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Simple Basketball Plays:
The X

I like simple basketball plays because they tend to work better than complex plays - less to think about means less to screw up. This one may be the first play I've ever taught (it's been a few years, so I wouldn't swear to it) and it still remains a favorite - a go-to basketball strategy that always seems to work well regardless of the personnel I have.

The X is a simple basketball play to teach and to use, but it has been very effective for my teams. I've used quite a few other plays over the years, some very good, some not so hot, but I always seem to come back to this one. Because it is easy for players to understand, it's a good play for younger players - I've used it with both varsity and junior varsity teams with considerable success.

How this Simple Basketball Play Works

  • Players set up as indicated in the diagram - point guard, two wings, and two post men on the low post blocks.

  • The play begins with a pass from the point guard to one of the wings.

  • If the wings are having difficulty shaking their men (if defense is man to man), wings can set up below the posts, and let the posts screen for them.

  • Once the point guard passes to the wing, he cuts through the key and sets a pick for the opposite low post.

Simple Basketball Play - X1

  • The low post (#4) uses the point guard's pick to flash to the elbow, looking for a pass from #3.

  • As soon as #1 starts cutting through the key, the weak side wing (#2) cuts to the point.

      This is very important - you can't leave the point unguarded, since that position becomes your first line of defense against a fast break

Scoring options:
  • #3 can shoot or drive depending on what his defender gives him
  • #4 - off the pass from #3 - can shoot or drive. Sometimes the pick down low will tie up both the defenders guarding #1 and #4, meaning #4 will be completely free for a second or two. Or, if the defenders switch on the pick, then #4 should be mismatched, paired now against the smaller defender who had been guarding #1.
  • #1 - as soon as he makes the pick and feels the hit (not before), #1 should roll out looking for the pass low. If the man guarding #1 switched to take up #4, then #1 should have the inside spot on the man who was guarding #4
  • #5 can post against his defender
Simple Basketball Play - X2

  • If none of those scoring options pan out, the ball is swung back to the point

  • #4 moves across the foul line, following the ball. Sometimes defense will slack for a moment and you'll find #4 open for a pass from the point guard

  • #1 flashes to the wing
Simple Basketball Play - X3

  • The ball is now swung to the other wing (#1)

  • #4 drops from the high post to the low post, looking for a pass as he does so

Simple Basketball Play - X4

  • The same movements are executed on the other side of the court now, with the point guard (#2) cutting through the key to screen for the weak side low post (#5)

  • #3 flashes to the point
Simple Basketball Play - X5

  • #5 flashes to the high post off the screen from #2

Scoring options:
  • #1 can shoot or drive depending on what his defender gives him
  • #5 - off the pass from #1 - can shoot or drive, if he gets open off the pick or if he has a mismatch due to a switch
  • #2 - after rolling out looking for the pass low
  • #4 can post against his defender
Simple Basketball Play - X6

  • If none of those options work, #2 moves up to the wing, and we start swinging the ball around again to work the other side
Simple Basketball Play - X7

It may be a simple basketball play to teach and run, but with good picks set it can be very effective. Players need to be patient, and not expect the play to work on the first set of movements all the time - sometimes they'll need to swing it back and forth a couple of times until an opening shows itself.

Although this basketball strategy works best against man to man coverage, it can be very effective against zone play as well, especially a zone such as a 1-3-1. With only one man back on defense, the two low posts have the advantage.

Every year I seem to try out different plays, to change things up or just to see if there is anything out there that's good. Some work well, some not so well. The X is a simple basketball play that is always in my playbook, year after year.

View more Simple Basketball Plays here

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