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Positionless Basketball

Spacing + Motion + Sharing = Success

From the youth ranks to the NBA basketball is undergoing a “positionless” revolution. The old labels of “point guard”, “small forward”, “center”, and “shooting guard” are outdated in a game where your big man shoots 3’s, players space the floor, and teams regularly have three or four players more than capable of bringing the ball up into half court early offense.

Positionless basketball is perfect for youth coaches and players. It focuses on teaching players how to play and not on specific and often disjointed “plays”. Individual skill development, basketball IQ, and sets replace confusing plays that don’t work 80% of the time anyway! Instead of the traditional positions (center, forward, and guard) there are player roles and a framework of concepts that govern spacing, ball movement, and shooting.

This isn’t really a new concept. Magic Johnson was labeled a “point forward” because of his unique combination of ball handling skills and size. Traditional half court offenses like Flex can be positionless as can a modern offense like the Dribble Drive Motion. As a coach you can emphasize pick & roll, ball screen continuity, pass & cut, high/low, or whatever core concepts you have. You can play 5-out, 3-out 2-in, 1-4 high, or whatever formations work best for your team. And yes, you can have “plays” for early offense, BLOBs, SLOBs, etc. as you think they are needed.

Positionless Basketball is based on three principles:

  1. Space the floor. Regardless of formation we want players to extend the defense and open driving and passing lanes. Isolation basketball is not the norm. In its place is 5-player coordination through passes, ball reversals, and driving the lane.

  2. Motion. Some coaches look down on motion offense and think of it as nothing more than “letting the players do whatever the hell they want”. Not only is that not true, it isn’t the point. Motion offense is about teaching players HOW to play. It gives them a set of rules about cuts, passes, and lanes to drive and shoot from and lets the players create from that. True motion offenses are hard to scout because every trip down the floor is different. Even with fixed continuity offenses there are often enough variations based on how the defense reacts to allow a degree of player freedom.

  3. Sharing. Good ball movement and player movement means better team coordination. Players are happier because they are actively involved in the offense and can grow and understand when they should pass, drive, and shoot. With positionless basketball the pass is almost always king and endless dribbling and handling but a single player (or two at most) without the goal of driving to the basket is to be avoided.

Even though the NBA has become dominated by pick & roll as the primary action of offense you still see successful teams like the Spurs, Warriors, and LeBron’s Heat/Cavaliers emphasize ball movement, spacing and sharing. Whether it’s “Pace & Space” or the Spurs’ motion the focus is the same. Colleges too have embraced spacing, moion, and ball control. Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Duke are a few of the many high profile teams that recruit for positionless player.

So this is YOUR resource to learn more about how to focus on “players not plays” no matter what level of basketball you are involved in…

– Dave