An Offensive System For All Players

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Coaches are always looking for plays. I have a playbook with over 500 plays in it. Many, I have never run, others I have run with varying degrees of success. I go to a game and see a play I like I write it down. I go to a clinic and a speaker who draws a play I find interesting, I write it down. I speak to a coach who says, “This works for me,” I write it down.

Here are a few things that I have learned while going through this process. First, coaches are infatuated with patterns. That is not a bad thing, but it is a thing. When coaches see things that are innovative, new and involve multiple cuts, they are drawn to it.

Next, coaches talk about simplicity but like complexity. We do not believe that plays that involve 1 pass and one cut will work. We need to have multiple passes, several cuts and some misdirection for us to feel comfortable.

Neither of those things is bad. In fact, as the sophistication of scouting increases you might have to have a few aces up your sleeve to foil a game plan. However, where coaches to make mistakes is when they believe that the offensive PLAY is the answer when in reality it is the offensive PLAYER. I am probably guiltier of that most in that regard. I see a play that I like, try to run it and can’t figure out why it doesn’t work. The Triangle Offense worked for the Bulls when they had Michael Jordan, why won’t it work for me when I have Johnny Jumpshot. When evaluating an offensive play, you must you must evaluate whether it is right for your players.

Each player has his own skill set. Each position has its own role. Your offensive plays should reflect that. It should be precise enough to be able create the situations you need for your players to excel yet be varied enough so each particular player has a chance to succeed. Finding that offensive system is one of the true challenges of coaching

As you put together your series of offensive plays, try to keep each aspect simple. Your system should be simple enough that all players can run it, precise enough that it produces the situations that you feel will be good for your team and diverse enough that it has something for all of your players. One thing that I learned from ex-NBA coach, Hubie Brown, was to have a game card and keep it handy during games. What is a game card? It is a card that has all of the plays that you have active in your game plan. Sometimes it is difficult to remember all of your options in the heat of the game. Having a game card to look at will help you be prepared for all situations. I organize my game card by player, plays that will get my 5 man a shot, 4 man, etc. I have found it to be very effective when we need to get someone a shot or if we need a basket.

Below is a sample of a series of offensive plays that have been worked into a system. Each play has many of the same actions yet will provide opportunities for every position. This is not the only system there is and I don’t claim it is the best. It is something I have had success with and wanted to share. Each starts from the same set and has the same entry. This makes it simple for players to remember and makes it difficult to scout. Each play has just a couple of cuts and a couple of passes to keep it simple and directed.

This is by no means the complete series. There are other plays, counters, alternate entries, etc. I am presenting these basketball plays to illustrate how versatile simplicity can be.

Below is the basic offensive action with the basic cuts extended all the way to the last option. As we go through the progressions, illustrated are scoring options for each player.

This can be run out of multiple sets, including a box, a 2-3 or a 2-2-1 based on personnel.. I have chosen to illustrate it as a 1-4.


Basic 1-4 set.

1 – point guard

2 & 3 -wing players, good shooters

4 & 5 – Post players, might step out or post up




Entry – 1 passes to 2

Scoring option – 2 is isolated on the wing. Can shoot or drive.



4 Steps up and backscreens for 1.

Scoring opportunity – 2 passes to 1 off the backscreen.




5 dives to the block

2 passes to 4

Scoring opportunity – 4 shoots


2 screens down for 1

1 cuts off screen

5 ducks in

Scoring opportunity – 4 passes to 5 for post up

This action is designed to occupy the help in the post. It also presents a good scoring opportunity for 1





4 passes to 1 off downscreen

Scoring opportunity – 1 shoots off screen





4 passes to 3

Scoring opportunity – 3 is isolated, can shoot or drive.



5 seals in the lane

Scoring opportunity – 3 passes to 5 for post play.

*When 5 ducks in on pass to 4 and the defense plays it over the top, a good seal will open up the 3-5 pass to the baseline.


As you can see, there are scoring opportunities on each cut and on each pass. Using this as a basis, below are some plays, off of this basic offense to provide scoring opportunities for specific players.

Play for Point Guard shooter and Wing Shooter




Basic 1-4 Set

1 – Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 – Post Players




1 enters to 2

5 dives to the block




4 Backscreens for 1

1 cuts off backscreen

2 looks to 1 for score





4 ballscreens for 2

3 dives to double screen with 5

2 drives off ball screen





4 pops after screen. 2 looks to 4 for pick and pop.





As 2 drives off screen, 1 comes off weakside 5/3 double screen




2 passes to 1 for shot




If 1 is not open for a shot

4 screens in

3 cuts off screen by 4

2 passes to 3 for shot.


Play for Wing Shooter



Basic 1-4 Set

1 – Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 – Post Players



1 dribbles at 2

2 cuts backdoor

Scoring Opportunity – 2 backdoor pass


2 stops at the block

4 steps up

5 dives to block



1 passes out to 4


3 steps up

4 passes to 3

1 screens down



4 steps down to screen

1 & 4 become a stagger screen




2 cuts off ¼ stagger

3 passes to 2 for shot.


Play for Weakside Post



Basic 1-4 Set

1 – Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 – Post Players



1 enters to 2


4 steps up to backscreen for 1

1 cuts off backscreen by 4

5 dives to block



1 cross screens for 5

5 cuts off screen by 1

Big/small screen not only will clear 5 but will create a mismatch on a switch.




2 passes to 5 for post play


4 downscreens for 1

1 cuts off downscreen by 4

2 passes to 1 for shot

Primary purpose for 4/1 screen is to create action to clear the low post. This action is a excellent secondary option.


Play for Stronside Post



Basic 1-4 Set

1 – Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 – Post Players



1 enters to 2



4 steps up to backscreen for 1




1 “pushes” 4 to the low post

2 looks to 4 for low post scoring option

* A “push” occurs when 4’s defender steps to defend 1’s cut or when 4’s defender relaxes. 1 actually “pushes” 4 to the low post with his hands.


1 pops back up

2 passes to 1

5 pops up

1 passes to 5


2 runs a “rub cut” off of 4

4 step off 2’s cut

1 steps wider

5 passes to 4

*A “rub cut” is designed to strip the top side defense on the low post. 2 MUST go over the top and makes contact, on his chest, with 4’s defender and makes the defender step backward into the lane. Done properly, this opens up the 5-4 passing lane.



5 Passes to 1

4 seals

1 passes to 4 for post play.

*This is a secondary option. If a 5-4 pass cannot be made it is because the “rub cut” did not contact the defender and he is still over the top. If the defense is over the top, a proper seal by 4 will hold the defender on the top side and open a passing lane to the baseline by 1.


5 & 3 step down to stagger screen.

2 cuts off the stagger

1 passes to 2 for shot.

*This is a secondary action designed to strip the weakside post help. It also present an excellent scoring opportunity

Again, these are just a few plays that fit nicely with one another to make an offensive system. It is not the whole system, by any means, but a creative coach can add and adapt to his personnel. They have enough in common to be easy to play and enough variation to present scoring opportunities when the defense adjusts.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.