In “motion offence”, offensive players need to “read” the defence rather than moving based upon a pre-determined set offence. Coaches should guide players in understanding the key criteria for making decisions – what makes a decision good or bad? For example, in a 2 on 1 situation the player with the ball has to decide between passing to their team mate or continue dribbling for a lay-up. What is the criterion for making this decision?

In the case of 2x1, it is mainly related to the action of the defender. For instance, if the defender moves to guard the dribbler, the best decision is to pass but if the defenders does not commit to guarding the dribbler and leaves enough room to reach the hoop, the appropriate decision is to keep dribbling for the lay-up.

Coaches should identify key criteria (or key signal stimulus) that can be used to determine what decision to make, and can be made to evaluate a decision that is made. Once the coach establishes this criteria, rather than tell players what they should have done, the coach can ask questions related to the criteria, so that the player learns how to make the decision.

For example, in a 2x1 situation, rather than telling the player they should have passed the ball, they could:

Coach: “Where was the defender positioned?”
Player: “They started in the key, and then came to guard me.”
Coach: “What should your decision be when that happens?”
Player: “If the defender commits to guarding me, I should pass.”
Coach: “Where exactly did the defender move?”
Player: “I thought I could still get past, however they did get in front of me so I should have passed.”

In this example, the player knows the correct rule to apply and it was their judgment about whether or not the defender had “committed” that was wrong. By using questions the coach has let that athlete reflect on the situation and realise the error they made (thinking the defender had not “committed”). If the coach had just said “you should have passed the ball”, the player may ignore the feedback because their initial thought was that the defender had not committed.

We will use, as an example, a 3x3 framework, to consider the tactical offensive decisions that need to be made. The difficulty of activities should increase progressively.

Passing to the Low Post

  • Perimeter player determines whether or not to pass to the low post


  • The pass should be from below the extended free throw line
  • Low post defender must be either behind (shown black) or playing a three-quarter fronting defence on the opposite side of the passer (shown red).

A pass to the low post that does not meet these conditions (i.e. from above the extended free throw line or with the defender in front) would be an incorrect decision.

The wing player may adjust their position to meet the conditions. For example, 3 dribbles toward the baseline, so that the defender is on the other side of the post player.

Competitive Activity

Simply demonstrating the rules to the players is unlikely to be effective. Instead, the player’s need to be given opportunities to practice, with the coach providing feedback.

  • 3x3 with the following rules:
  • the team that scores keeps playing offence
  • offence can only score if the low post receives that ball because of a correct decision – once the ball has gone to the low post, any score can be made. If a score is made without a pass to low post, the other team get the ball
  • to increase opportunities for correct decisions, defence can be instructed not to front or not to intercept the pass.

Low Post’s decisions

  • Upon receiving the ball, the post player must decide whether or not to play 1x1 or pass the ball to a team mate


  • As the post defender is behind the post player, the action of the perimeter defenders is the key factor (“key signal stimulus”):
  • If a perimeter defender helps to pressure the post – the post should pass to the team mate who gets open
  • If perimeter defenders do not help, the post player should play 1x1

Competitive Activity

Play 3x3 with the following rules:

  • Offence can only score if the low post has first received the ball on a correct decision to pass;
  • Every time the post player makes the correct decision (play 1x1 or pass) offence score a point and lose a point for an incorrect decision by the post.
  • to increase opportunities for correct decisions, defence can be instructed not to front to intercept the pass.

Coaches must resist the temptation to just tell players what they should have done and instead should ask questions about the key factors (e.g. position of defenders). For this reason, some coaches use a teaching point with offensive players that “the defence will tell you what to do”!

Perimeter Decisions

Using the same 3x3 framework it is possible to also develop the decision making of perimeter players.


Perimeter players may need to make two decisions:

  1. When the low post receives the ball and the perimeter player’s defender moves to help, the perimeter player has to decide whether or not to move to another spot to receive a pass back.
  2. Upon receiving the ball back from the low post, the perimeter player must decide whether to shoot, drive inside or pass to an open team mate if their defender rotates

Decision 1 (Defender helping on Post)

  • The “key signal stimulus” is the position of the perimeter player’s defender. The player should try and move away from their defender’s eye line

Decision 2 (Receiving pass back from Post)

  • Again, the key signal stimulus is the action of the defenders. The perimeter player should catch the ball balanced, ready to shoot.
  • If their defender does not come back (or no defender rotates), they should shoot
  • If the defender comes back, pump fake and then drive
  • If a defender rotates to them (leaving a teammate open) they should pass to their team mate.

Competitive Activity

The same 3x3 activity as above can be used, with the following rules to reward good decision making:

  • They can only score if the low post receives a pass from below the extended free throw line;
  • Each time a perimeter player makes a correct decision (whether Decision 1 or Decision 2) the team receive an extra point
  • If perimeter player makes a wrong decision the team loses a point
  • Perimeter defenders must help on the post, otherwise their team loses a point
  • Can restrict post defender to only playing behind or to play be behind or ¾ front

Low Post and Perimeter Players’ Decisions

The next step is to work on both the decisions of the low post player and perimeter players at the same time. The same 3x3 framework can be used with perimeter players making a decision of whether or not to help against the post player.

Coaches may allow some further variations in player movement to make the activity less predictable:

Perimeter players may pass to a coach and then switch positions

The guard may use a dribble entry, dribbling to below the free throw extended and the forward cuts behind the post to replace the guard.

The forward may screen the post player and switch positions.

A pass to the post from above the free throw extended line is allowed where:

  • The ball has been passed from below the extended free throw line back to the point position (the start of ball “reversal”)
  • The post defender was either playing behind (shown black) or was ¾ fronting from the baseline side of the post player (shown red)
  • The post player has been able to “seal” their defender.

In this situation the key signal stimuli is:

  • The position of the post defender – indicating the ball should be reversed
  • The position of the post player establishing a “seal”.

Allow Creativity in Decision Making

It is important that players learn to make their own decisions and not simply do what the coach has instructed. Accordingly the coach must create the situations in which a tactical decision has to be made and at times the players may choose options that are different to what the coach would do.

They coach observes how the players perform and provide information to the player about options that existed (and the player did not choose) or factors that meant that what the player did was unsuccessful (e.g. position of a “help” defender).

Again, questioning players will be more beneficial than the coach always giving them the “answer”. In a game, players make decisions and the coach’s role at practice is to teach them how to make the best decision.

“3x3 from Half Way”

A similar 3x3 activity can be used with players starting at half way so that they must move and get organized and then make decisions according to the criteria previously discussed.

The coach could add to the complexity by passing the ball to one offensive player to start the activity while the other players must progress into offence making sure that they have a low post and a perimeter player below the extended free throw line.

The coach can add further rules, such as:

  • The players cannot use the same option twice in a row to get into their initial offensive positions;
  • Offence cannot have the same person at the post player twice in a row;
  • Offence cannot play on the same side of the floor three times in a row;
  • Offence must include specific aspects – e.g. they have to set a screen, dribbler cannot dribble below extended free throw.

These rules can be enforced by giving the ball to the defence should the rules be broken.

This activity can also be done full court.