When I asked the readers of my newsletter to write in the offense they ran, many responded with “5 out motion offense”. Even without elite shooting, the 5 out motion offense is a great offense for many youth basketball teams, and could be the perfect fit for your team too.
The strength of a 5 out motion offense starts with spacing. Think about it. If everyone’s standing spread out on the perimeter then:
- There’s no defenders in the paint to help on drives.
- The nearest defender on the perimeter is several feet away.
- Defenders that help must move away from their man.
These advantages will create space for your players to drive and cut for layups. But there’s also several non-tactical reasons for you to consider:
- Teaches universal basketball principles– your players’ future coach will thank you when he/she realizes that your players are great at getting open and making decisions.
- Doesn’t pigeon hole players into positions– if you’re a youth coach you’ll never know how tall your players will be. Shooting, passing and cutting are vital skills for all positions.
- Demands even contribution from all your players– no single player on the court is doing most of the dribbling, shooting, or posting up. The 5 out motion is a great offense for player development.
- Easy to teach, easily scalable– what I mean is that the basic principles (pass and cut, fill spaces, spread out) are simple and quickly picked up. But as we’ve seen with the Warriors and Spurs, there’s plenty of areas for growth, should you coach a higher level team.
Even if you’ve already got your own offense ready, the 5 out motion is so common you’ve probably come up against it before. It pays to know what the other team is running!
Keep reading for a complete break down of the 9 rules of the 5 out motion offense.
Here are the 9 rules of the 5 out motion offense. These tactics are easy to teach yet when executed well can destroy a defense. I’ve arranged them from simplest to most complex so they’re also the order you should teach them in when introducing them to your team.
9 Rules of the 5 Out Motion Offense
- Spread out along the perimeter
- Catch ready to attack
- Pass and basket cut
- Always fill the 5 spaces
- If the pass is denied, back cut
- Pass and screen away
- Pass and screen ball
- If dribbled at, dribble hand off
- Post ups must be quick
#1 Spread out along the perimeter
Every player starts out behind the 3-point line. There are 5 “spots” to stand in to maximize spacing. They are:
- 1 player at the top, directly in line with the hoop. Often the player that brings the ball up.
- 2 players on the wings. They stand at the free throw line extended.
- 2 players in the corners.
- Each of these players is interchangeable and the team must seek to fill all 5 spots unless passing or cutting.
- For young teams, it can be useful to put cones at each of these spots until they are familiar with where to go.
#2 Catch ready to attack
Attacking after catching is the hardest concept for young players to pick up and I’ve found it to be a confidence issue. Kids that can’t shoot from the 3 point line will often catch the ball looking to pass but this leads to the offense going nowhere. Catching ready to attack starts from catching ready to shoot.
It’s highly controversial, but taking a leaf from our coaching partner Don Kelbick’s “Attack and Counter” philosophy, I advocate for coaches to teach their players to catch ready to shoot. Before you scream, “but they can’t shoot!”, think about the benefits being ready to shoot has:
- You catch the ball balanced and now can drive in both directions.
- You look at the hoop, getting your head up and surveying the floor.
- Your defender might believe you can shoot, allowing you to drive past them for an easier shot.
One day, provided they work hard and you coach them well, they might be able to make that shot. Until then, fake it until you make it. Catch the ball ready to shoot, then make the read from there- shoot, pass or drive.
As a coach, here are several things aside from practicing 3’s that you can do to help your players get the confidence to catch and attack:
- Practice 1 on 1 drills- 1 on 1 vs a close out, with 3 dribbles, with jump shots only, from the corner, wing and top. You need to throw all these different situations at your young players so they learn what they’re good at. Their confidence in practice will lead them to develop “go to” moves.
- Practice the pull up game- the mid range is a lost art. Players that can take 1 or 2 dribbles and pull up around the free throw line are just as valuable as 3 point shooters.
- Develop a great hesitation move- The hesitation is another underrated basketball move. A defender that is sagging will have nightmares keeping up with a player that drives at full speed, pauses, then explodes again.
#3 Pass and basket cut and #4 always fill the 5 spaces
After a pass, your players need to cut to the basket. Players without the ball then need to move along the perimeter to fill the empty spaces. All 5 spots along the perimeter must be filled unless a player is cutting or screening.
These are the 4 scenarios you’ll see with the pass and cut:
1, Top to wing pass and cut
- 1 (top) passes to 2 (wing).
- 1 basket cuts.
- 3 moves up to fill the top, 4 moves to where 3 was.
- 1 cuts through to the weak side corner.
2. Wing to corner pass and cut
- 4 (wing) passes to 1 (corner).
- 4 basket cuts.
- 3 (top) cuts to fill the wing. 2 fills the top, 5 fills the weak side wing.
- 4 cuts through to the weak side corner.
3. Corner to wing pass and cut
- 1 (corner) passes to 4 (wing).
- 1 basket cuts.
- If there’s no pass, 1 replaces himself by cutting back to the corner.
NOTE: I know this kind of pass and cut seems easy to defend. As I explain later, you can turn this into a post up for the corner player, or have the pass to the corner trigger baseline pick and roll.
4. Wing to top pass and cut
- 4 (wing) passes to the top (3).
- 4 basket cuts.
- 1 (corner) comes up to fill the wing.
- 4 fills the corner.
- With so many basket cuts built into the offense, it’s important to cut correctly. Set the defender up for the cut by jab stepping in one direction, then sprinting ball side to the rim. Cutters need to always have their eye on the ball, and their hands up. Cut hard all the way to the basket so that weak side help defenders are forced to pay attention.
- Players can dribble towards each other along the perimeter to shorten the pass distance.
- Remember rule #2- catch ready to attack. If a player catches and immediately drives, a cut will bring a defender in the way. Players need to learn to make this read. Watching players crash into each other can be frustrating as a youth coach, but remember, it’s better to have more players eager to attack than passive players standing around passing.
- How to fill? Some coaches teach that every fill must be a “V cut”, in other words, players must fake a back cut by cutting half way to the basket, then cut out to the perimeter. I disagree with this as 1. it’s terrible for spacing 2. it falls under the category of “actions without a purpose”. Instead, teach your players to use the V cut as a weapon. After V cutting, they should catch the ball with the intention of shooting or driving.
- The general rule is: cut to the basket, then spread out to the weak side.
When cutting to the top, there’s a special type of cut called the “L cut” where players cut “through the nail” to the center of the free throw line before popping out top. The player then can decide to back cut or pop out to the top.
#5 If the pass is denied, back cut
Defenses may try to disrupt your offense by stepping up higher and denying the ball. Beating this is simple- have your players back cut to the basket. The other players fill the spaces as needed.
- When to back cut? Some coaches say its when defenders have one foot, or both feet, on or above the 3 point line. Another option is to back cut if the defender is too close (making contact) with you.
- Like all basket cuts “get in and get out”. If the pass isn’t available, move away to the weak side.
- Players can use the threat of a back cut to jab and come back out to receive the ball.
- You MUST teach your players to finish with a reverse layup. This skill is vital to scoring more points off the back cut as the pass might be too close to the rim. You can still get two points out of it if your player can finish on the other side of the rim.
#6 Pass and screen away
Once players are familiar with the passing and cutting aspects, it’s time to throw in ball off ball screens. In each scenario, the passer simply makes a pass and then screens for a player in the opposite direction. The passer has the option of cutting to the basket, or filling the space where the screener came from.
Any perimeter pass, except for a pass from the corner to a wing can lead to an off ball screen.
1 . Top to wing pass and off ball screen
- 1 (top) passes to 2 (wing).
- 1 screens for the opposite wing, player 3.
- 3 can basket cut or pop out to the top
- Players fill the empty spots along the perimeter.
2. Wing to corner pass and off ball screen
- 2 (wing) passes to 3 (corner).
- 2 screens away for the top, player 1.
- 1 comes off the screen and can basket cut or fill the wing.
- Other players rotate to fill the empty spots along the perimeter.
3. Wing to top pass and off ball screen
- 3 (wing) passes to 1 (top).
- 3 screens away for the corner, player 5.
- 5 comes off the screen and can curl around it for a basket cut or fill the wing.
- 3 goes to fill the corner corner.
- As this is a motion offense, try to teach concepts rather than just showing your players these 3 scenarios. Give them the idea of “pass and screen away”, then see how they execute it before making adjustments.
- For older teams, rather than have the screener just fill the vacant spot each time, the rule can be, “do the reverse of the other player”. If his teammate fills his spot, he should basket cut, and if his teammate basket cuts, he should fill.
- As with all screens “you will never be more open than from the moment you catch the ball”. Players catching the ball off an off ball screen should never stay still, they need to look to drive or shoot.
- The timing of the screen is important. Screening too close to the on coming defender will lead to an offensive foul call.
#7 Pass and screen on ball
In the 5 out motion offense, after a pass, the player that passed the ball can run and set a ball screen. It’s important that it’s the player who receives the pass that calls for the screen- an uncalled screen is disastrous for spacing and will lead to turnovers.
If the ball handler gets penetration, they should try and exploit the spacing of the 5 out to drive all the way to the rack. Otherwise, they should dish the ball out to an open perimeter player and cut back to the weak side. If the ball handler can’t get in the paint, they need to reverse the ball.
As with regular pick and rolls, the screener has the option of rolling hard to the rim or filling the space on the perimeter.
Passing and screening on ball can happen after any perimeter pass, here’s two examples:
1 . Pass to wing and on ball screen
- 1 (top) passes to the wing (2), and follows the pass with a screen.
- 2 looks to get into the paint to score or kick out.
2. Pass to corner and on ball screen
- 3 (wing) passes to 1 (corner) and follows the pass with a screen.
- 1 looks to get into the paint to score or for a kick out.
- Should the ball handler choose to not use the screen and drive in the other direction, the screener needs to pop and the strong side player should stay where there are to maintain spacing.
- Weak side players can move around the perimeter as well for better kick out angles. A good principle is to stay in a horizontal line with the ball handler.
- If you do allow weak side cuts on the pick and roll, reiterate “quick in, quick out”. Don’t let your players get caught in “no man’s land” in the mid range area, where their man can cover them and help on ball.
#8 If dribbled at, dribble hand off
If a player on the perimeter dribbles at another perimeter player, they should dribble hand off, which is like a pass and a screen and roll.
As always, rule #5 applies- if the defense tries to take away the hand off, that player should back cut.
- I’ve already broken down coaching points for the dribble hand off in a blog post here.
#9 Post ups must be quick
The empty “open post” creates an opportunity for anyone to post up in a 5 out offense- but the player must attack quickly. Why?
- For spacing and motion reasons- a long post up halts the game and ruins the flow of the motion offense.
- To avoid the 3 second rule- the only point of posting up in the 5 out offense is to score. It sounds silly but a lot offenses out there expect the low post to pass too. We want our post player to get in deep, both feet in the paint, which is why they can’t take too long to score.
Here are two examples of post ups:
Posting up from a top to wing pass
- 5 (top) passes to 2 (wing) and basket cuts.
- 3 (opposite wing) L cuts to the nail and catches the reversal pass.
- 3 enters the ball to the 5 via a hi-low entry.
Posting up from a corner to wing pass
- 5 (corner) passes to 3 (wing)
- 5 basket cuts and stops at the low post to post up.
- 3 throws the wing to post entry pass.
- If a player wants to post up, they have 2 counts to establish position. Otherwise, they should cut through to the weak side.
- When to post up? For all teams, if there is a size mismatch (regardless of position).
In conclusion, the 5 out motion offense is a great offense for teaching kids how to play basketball. It will help your players pick up sound basketball principles that can be applied to any offense, such as spacing, off ball movement, screening and cutting.
It’s effectiveness in getting players great looks should also not be overlooked. I strongly believe that the rules I’ve outlined today could just as effectively be used as the main offense of a high school or college team. The difference between a pro and an amateur coach shouldn’t be the complexity of the plays they’re able to draw up, but in how well a coach teaches players fundamentals and decision making. A motion offense like the 5 out provides an excellent platform for both.