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Simple Basketball Plays

They are simple basketball plays, because they really work. You hear me talk about them over and over again but that’s because they are important.

An effective basketball offense must utilize set plays. There’s no debate about it, because no matter how good your players are, a team will produce inconsistent results with no discipline or structure.

Simple Basketball Plays are easy to run and you can teach them to your team in a practice or two.

Teaching and running effective offensive plays requires patience. When you first teach a new play, walk through it with your team. Demonstrate the play with five players on the floor and no defense. Walk through each pass and movement.


Do this several times; more than you think is necessary.

Then run the play at full speed. Next add a defense.

Run the offensive play several times in practice throughout the week and watch it succeed in a game situation.

Simple basketball plays…

Pick and Roll:

The pick and roll offensive play is one of the most simple yet effective plays you can run. John Stockton and Karl Malone made a living with it playing together in Utah. Basically if you have a dominant big man (forward or center) and a great guard you should have no excuse not to run an effective pick and roll.

Great offense starts with a smart and talented point guard. The same is true with the pick and roll. Stockton was unstoppable running the pick and roll because he was solid handling the ball and almost never made a mistake.

The pick and roll requires one of two decisions by the point guard. This might seem easy because it’s a 50/50 chance you get it right, but truthfully it’s difficult because it’s a split-second decision.

Start with your point guard at the top of the three point line. Call the play something different than pick and roll. A simple hand gesture can work too. The forward/center should start in the block and work his way up to the three point line. After the play is called, this is the first step.

The other three players on the court should spread out around the perimeter, making sure they do not interfere with the pick and roll.

Once the forward/center reaches the three point line, he must pick a side of the player defending the point guard. For example, if the forward/center sets a pick (or screen as it also is known) to the right side of the defender, the point guard should dribble right with the ball and run his defender right into the screen.

The player defending the forward/center must make a difficult decision. In retrospect, the defender is suppose to hedge towards the point guard, diverting his path to the hoop and allowing the defender to get back into position.

However this rarely works because A) the point guard is to quick for the big defender and drives right by him B) the defender sags back too much, allowing a wide open jumper for the guard or C) the forward/center rolls to the hoop and the point guard passes to him for an easy bucket.


The high/low offensive set is a very simple basketball play that is ideal for two talented big men. If both your power forward and center are your two best scorers, call this play a lot.

The high/low play starts out with both your big men on the blocks down low. The point guard has the ball at the top of the three point line and must make a decision. Either he dribbles left or right. Whatever direction the ball handler dribbles, the big man on the opposite post runs up high to the corner of the free throw line.

Once the big man reaches the high post, the point guard passes the ball to the big man. In the meantime, the other big man is working his heart out in the low post trying to outmaneuver his position over the defender.

If the low post big man has a favorable matchup, the big man in the high post passes him the ball for an easy score. If the matchup is not favorable, the high post big man has the option of driving (if a good ball handler), shooting, or passing back out to the perimeter.


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