Set Plays or Motion?

Set Plays vs. MotionOver the last couple decades I have met dozens of coaches who run motion offense and motion offense only.

They run the same motion against man to man, 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone, Box & 1, Triangle & 2, and any and everything else that the defense throws at them.

These coaches proudly announce to the world that they are teaching their teams how to play the game and not to just run plays.

At the same time I have also met dozens of coaches who only run set plays on offense.

They have plays for 3’s, plays for the post, plays to isolate mismatches, and plays to counteract anything the defense does.

These coaches feel that they too are teaching players how to play by providing a variety of previously practiced options instead of relying on everyone’s decision making.

The ironic thing is that I’ve heard both groups of coach’s say “It doesn’t matter what you run but how you run it that counts.”

If that’s true then why do both groups refuse to change or even compromise?

Longtime NCAA Div. I assistant Coach Randy Brown has listed 10 advantages to both motion and set plays.

Let’s first look at his advantages of running motion:

  1. Motion is a “thinking” offense that requires players to have some basketball IQ.
  2. Motion is a combination of every pass, screen, and cut known to the game of basketball.
  3. The Snowflake Theory – no two possessions are ever alike.
  4. Can highlight your best player by constantly screening for him.
  5. Offense can react to the defense instead of moving in a predetermined direction.
  6. Motion is unpredictable making it very hard to guard. You can create hundreds of unique entries.
  7. It is impossible to scout because of its flexibility and adaptability.
  8. Screening, cutting, and ball movement are an unstoppable combination.
  9. Multiple opportunities for getting the best shooters open.
  10. Role definition is clear cut, letting players perfect their specific roles within motion.

How many of these motion advantages do you agree with? How many do you disagree with? Why?

Now let’s look at Coach Brown’s 10 advantages of running set plays:

  1. Coach has large degree of control over which players take the shot. Set plays are purposefully designed for specific players to receive the ball in specific spots on the floor.
  2. Execution is high due to the predetermined nature of set plays. Players know exactly where to start, what to do during the play, and how to finish the play.
  3. During late game or special situations, set plays can be very good.
  4. Coach can determine who handles the ball during plays to reduce turnovers.
  5. Sets plays take advantage of players’ strengths and hide player weaknesses.
  6. Set plays can be called by the coaching staff.
  7. Set plays can focus on a 2 point basket, a 3 point basket, or a need to penetrate.
  8. Each set play can have multiple options. One play becomes six plays by reading the defense.
  9. Makes for a difficult game prep for the opponent because each set must be defended.
  10. Set plays can be altered each year based on player strengths and skills.

How many of these set play advantages do you agree with? How many do you disagree with? Why?

For me personally, both lists contain things that I agree and disagree with which is not a huge surprise since I have often alternated between motion and set plays based on the personnel I have in our program at a particular time.

I want players to enjoy the success and confidence that comes from improving their skills and maximizing their talents and I also want them to learn the many life lessons that being on a team offers.

However, I also feel (and my administration agrees) that one of my primary responsibilities is to put the players in a position where they have at least a chance to win every game.

Because of that belief, running a combination of motion and set plays seems to work best for me and our program.

One thought on “Set Plays or Motion?

  1. johnny griffin

    i believe that it doesnt matter which offense a coach chooses to run either set plays or a motion offense,i believe whats more important is that u teach your kids the fundamentals of the game to perfection,then it really doesnt matter what u run your teams can adapt easier to both,because they have the fundamentals down pat.we as coaches need to get back to spending time on coaching the fundamentals.


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