Passing Game Basics

Passing Game, often referred to as “Motion”, is a continuity offense that has been around for about 40 years. Some of the greatest coaches ever in the game, such as Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, Larry Brown, Doug Moe and Roy Williams have run passing game as their offense for their teams.

Advantages of Passing Game:

  • Freedom. Read the defense and react. Most set offenses give freedom to the player with the ball, but the players without the ball have a prescribed role to follow.

  • Good player movement. Nothing presents more problems to defenses than movement.

  • All 5 offensive players move, so all 5 defense players have to move.

  • Defenses cannot key on one player. Most pattern offenses involve 2, maybe 3 players, therefore, the other player’s defenders can give efficient help.

  • Good ball movement. While hard on the defense, this also encourages unselfish play.

  • No resetting the offense, so the defense can’t reset either.

  • Hard to scout

  • Fast break flows easily into passing game, which facilitates a running game.

  • Effective versus all types of defenses.

  • Great teacher of the basic game of basketball to young players. The offense encourages well rounded skill development and does not limit or specialize.

  • Simple to learn the basics.

  • Helps defense by playing against passing game in practice.

Weaknesses of Passing Game

  • Rebounding. Most pattern offenses provide for good offensive rebounding position when a shot is taken. Also, in pattern offenses, teammates have a good idea when a shot is about to be attempted. I have found by designating certain players to go to offensive boards that will help offensive rebounding in passing game. Also, as players grows accustomed to each other, they attain a good feel when shots are about to be taken.

  • In passing game, selfish play can be very disruptive and destructive. It is up to coaches to instill appropriate attitudes.

  • Many coaches do not like that they cannot designate a certain player to get a shot attempt, especially at key times of a game.

  • Many coaches feel that they lose control in games. Control happens through practices and teaching players about passing, movement and good shot selection.

  • Many coaches feel a team needs five players with adequate skills in order to play passing game.

Basic Principles of Passing Game

  • Rules should be kept to a minimum. Passing game should have as much freedom as possible.

  • Three primary fundamentals of passing game.

  • Crisp passes.

  • Cutting

  • Screening.

Players with the ball have 3 options, depending on how defense is playing:

  1. Pass

  2. Shoot

  3. Dribble

Players without the ball have 3 options:

  1. Cut

  2. Screen

  3. Replace

Players after passing have 3 options

  1. Cut

  2. Screen

  3. Replace

There are 3 types of cuts:

  1. Speed cut

  2. V cut

  3. Back cut

There are 3 examples of cuts:

  1. Basket Cut. Cut to basket looking for a pass or a post up.

  2. Inside Cut. Cut to the baseline area to prepare for coming off a screen.

  3. Post Cut. Similar to a basket cut, but a rub off of a post player, high post or low post

There are 3 types of screens:

  1. Downscreen

  2. Backscreen

  3. Screen at the point of the ball.

Keys to Passing Game

  • There are 5 areas of the court to be filled by players, one player in each area. The 5 areas are 1 post area and 4 perimeter areas.

  • Maintain a 15′ to 18′ spacing.

  • Upon catching the ball, a player should do something between a 1 count to a 3 count. Sometimes a player gives up the ball too quickly without allowing enough time for things to develop.

  • Read the defense. The defense always gives the offense something.

  • Pass away from the defense with crisp passes.

  • Do not over dribble. Use the dribble to improve passing angles, to drive to the basket, and to move the ball versus full court pressure.

  • Ball should be swung from one side of the court to the other before attacking the set defense.This forces the defense to move from strongside to weakside

  • Do not pass ball to baseline area early in offense unless player has wide open shot. Too early at the baseline makes it more difficult to move the ball to the other side.


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