December 8, 2009 • FeaturesFrom the BenchOffenseWinning Hoops

Set plays, proven tips to keep defenses off balance

We’ve developed a system for naming our set plays against specific defenses and situational inbound plays — both side court, and under the basket — after the team nickname of the opponent we’re facing.

For example, if we’re playing a team with the nickname “Eagles,” then the player inbounding the ball shouts out “Eagles!” But in reality, the play we’re running is really dictated by the defense’s set and the position of the ball, such as an under-the-basket inbounds play vs. a 2-3 zone.

This makes your team hard to scout, because your plays are always called something different. If a future opponent is scouting our team, he or she is going to note that we run an under-the-basket inbound play called “Eagles” and they will prepare to defend “Eagles.”

The following are some of the best plays that we’ve run over the years. I recommend the previously mentioned strategy for naming plays, but for purposes of this article, each play is assigned a name.


DIAGRAM 1: 4 sets a downscreen for 5. 1 passes to 5 and sets a screen away for 2. 2 pops to the top of the key, while 3 remains at the ball-side elbow.

DIAGRAM 2: 5 passes to 2, who quickly reverses the ball to 1. 5 cuts off a staggered screen set by 3 and 4. 2 sets a downscreen for 3, who pops to the top of the key. 5 can post up in either the low or high post.

DIAGRAM 3: 1 can shoot, pass to 3 for an open 3-pointer, or throw the ball into 5 in the post.


DIAGRAM 4: This is a good offensive set for late in a quarter or near the end of the game. 1 has the ball and dribbles toward 2. 1, 2 and 3 play a three-man weave game at the top. All three players have the option of driving to the basket if the defense comes out too far and they see an opening. Look for backdoor cuts along the baseline for 5 and 4.


DIAGRAM 5: Out of a box-set formation, 1 dribbles to the right at the foul-line extended area. 3 screens across for 5, who cuts baseline to the ball-side post. 4 and 2 set staggered screens for 3, who pops to the top.

DIAGRAM 6: 4 cuts to the weak-side block, while 2 pops to the weak-side wing area. 1’s first option is to hit 5 in the post or hit 3 at the top for a 3-point shot.

14 low

DIAGRAM 7: This is a great play to run at the end of a quarter. From a 1-4 low set, 4 and 5 screen in for 2 and 3, who roll behind the 3-point line at the foul-line extended. 1 creates off the dribble and drives to the basket to draw the defenders toward him or her.

DIAGRAM 8: When the low-post defenders come up to stop the drive, 1 can dish it to 4 or 5, who roll toward the basket after setting the initial screens. If the wing defenders collapse on the drive, 1 can kick it back out to 2 and 3 for a 3-point shot.