Basketball Motion Offense for Spacing and Movement

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Basketball Motion Offense for kids

Written By: Lamar Hull @ Inspirational Basketball AND Google+

First and foremost, why is a youth basketball motion offense important?

Kids at that age need to learn spacing and movement. If you are a youth basketball coach you should know exactly what I am talking about. I currently coach kids between 10-12 and sometimes as early as 4 and 5 years of age. Most young players want the ball, so what do they do when their teammate has the basketball? Yup, you guessed it. They scream for the ball and stand right next to their teammate who has the ball in their possession. That’s not good offense and young basketball players don’t understand the importance of spacing. Therefore, to keep them moving and find opportunities for each other and themselves, that is where the motion offense fits best in your youth basketball offensive coaching scheme. It also keeps the defense off-balance. Let’s learn about the fundamentals of a motion offense.

As I mentioned before, a youth basketball motion offense is a highly flexible offense that forces player movement, passing and cutting, setting screens, and correct floor spacing. If you are a regular reader of my blog, I always try to give some context about my subject, so that you can really learn not only how to play basketball but understand the history of it. The motion offense’s origin is credited to coach Henry Iba of Oklahoma State. It was further developed by coach Bob Knight at Indiana, who utilized the screening as an important part of his offense.

Instead of running set plays, the players now move within a basic set of rules. This ensures greater flexibility than just running set plays, and is very effective against any kind of defense, whether zone or man-to-man defenses. With better spacing, players can easily move to all open areas of the court. Once players understand the basic concepts, special plays and patterns can be easily designed by the coach to take advantage of the team’s offensive strengths. For example, each movement provides a threat to score. So, as the ball is being passed around, make sure your players are looking to score and also making passes for scoring opportunities. If a a player is cutting to the basket within the motion offense, you may be able to throw a bounce pass to the cutting player for an easy layup. Another example, if the post is flashing to the elbow within the motion offense, if the wing player has the basketball, he or she could throw it in to the flashing post player for an isolation, shot or a pass back out. That will keep the defense honest and force them to really focus on the player’s movements which will provide scoring opportunities for your team.

It’s possible to run a motion offense with almost any set. Teams that do not have true post players, and are more guard oriented can benefit by using either 1-in, 4-out and the 5-out open post offense. The new “dribble driven motion offense” uses a 4-out set with very little screening. You can also use a 1-4 set or a 1-3-1.

If you have a really talented team with five players who can easily play any position, they can rotate into any of the five positions. If you have excellent perimeter players, or two dominant post players, then you would want to rotate them differently. In most cases, you will have three perimeter basketball players rotate with themselves in the three guard positions, and two posts players rotate with each other.

To enhance the skills of youth basketball players, you should teach them a motion offense. Follow the techniques listed below:

  • First, choose your five best conditioned players. This is important because players need to be conditioned to stay active within the motion offense. Choose players with quickness and high speed.
  • Position three of the five players near or outside 3-point line. All the team members should spread out on the court and give them various options to shoot, pass or drive. Manage them well, but don’t position them too close, and also ensure that they have a sufficient amount of space to move. So, you could have the point guard positioned at the top of the key and the wing players positioned on the wings.
  • Now position your two post players on each block respectively, which allows them to start close to the basket. However, they should not be planted in the paint, you want to avoid the 3-second rule. Another option, you can position one post player at the elbow, ball side and the other post player at the opposite block to create spacing. The key here is when the win players are moving, screening for each other, the post players could be doing the same and alternating from the block to the elbow. You could incorporate a down screen in your motion offense. The post should come to the elbow when the ball is on his side, so that the wing could pass the basketball to him.
  • Let the defense decide what the players and offense you will run in the game. If the defense if playing tight defense, you should be utilizing screens, ball screens and cuts in your motion offense. Emphasize to your players, when they cut, look for the ball because they could receive a good pass because the defense is over playing. To receive a good pass, the teammate has to throw a sharp crisp pass and the cutter has to cut hard. On the contrary, if the defense backs off, have your offense look for the flashing post or their shot. Again, you always want to be a scoring threat in the motion offense.

Here is a video of a basic youth basketball motion offense that I currently use with my younger basketball teams and it works great!

Video that demonstrates a motion offense

  • If the basketball is at the top of the key, the wing players will always screen down
  • If the basketball is at the wing, the player at the top of the key will screen away
  • If the basketball is at the wing, the post player will screen away



The youth basketball motion offense is great for young players to learn about spacing and movement. This type of offense will also give them confidence in their scoring abilities when teams over play or back-off. The motion offense is ran at all levels, middle school all the way to the NBA, so don’t underestimate the benefits of a motion offense.

Coaches, if you have some great youth basketball motion offenses out there, please share!

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Basketball Motion Offense for Spacing and Movement by

8 Responses to “Basketball Motion Offense for Spacing and Movement”

  1. Gabe Roy

    How do you run that motion against a zone defense? I want to install motion offense with my players this year. I like the movement of the ball and players. The league we play in the other teams play 3-2 and 2-3 zone all the time. Do have you any tips with running motion offense against zone defenses?

    • Lamar Hull

      Hey Gabe! Thanks for reading and the comment. Good luck this year! Here is a motion offense that I ran with my AAU team this past summer against a 2-3 zone.
      Coach Larranaga is one of my favorite coaches, I implemented this screening and cutting and high low action in my zone offense against a 3-2 zone. See this video – Hope that helps! I tried to not make things to complicated for my team and have them focus on a few sets so they could execute to get open shots and work together as a team.

  2. Jose

    I am coaching 3&4 grade boys. Some are more skilled than others and I am trying to teach spacing and crisp passes. They tend to be a little robotic when we space them and figure if they are not close to the defender they have done their job. I have showed them v cuts and down screen but not really working. Any advice how to get them to see the open spaces and dribbling and passing and move without the ball with purpose

    • Lamar Hull

      Jose – thanks for sharing! I typically start with a motion offense. I break the offense down in stages that really shows the value of spacing and how the offense works with spacing that way all players are seeing the offense broken down and the importance of spacing within the offense. I usually have a scoring option in every stage of the motion offense which again shows the importance of spacing, passing, dribbling when necessary and doing everything with a purpose. This is my first step to develop spacing with young players. There are some very simple motion offenses out there that you can add to your practices and eventually games. Let me know if that helps!

  3. Joe

    What do you mean by screen down and screen away? How exactly would you do that? Can you post a video? Thanks!

    • Lamar Hull

      Hey Joe, thanks for reading and great question! Here is what I mean about screening down. Envision 5 players on the court with the ball. PG at the top of the key, SG and SF on the wings, PF and C are on the block. The PG has the ball at the top of the. The play starts where the PG has the ball, the wings screen down for the PF and C. Then there is all types of actions after that to create spacing and movement. In the other scenario, the PG passes to one of the wing players, and then screens away for the opposite wing player that he/she didn’t pass it to. Here are some videos for visualization: Down Screens – and Screen Away – Glad to help!

  4. James

    How do you suggest teaching the basics of the motion offense to a team of kindergarten and 1st grade players? They are all new to the sport of basketball and I want to teach them early on the importance of spacing, moving without the ball, and cutting to the basket.

    • Lamar Hull

      Hi James – I would suggest breaking down each movement as you mentioned, spacing is huge because kids at that age just want to crowd the basketball. Work on showing them how to move without the basketball and cutting to get open and to the basketball. Break it down very basic step-by-step and then maybe put in a small motion offense, but only when they get the basics. However, at that age group a motion offense is not that important they just need to learn how to pass, dribble and shoot. Most importantly, have fun!


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