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A Guide to the Motion Offense


Keep it moving


The motion offense is ideal for both beginners and experienced players due to its simplicity and versatility. It is the epitome of an offensive scheme that is easy to pick up and hard to master, built on a few simple premises. As its name suggests, the motion offense is predicated on constant player and ball movement. It is relatively unstructured and instinctual, making it unintimidating for novices, but it also requires quick, intelligent reads to function at its full potential.


The motion offense works simply by keeping the defense moving. Variable positioning creates problems and confusion, especially against a man-to-man defense. The endless switching and rotations required also mitigate any advantages in size or athleticism that the defensive team possesses. With the spacing created, cuts to the basket can produce easy layups or open shots, thus minimizing the need for one-on-one moves.


Teamwork is the focal point of any motion offense, as players have to give the ball up immediately to open teammates and give their bodies up in setting solid off-ball screens. Physical conditioning and effort are also prerequisites due to the constant movement. You have to cut after every pass or screen, with no time for standing still. Patience is similarly a necessity as you repeatedly sacrifice a good shot for an even better one.


At a higher level, movement needs to be purposeful. You have to make the right reads and the right cuts at the right time, all within the flow of the game. Versatile players will add to the offensive threat, but it is more important to have thinking players. The free-flowing nature of the offense means that players dictate its implementation, rather than coaches. Beyond just moving, players also have to ensure that they maintain good spacing at all times, such that passes, cuts and shots can all be attempted quickly without being crowded out by the defense.


Although mastering the motion offense is a mentally-demanding enterprise, the end result can be a very rewarding, effective and aesthetically-pleasing style of play. Legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril aided Rick Adelman in a notable manifestation of the scheme with the Sacramento Kings, while San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina has experienced much success with the motion offense at an elite level as well.