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28 Basketball Plays to Dominate Any Defense

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Coaching children and players for basketball can get difficult without the right strategies. The ability to call the right play at the right time during a game can often be the difference between your team winning a losing. It is absolutely important for a coach that his team plays well in any game and therefore I have taken the effort to bring in some Defense plays that coaches can rely on. 

 

In the words of the great basketball coach, Coach Mac, here are the excerpts from his famous book  “28 Basketball Plays to Dominate Any Defense”: 

 

Each play includes an overview of the play, key personnel, setup, instructions, and coaching points.

I’ve made the navigation of this blog post easier by splitting it up into four different sections (click a link to be taken directly to that section of the post):

Man-to-Man Basketball Plays

2-3 Zone Basketball Plays

BLOB Man-to-Man Basketball Plays

BLOB 2-3 Zone Basketball Plays

(BLOB stands for baseline out of bounds. These are the plays to run when your team is inbounding the basketball from under your own basket.)

 

Man-to-Man Basketball Plays

 

1-4 Quick Floppy

Overview of the Play:

This play allows a team to get open looks on the perimeter early in an offensive possession. This happens by running an immediate ‘floppy’ out of the 1-4 set where both guards cut off screens to find open space.

Key Personnel:

This is a versatile play as every player can potentially get a shot out of it.

Preferably your 2 and 3 are good shooters.

The point guard must be a good decision maker to find the open player.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a 1-4 high set.

1-4 quick floppy play

1. 1 dribbles down the floor and calls out the name of the play.

2. 2 and 3 cut along the baseline with 2 stopping close to under the rim.

3. 4 and 5 turn and trail once 2 and 3 have cut past them.

4. 3 sets a screen just inside the paint as 4 and 5 set screens a foot outside the low blocks on their respective sides.

5. 2 now has the option of using the staggered screen or the single screen. For this example, 2 uses the staggered screen and cuts to the perimeter.

6. Once 2’s defender has passed through the screen, 3 will cut off the screen the opposite side to 2. For this example, 3 cuts off the single screen by 5.

(If 2 were to use 5’s single screen, 3 would turn and cut to the  perimeter off 4’s screen.)

7. After screening, 4 and 5 immediately duck in and look to receive the quick pass for the layup. Often 4 or 5’s defender will be forced to help on the player cutting to the perimeter which leaves 4 and 5 on smaller defenders.

8. The point guard has now had 4 great passing options which lead to quick open shots.

9. If 2 or 3 catch on the perimeter, the closest post player immediately attempts to get a low seal while the other post player clears to the high post to give them space.

Coaching Points:

The players must know who the initial cutter is going to be so that the guards know who must set the screen.

The point guard must be a great decision maker at the top of the key. There will be open looks from this play… your point guard must be able to make the pass on time and on-target.

 

Back Screen Post

Overview of the Play:

One of my favorite basketball plays for catching the defense off guard getting a quick post up. This occurs on a back screen out of a staggered screen to an open block. If the post isn’t open, there’s a staggered screen for a weak side shooter.

Key Personnel:

A great post player at the 5 position. The key goal of this play is to get a quick and clear post up.

2 should be your team’s best shooter.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a 3-out 2-in formation with the posts on the elbows and the wing players in the corners.

Back Screen Post

1. 1 starts the drill by dribbling their defender down one side of the floor to create good screening angle.

2. 3 walks their defender down to the low block.

3. 4 and 5 set a staggered screen for 1 as they dribble around the top of the key.

4. As 1 is dribbling off the screens, 3 sprints up and sets a strong back screen on 5’s defender.

5. 5 immediately rolls to the basket looking for the pass for the quick layup. If that’s not open, they establish deep post position.

6. If 1 can’t get the basketball into the post, 3 and 4 set a staggered screen for 2 who cuts to the top of the key ready for the open shot.

Coaching Points:

Start the play with your best shooter on the same side as the best post player.

If 3’s defender stays in the key to deter the pass, 3 can pop to the top of the key off a quick screen by 4 for the open shot.

 

Double Curls

Overview of the Play:

UCLA curls allows your team to get open layups at the basket by keeping the lower key open and running guards off screens towards the ring. If the first two players can’t get open, the play ends with a traditional wing pick and roll.

Key Personnel:

A well-rounded play that doesn’t require any player to have a specific skill-set.

The player that receives the basketball on the wing (3) should be able to attack and make good decisions out of the pick and roll.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a 1-4 high formation.

UCLA Curl - Man to Man Play

1. 1 passes to 3 on the wing.

2. 1 then performs a UCLA cut off 5’s screen looking to receive the pass for the open layup. If it’s not open, 1 clears out to the weak side corner.

3. 4 and 5 then set a staggered screen for 2 who curls towards the ring looking to receive the pass for the open layup also. If they don’t receive the pass they clear out to ball side corner.

4. 4 pops out to the top after screening to create space.

5. 5 then sets a pick and roll for 3 who attacks the rim hard looking to score or create a play for a teammate.

Coaching Points:

This is a great play because it keeps the post defenders out of the paint. On the pick and roll, the only inside defender will be the defensive point guard.

The players curling to the rim should be leading with a hand where they want the basketball and calling for it if they’re open.

 

Flex Warrior

Overview of the Play:

This play involves numerous screens and many open shot opportunities. I recommend this play to high school and older teams because timing, screening angles, making the right play, and being able to shoot from the outside are all very important.

Key Personnel:

Your point guard and shooting guard should be able to consistently make an open outside shot.

Your center must be able to set strong screens at the correct angles with good timing and it’s a plus if they have a post game too!

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a horns set with your wing players level with the lower blocks.

flex-warrior-man-to-man-play

1. The play starts with 1 passing to either of the two post players on the elbow. Preferably the side with the best shooter on the wing.

2. 1 then cuts down the center of the lane and sets a flex screen for 2.

3. 2 can cut either high or low off the flex screen and looks for the pass from 4 and the easy layup.

4. 5 sets a down screen for 1 for a screen the screener action. 1 cuts to the top of the elbow or slot looking for the catch and shoot.

5. After screening for 1, 5 immediately sets another screen for 2 who cuts out to the wing.

6. If 1 wasn’t open for the shot, they must swing the basketball to 2 who should be open on the wing for the shot.

7. After screening 2’s player, 5 attempts to get a deep seal in the paint. If 2 wasn’t open, they can pass in for the score.

Coaching Points:

The play can be run either side of the floor, but the point guard should attempt to pass to the side of the team’s best scorer.

Screens must be set with the correct timing and angles.

Shot selection is crucial. Your players must read what the best shot is and be willing to pass up an ‘okay’ shot for a ‘great’ shot.

 

Piston Elevator

Overview of the Play:

This is a great play for getting a quick three-point shot. The two guards will look like they’re exchanging wings but your best shooter will quickly cut to the top of the key off an elevator screen for the three-point shot.

Key Personnel:

A great shooter on the wing who will run the baseline cut.

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a 1-4 high formation.

Piston Elevator - Man to Man Play

1. The play starts with 1 dribbling towards one side of the court.

2. 3 Iverson cuts off the screens set by 4 and 5 on the elbows while 2 baseline cuts to the middle of the key.

3. Immediately after setting the screens on the elbows, 4 and 5 set a elevator screen for 2.

4. 2 shoots through the screens to the top of the key for the catch and shoot three-pointer.

Coaching Points:

The player who 1 dribbles at will always go over top of the screens. Therefore, 1 must make sure they don’t dribble towards the better shooter.

There should be no slowing down by 2 in the key. They must make a quick change of direction and burst through the elevator screen. For this reason, 2 should wait an extra second before starting their baseline cut.

4 and 5 must ‘close the gate’ after 2 has cut through to screen 2’s defender. That’s why it’s important for 2 to quickly change direction and create separation so that the post players have time to step closer.

If 4’s defender predicts the pass and cuts it off, 4 should dive to the hoop for the layup.

 

UCLA

Overview of the Play:

This man-to-man play is named after the initial UCLA cut made by the point guard. The play is designed to get your point guard an open shot on the wing off a double screen while the wing player performs a pick and roll.

Key Personnel:

The point guard (or a player who initiates the offense) must be a good shooter.

The wing player that receives the basketball must be a good decision maker and preferably can  shoot the midrange shot and also finish at the rim.

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a 1-4 high formation.

UCLA play

1. The play starts with 1 passing to either 2 or 3 on the wing (2 in this example).

2. 1 then makes a UCLA cut off the screen by 5 looking to receive the pass for the layup.

3. If 1 isn’t open on the cut, 5 steps across and sets another screen for 2.

4. As this is happening, 3 and 4 walk their players down towards the weak side low block to set a double screen for 1.

5. 2 uses the screen from 5 and attack the middle of the floor. After the pick, 5 rolls to the rim.

6. As 2 is dribbling off the screen, 1 cuts hard off the double screen from 3 and 4 and gets open for the open shot.

7. 2 now has three options: They can pass to 1 for the jump shot, attack the rim or pull up for the shot themselves, or pass to 5 rolling towards the rim.

Coaching Points:

One of the advantages of this play is that it can be run on either side of the floor.

Off the double screen, 1 should cut to a distance that they can shoot from. If you’re coaching a young team, they shouldn’t cut outside the three-point line.

Make sure 5 sets the pick and roll screen on the correct angle that allows 2 to attack the rim.

 

X-Cross

Overview of the Play:

X-Cross is a unique play with many scoring options. The name of the play comes from the opening cuts made by the guards. This play is guaranteed to get your team open shot opportunities.

Key Personnel:

• There is no specific personnel needed as there are scoring opportunities for nearly all players.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a high 2-3 formation.

x-cross-images

1. The play begins with either of the top two guards making a pass to a wing player. For this example, 1 passes to 3.

2. After the pass, 1 and 2 then cut off 5 towards the opposite blocks. 1 should always cut first and then 2 follows. 3 should watch both of these cutters and if they’re open pass them the basketball for the open layup.

3. 4 then cuts to the top of the key using 5 as a screen and 1  pops out to the wing.

4. 3 swing the basketball to 4 who immediately passes to 1 on the wing.

5. Immediately after passing, 3 cuts baseline using a flex screen from 2. 1 must look inside and see if they can pass to 3 for the easy layup.

5. If 3 isn’t open, 4 and 5 set a staggered down screen for 2 who cuts to the top of the key for the open shot.

Coaching Points:

5 must hold their position on the high post as 1, 2, and 4 use them as a screen. If 5 moves, a moving screen may be called.

If possible, the first pass to the wing should go to the player you want coming off the flex screen.

 

2-3 Zone Basketball Plays

 

23 Flare

Overview of the Play:

A quick hitter to use against a 2-3 zone to get your best shooter an open shot off a flare screen on the wing.

Key Personnel:

2 should be the best shooter on the team.

1 must be able to make an on-point pass over the flare screen.

5 must be able to set a solid screen.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a 1-3-1 formation with a player that can shoot in the corner on the same side as your best shooter.

23 flare

1. The play begins with 1 take a few dribbles and passing to 2 on the wing. 1 then stays at the top of the key.

2. 5 steps to the strong-side elbow.

3. 2 immediately passes to 4 in the corner.

4. 4 passes back to 2 and begins walking their defender towards the rim.

5. 2 then takes two or three dribbles towards the top of the key forcing X2 to follow in order to deny the open shot.

6. 2 passes to 1 at the top of the key.

7. 5 immediately sets a flare screen for 2.

8. While this is happening, 4 has walked x4 towards the rim and sets a screen so that X4 can’t contest the shot.

9. 2 uses the flare screen and 1 makes the pass over the top for the open three-point shot by 2.

Coaching Points:

The flare screen set by 5 must be quick so that X2 is caught off guard.

This play will only fool the defense once or twice a game so keep it in mind for special occasions where you need a three-point shot.

 

32 Lob

Overview of the Play:

This play is designed to get a backdoor lob for an athletic perimeter player. It involves moving the defense over and then screening the weak side low defender to open a lane for the lob pass and finish.

Key Personnel:

A point guard that can throw a great lob pass.

An athletic perimeter player to catch the lob pass and score either by dunk or layup.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a 3-out 2-in formation.

32 lob

1. The play begins with 1 passing the basketball to the perimeter player that will not be receiving the lob pass (2).

2. 2 then dribbles towards the corner to force X3 to defend the basketball. This means X5 will guard 4.

3. At the same time that 2 dribbles to the corner, 3 slides down to the weak-side corner behind the sight of the defense.

4. 2 passes back to 1 on the wing.

5. Having forced the defense to rotate to one side, 5 established position behind X4 and nudges them up the lane to create space on the baseline.

6. 3 then cuts hard to the ring behind the screen from 5 and catches the lob pass from 1 for the easy score.

Coaching Points:

Since this play is designed to catch the defense by surprise, don’t use it more than once or twice each game.

Lob basketball plays can be a great way to get the crowd involved. If you have an athletic player that can finish, use this play to engage the crowd!

 

Baseline Swing

Overview of the Play:

A 2-3 zone play designed to get a shooter an open shot from midrange or the three-point line. The play achieves this by forcing the baseline defender to play the wing and cutting a player baseline to the short corner.

Key Personnel:

• 4 must be able to hit the midrange or three-point shot.

• 5 must be able to set a solid screen.

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a 4 out 1 in formation with the shooter in the corner.

baseline swing

1. The play begins with 1 passing to the wing on the same side as the corner player. For this example, that means 1 passes to 3.

2. 3 immediately passes back to 1 who is now a few steps to the right of the middle of the court.

3. As this is happening, 2 slides up from the wing to create space for 3 to cut to.

4. 3 then cuts all the way across the court under the high zone defenders to the opposite wing.

5. 1 passes to 2 and 2 passes to 3.

6. Since X2 defended 2 at the top, X3 must close out and defend 3 on the wing to prevent the open shot.

7. 5 screens X5 as 4 cuts baseline to the wide open space on the ball-side baseline.

8. 3 passes to 4 for either the midrange shot or the three-point shot.

Coaching Points:

• 5 must not telegraph that they’re going to set a screen or X5 will fight through it early and be able to contest the shot.

• 4 must cut hard and quickly along the baseline for the catch and shoot.

• If you’re going to use this play, make sure your players work on this shot during practice.

 

Doubles

Overview of the Drill:

This is a quick hitter play for your team’s best shooter. The play starts by moving the defense and then your shooter will run off a double screen and receive the basketball for the open shot.

Key Personnel:

2 should be your team’s best shooter.

1 must be able to make a good pass at exactly the right time to the shooter.

Instructions:

Setup: Begin in a 1-4 formation.

doubles play

1. 1 will start the drill by making a pass to the team’s best shooter (2) on the wing.

2. 2 passes back to 1 at the top of the key.

3. 2 immediately makes a deep cut behind the defense as 1 dribbles across the top of the key to create a better passing angle.

4. As 2 is cutting, 3 and 4 set a double screen on D4.

5. 1 then passes to 2 who shoots the open shot.

Coaching Points:

This play can be run on either side of the floor.

The shot can be a midrange shot or a three-point shot depending on the skill level and age of your players.

 

Pick Overload

Overview of the Play:

This 2-3 zone play is designed to get an open three-point shot on the wing or in the corner by overloading one side of the zone and forcing 2 defenders to guard 3 offensive players.

Key Personnel:

• A point guard (1) with good decision-making skills. Should be able to hit a floater or midrange pull-up.

• Two players that can make the three-point shot at a high percentage – (2) and (3).

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a 1-3-1 formation.

pick overload

1. The play begins with 1 dribbling to either side of the floor to drag the high defender in the zone X1 to the wing.

2. At the same time, 3 slides down towards the corner to give 1 more space on the wing.

3. 5 steps out from the high post and screens X1.

4. 1 uses the screen and attacks the high post. If X2 doesn’t slide across to stop dribble penetration, 1 can finish with a floater or midrange pull-up.

5. At the same time that 1 uses the screen from 5, 3 deep cuts along the baseline to the opposite corner.

6. If X2 does stop dribble penetration (as we expect they will), 1 passes to 2 on the wing who should be wide open for the three-point shot.

7. As X2 stopped the drive, the only defender that can contest 2’s shot is X4. If X4 does sprint out to contest the shot, 2 passes to 3 on the baseline for the open three-point shot.

8. On the shot 1 immediately retreats and plays safety.

Coaching Points:

• It doesn’t matter which side of the floor this play is run on since both wing players will be in shooting positions. 4 on the baseline can start on either side but must go to the ball-side when the ball is reversed.

• 5 and 4 must rebound on the shot.

 

Skipper

Overview of the Play:

This is a quick hitter designed to get a good shooter an open three-point shot from the corner off a skip pass. Due to the skip pass, this may be hard for young teams to execute, but high school teams and older will find a lot of success using this play.

Key Personnel:

• 3 should be able to make a strong skip pass.

• 2 should be the team’s best three-point shooter.

Instructions:

Setup: Your team starts in a 1-3-1 set with the low post player on the same side as your best three-point shooter.

skipper

1. The play begins with 1 passing to 3 on the wing.

2. 5 sets a screen on the back side of D4.

3. 2 slides down to the corner behind 5’s screen.

4. 3 makes the strong skip pass to 2 for the shot.

Coaching Points:

• When 5 sets the screen on the back side of D4, they need to make sure they don’t do it until the pass is about to be made. If they do it too soon, the defense will instantly know what’s happening and can fight through the screen.

• To make sure the ball isn’t tipped, 2 should through an overhead pass. Make sure to practice this with your team at practice!

 

Swinger

Overview of the Play:

This play is designed to get a blindside pick-and-roll for your point guard at the top of the key. After using the pick-and-roll, the point guard has a number of options to give your team in the best opportunity to score.

Key Personnel:

1 must be a great decision maker.

5 must be able to set a strong screen.

3 must be able to knock down the three-point shot.

Instructions:

Setup: Players start in a 1-3-1 formation with your best decision maker running the point guard position.

Swinger1. 1 passes to 2 on the wing to shift the defense.

2. Once the defense shifts, 2 passes back to 1 at the top of the key.

3. As this pass is made, 5 sets a blindside screen on D2.

3. 1 immediately uses the screen and attacks towards the rim.

4. As 1 is driving off the pick-and-roll, 3 slides down to the corner and 4 slides along the baseline to find a hole in the defense.

5. 1 now has three scoring options depending on what the defense does.

Option 1 – If no defender steps up to stop the ball, 1 pulls up for a jump shot.

Option 2 – If D4 steps out to defend, 1 passes to 3 for the corner three-point shot.

Option 3 – If D5 steps out to defend, 1 bounce passes to 4 for the baseline layup.

Coaching Points:

5 must set the screen on a good angle so that 1 can attack the rim. A lot of youth players set the screen on the side of the defender and they easily slip under it.

3 and 4 must be down in stance ready to catch and shoot when they receive the pass from 1.

 

BLOB Man-to-Man Basketball Plays

 

4-Low Flex

Overview of the Play

From a 4-low formation, the ball is passed to the middle players at the top of the key. The play then involves a flex screen and pin down which provides two great open shot opportunities.

Key Personnel:

Best shooter should inbound the basketball.

Best post player should start outside the three-point line on ball-side.

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins in a 4-low formation with the bigs on ball-side.

4-low-flex-blob-man-to-man-play-diagram

1. 4 cuts to the top of the key and receives the inbounds lob pass.

2. 3 waits an extra second and then cuts to the top of the key and receives the pass from 4.

3. 2 then steps inbounds and sets a flex screen for 5 who flex cuts looking for the pass and open layup.

4. We then use a screen-the-screener action as 4 sets a pin down for 2.

5. 2 cuts to the top of the key looking for the catch and shoot from a pass from 3.

Coaching Points:

3 must be able to make smart decisions with the basketball and hit the open player at the right time and on-target.

It’s important that every player sets strong screens during this play.

 

Box Gate

Overview of the Play:

The play begins in a box formation and involves your best shooter setting a simple back screen for a center to get open for a quick layup. The screener then uses a gate screen to open up a catch and shoot from the wing. The play finishes with an open post up by the center.

Key Personnel:

Best shooter should start on the weakside low block.

Best post-up player should start on the weak-side elbow.

Point guard should inbound the basketball.

Instructions:

The play begins in a box formation.

box-gate-blob-man-to-man-play

1. 2 sets a back screen for 5 who cuts to the rim looking for the basketball.

2. As 2 sets the screen, that’s when 3 starts to move up the side of the key. 3 can’t move too early or the defense will read the play.

3. Immediately after setting the screen for 5, 2 sprints through a gate screen set by 3 and 4 looking for a catch and shoot on the wing.

4. After screening, 3 and 4 clear out to the top of the key.

5. 1 steps inside the court and sets a cross screen for 5 who looks to duck in for the pass or post up on the ball-side low block.

Coaching Points:

The reason the point guard should inbound the basketball is so that the help on the cross screen is a small defender.

3 must wait until 2 is ready to sprint off the gate screen before moving. They should arrive at the same time.

1 must make the pass to 2’s inside shoulder. If they pass to the outside of their body, it will be difficult to catch and shoot.

 

Box Floppy Gate

Overview of the Play:

A super simple gate screen play off a baseline inbounds. The shooter passes the basketball in and then walks to the middle of the key where they’ll receive a gate screen to one side of the floor and a normal screen to the other.

Key Personnel:

Your best shooter should be inbounding the basketball.

Instructions:

Setup: The play starts in a box formation with the shooter inbounding the basketball.

box-floppy-gate-play-diagram

1. The play begins with 4 stepping off the low block to receive the pass.

2. 4 then swings the basketball to 3 who immediately passes to 1.

3. By this time the shooter (2) has walked their player into the middle of the key.

4. 4 and 3 then set a gate screen on the low block which 2 sprints through to get open for the shot.

5. It’s 1’s responsibility to use the dribble to improve the passing angle.

6. If the defender cheats the gate screen, 5 sets a screen on the opposite low block which the shooter can use also.

Coaching Points:

The gate screen provides the primary scoring opportunity. Only after you’ve run the play a few times and the defender cheats should the shooter look to use the single screen from 5.

This is a great play for youth basketball due to its simplicity.

The shooter should give a small ‘nudge’ to their defender before cutting through the gate screen to create separation. This must be taught to the players so that they’re not called for a pushing foul.

 

Duke

Overview of the Play:

This play is designed to get great open midrange and three-point shots around the perimeter. If none of the shots are open, the team can either post up one of the bigs or set a ram screen for the perimeter player.

Key Personnel:

This play works best if 1, 2, and 3 can hit an open outside shot.

2 should be the team’s best creator out of a pick-and-roll.

5 should be your team’s best post player.

4 should be your team’s best screener.

Instructions:

Setup: The play begins with one player on the free-throw line and 3 players lined up on and between the low blocks.