the court and use other post's pick along the way.

Meanwhile, the ball is rotated across to the weakside.
4out3.gif (1573 bytes) The player that cut baseline may see a shot from wing. If not, pass to new point and wait for low post to set a high pick as before. Play is same, just mirror image.

This set gives one player four scoring options. If none work, another player is now in position to try the four options.