There is no shortage of resources for finding good basketball plays to use with your team. You can find them online, in printed books, at basketball clinics, from your scouting reports, or from diagramming them from games that are on TV. There are a couple of mistakes that coaches frequently make when deciding on what plays to use. There is also a simple system that you can use to avoid those mistakes and install plays that your team can use as effective scoring weapons.
The first mistake is selecting a play to install into your offense just because you like the actions that it creates without giving any thought as to how it fits with the skills of your players. The second mistake is continuing to use the same plays that have worked for you in the past even when you are coaching players with different skills from the ones who made the plays successful.
Sets that are good basketball plays for other teams might not work for your current team. In general, good basketball plays have some fundamental characteristics that make them effective and difficult for your opponents to defend.
Here is an 8 point checklist that I use to test each idea that I have for a new play before I present it to our team at practice.
- What is the purpose of the play? For example, is it a play designed to get the ball to the low post? To get a backdoor cut? An inside out three point shot?
- Does it put our players in positions to utilize their talents?
- Does it force the defense to guard multiple cuts, screens, and passes?
- Does it have secondary scoring options if the defense takes away our first scoring option?
- Does it have ways to stretch the defense both horizontally and vertically? That forces the defense to extend itself and cover more of the court.
- Is there proper spacing? Players should be positioned (spaced) 15 to 18 feet away from each other to make it impossible for defenders to both guard the player they are assigned to guard and help on other players.
- Is there false action away from the scoring action to occupy the potential helping defense?
- Does the play include ball reversal? Initiating an action on one side of the floor then swinging the ball to the other side of the floor gives you a chance to score against a defense that is adjusting to the changing positions of the offensive players and the basketball.
Before I am comfortable using a play in a game we practice it for at least a week so that we can determine if it is working and also for our players to become comfortable with it. We never draw up a play in a huddle during a game and expect players to go out and execute it. That type of strategy and execution has very little chance of being successful.
Times you might want to run set plays
- If you are behind, or need to pick up the pace of the game against an opponent who is less talented then you are, set plays can often result in quicker shots.
- To exploit an advantage you have where one of your players is much better than the player that is guarding him.
- To force one of your opponents to play defense and look to get that specific player in foul trouble.
- If you are having trouble with your regular offense, running one of your quick hits is a way to change the flow and hopefully jump start your scoring.
- You can save plays best plays for the end of a close game so that the defense hasn’t already seen them and isn’t prepared to guard them.
Final thoughts on what makes good basketball plays.
- Run counters to your set plays. If you run a play called “UConn” , have another play called “Huskie” that is its counter. The counter should start like the original, then change a couple of cuts or screens in your counter. After you have run your initial play and the defenders are expecting you to do the same thing, call the counter and if your players execute correctly, it should get you a quick scoring opportunity.
- Evaluate the success of your plays. Divide the number of points you have scored on each one (including free throws) by the number of times you have run it. For each game and over the course of several games, you can use that ratio to determine which play is performing the best for you.
Regardless of how well you draw up and explain your plays to your players, the one thing that all good basketball plays have in common is execution. Your players must set good screens, make sharp cuts, perfect the timing, make good passes, and most importantly make great decisions with the basketball for your plays to result in points for your team.