Basketball Formations

Team Formations

A formation in basketball describes the way players on a basketball team position themselves on the court. There are many types of formations that the offense and defense can use.

Basketball Formations

Formation Types

There are lots of formation types in basketball. All formations stem from a few basic principles:

When discussing the alignment of players on the court, numbers are often used for quick recognition (2-3 zone defense, 1-4 high offense, 1-3-1, etc.). In this format, the numbers tell how many players are in which court space from which positions: the first number usually indicates how many players are at the top of a formation (farthest from the basket), and so on.

Example: In a 2-3 zone defense, two defenders will be positioned near the top of the key, while the remaining three guard the areas between them and the baseline.

PRO TIP: Guards are typically farther from the basket in any given formation because they are shorter players. The taller forwards and centers are better-equipped to be near the basket.

Offensive Formation Types

Here is a list of offensive formations.

Defensive Formation Types

Here is a list of defensive formations.

Basketball ZoneChoosing a Formation in Basketball

Deciding which formation to use can be difficult. Coaches use these steps to determine which offensive and defensive formations they should use:

  1. Decide if the formation is for when your team is on offense or defense.
  2. Know which formation(s) your opponent uses. If there is game footage available, you can study ahead of time. If not, you can always change your formation during the game.
  3. What is your team good at? If you have a great post player, you may want to run a transition offense. If your team has good shooters, then maybe a motion offense is better.
  4. Design set plays, so your team can rely on pre-planned plays in desperate situations.
  5. Have your team practice the formations and run drills.

Basketball Formation Terms

Here are some terms you can explore that are related to basketball formations:


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