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Motion Strong Action

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Motion Strong Action is a commonly used offensive action that can be easily tweaked to help support your team's strengths and weaknesses.

Countless teams at all levels have used the Motion Strong concept as a staple of their offense. Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs have used the action throughout their Championship years, and in recent seasons the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and others have adopted their own unique versions of the action. At the College Level programs such as Davidson, Tennessee, and many other Bob McKillop influenced coaches have found success implementing their own version of the staggered screen and Motion Strong Action.

As I went into the 2019-20 offseason I had a few team-specific issues that I thought Motion Strong Action might help solve. The main two issues I was concerned about were:

  1. The Constant Face Guarding of Our Best Scorer

  2. Finding a Way to Get our 5 Man More Actively Involved

The version of Motion Strong that I was most interested in used 4 Out 1 In spacing and initiated the staggered screen when the ball was swung from slot to slot to wing. When it came to solving the first problem mentioned above I thought that using the staggered screening action would not only free up our best player from face guarding but open up more varied scoring opportunities for our other players as well. The second issue of getting our Post Player more involved would be solved by giving them post up and flare screening opportunities within the action.

The Straight Cut

The most common cut off of the staggered screen is the straight cut. The straight cut uses both of the staggered down screens and looks to get a touch at the top of the key. If there is no denial or switching from the defense then the cutter will make the straight cut and look to get a touch. On the catch, players will need to either use their advantage for a shot/drive decision or move the basketball to the backside.

Straight Cuts -

Shots & Drives:

The first thing that players are looking for on the catch is an opportunity to catch & shoot or drive to the rim.

The progression on the catch should be:

  1. Shoot It

  2. Drive It

  3. Move it

Small & Big Advantage:

A big advantage on the catch would typically result in a catch & shoot opportunity for the cutter.

A small advantage on the catch would usually elicit a drive to the basket or a pass to the backside of the action.

Roll Man & Backside -

If a straight cut results in a shot or drive then we will be looking to attack the offensive glass and clean up any missed shots. If there was no immediate shot or drive that occurred on the straight cut touch then the ball should be heading to the backside via the pass. We did not incorporate any type of continuity to the action once the ball gets to the backside of the action. Once the ball gets to the backside of the action players are going to using our drive and space concepts to get a shot.

Roll Man & Backside -

Roll Man:

On a straight cut, the second screener in the stagger will automatically dive to the basket.

Roll Man Opportunities:

  • Hit for a Roll Pass Layup

  • Roller Stops & Posts Up


If the roll man is covered then the man with the ball will look to the player on the backside of the action.

  • Pass & Cut Option

  • Conduct a DHO

Curls & Backdoors -

One of the options that players have when coming off of the staggered screen is to make a cut towards the rim. Instead of making a straight cut, the player could curl around one of the screens or even stop on a dime and back door cut to the rim. We would teach these options in scenarios where the defense reacts aggressively to the staggered screen.

One common tactic we encountered was physical play against the cutter. To counter this we encouraged back door cuts whenever:

  • A Player was Denied a Straight Cut

  • A Perimeter Switch was Made

Working on these options allowed our cutters to make reads in the game based on how they are being defended.

Curls & Backdoors -


The cutter has decision-making ability in this scenario.

  • If he feels any denial pressure from the defense he should put his foot in the ground and cut towards the rim.

  • If his defender trails the cut he may curl to the rim.

Second Cut:

The screener should always counter the cutter's movement.

  • If the Cutter cuts to the Rim, the Screener should Pop Out.

  • If the Cutter Straight Cuts, then the Screener should dive to the rim.

Wing Drives -

There are scoring opportunities that exist for players who are not involved in the staggered screen. One of those examples exists when the ball is swung from the slot to the wing. In theory, there are three defenders who are involved in defending the staggered screen, and on occasion, this presents a driving opportunity for the basketball. The ball handler can either Drive the Elbow or Drive the Baseline, additionally, both of these drives can present Drop Pass scoring opportunities for our 5 Man.

Wing Drives -

Attack the Elbow:

The player with the basketball is following our shot progression:

  • Shoot It

  • Drive It

  • or Move It

If the player (3) decides to Drive the Basketball the 5 Man should sink the Drop Spot and anticipate a pass.

Baseline Drive:

If the basketball (3) decides to drive the baseline we would initiate typical drive and space reactions.

In this case, the 5 Man would slide up the lane line looking for a Drop Pass.

Post Play -

Earlier I mentioned that one of the reasons I was interested in Motion Strong Action was that it gave our 5 Man a more active role in the offense. In previous seasons we had adopted more of a DDM approach with our 5 Man typically occupying the Drop Spot. I really wanted to find ways to occupy X5 by providing post up and screening opportunities within the action.

The two main ways in which we attempted to occupy the X5 within our Motion Strong Action were:

  • Posting Up as the ball is Initially Swung to the Wing

  • The Flare Screen & Roll off of a Straight Cut