Teaching Position-less Basketball

What is Position-Less Basketball?

Position-Less Basketball is a new-age approach to maximizing the potential of your players and relegated on the premise of spacing, ball movement, passing, cutting, and attacking the paint. We may hear all of those fancy buzzwords and think this is some open-court frenzy of 5 players trying to play one-on-one. However, it is quite the opposite. Position-Less Basketball is focused on utilizing all five players on the court in a system that maximizes space, increases the pace, and opens up the court for your more talented players to make plays.

Another thing I hear a lot is, "Well, we don't have a point-center like Nikola Jokic." The good news is that you do not need Nikola Jokic to run a position-less basketball style offense.

Where did position-less basketball come from?

Today's game has a wide range of styles. You can still see teams implementing the Flex Offense, the Princeton Offense, The Wisconsin Swing, and the traditional 3-out, 2-in motion, or the 4-out, 1-in motion, and the 1-4 horns set. All of these systems have been around for decades.

What makes a system successful is the execution. The execution becomes successful when you have athletes that are able to execute the various movements; cutting, passing, screening, and finishing at the rim, or taking the open shot. These are all predicated on the fundamentals of the game.

The 1980s and 1990s were dominated by players like Shaquille Oneal, David Robinson, Charles Barkely, David Robinsin, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Patrick Ewing and the list goes on. These human giants were able to control the paint on defense, and pound the paint on offense with spectacular post moves, drop steps, jump hooks and the sky hook. The Michael Jordan era Bulls played a triangle offense that focused on creating angles to expose the post. They mobilized cutters, pin down action, and weak-side screens. They were wildly effective.

The 2000s and 2010s included players like Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson. This era included the beginning of the scoring guard era. Guards were placed into pick-and-roll situations where they control the play. The post-play was less and less utilized with pick-and-pop plays. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki were 7'0 foot athletes that could hit the mid-range jumper, while the guards patrolled the paint for athletic finishes. This is a big shift in the way the game was played from the 80s and 90s.

Today, we have watched the game transform into a position-less style of play. The greatest post players in today's game post up less than 10.0 times per game. Joel Embiid posts up an average of 8.2 times per game. The next player in line is Nikola Jokic that posts up just 4.6 times per game. They both take 5.6 shots, and 3.5 shots respectively from the post position. These two towering Centers shoot just as many shots from the 3 point line as they do from the post. Joel Embiid takes 3.7 shots from the 3 point line, meanwhile Jokic shoots 5.0 shots from the 3 point line. The bulk of their points come from pick-and-pop plays, pick-and-roll plays, or slipping screens to the basketball. There is very little position-play in today's game.

Now, this is an example of professional basketball where the skill level is at the highest possible level on the planet. You would be correct. However, if history tells us anything, it is that the NBA predicates what filters down into the NCAA, Prep Hoops, or Youth Basketball. We are seeing a migration from the traditional 2 post system to the empty-post system that we see in the NBA and NCAA play.

We have watched as the Golden State Warriors between the seasons of 2006 and 2008, the Don Nelson Warriors introduced to the league, "Small Ball." Don Nelson jokes, "Small ball came about because I never had a good big man." Now, this is a joke, but there was some truth to this.

Today, most systems are built on a 5-out system whereas the paint is opened up, and help defenders are stretched from side-line to side-line.

Why Position-Less Basketball is Important to Youth Teams

Position-less basketball places an emphasis on the athletes learning how to be interchangeable from every position on the floor. This includes making passes to cutters, skipping the ball over the top of the defense, attacking the paint, scoring with contact, and hitting the open shot - regardless of where you are on the floor.

When we take a step back, and think to ourselves, "But wouldn't all of the players need to be skilled in each of those areas?" The answer to that question is an astounding 'YES.'

Image if you will, entering a weekend tournament for your school's travel team. You tip-off, and every player can handle the ball, hit the back door cut, attack the paint, kick out, and hit the 3. How difficult of a time do you think your current team would have trying to stop that type of attack?

Now, imagine if that was your team, and your opponents had to scout, and create a strategy revolving around a team that you cannot press, or force into trapping situations.

Another example of youth basketball I would like to share. Let's take any level of youth basketball, 3rd grade through 8th grade. We see this in every level from coast to coast. The ball is entered into a post player. The post player has a defender on their back. They chin the ball, as they are told, but are not equipped to make a scoring move. They take shot after shot, all of the shots are contested and the players finishes the game 5-18. This is very common, and I see it every single weekend in northern Wisconsin. Now, let's take that post player, and move them to the perimeter, we create an action that sends them off of a UCLA screen and they can catch within 3 feet of the rim while on the move. If you give any athlete 18 layups, they're going to make far more than 5 shots.

Rick Carlisle, former NBA Coach rants about post play

"The post-up just isn’t a good play anymore. It just isn’t a good play. It’s not a good play for a 7-3 guy. It’s a low-value situation. Our numbers are very substantial that when he spaces beyond the 3-point line, you know, we’re a historically good offensive team. And when any of our guys go in there, our effectiveness is diminished exponentially. It’s counterintuitive, I understand that, but it’s a fact. I think there’s certain situations where it makes sense. If we can get him on a roll in the paint towards the rim, that’s a good situation."

Running a system that allows all of your players to be able to:

  • Pass

  • Cut

  • Screen

  • Attack

  • Finish

  • Shoot the open shot

  • Shoot off the bounce

You are positioning your players to increase their potential to be successful in the future. In youth basketball a player may be 6'0 as a 7th grader, but 6'2 as a senior. Pigeonholing that player to be a post is counterintuitive. The majority of guards in today's game are 6'2 to 6'5, and post players are much taller.

Chris Webber talks about this all the time. He states, "If Kevin Durant played in a position-based system, we would never know who he is, because he would be a 6'11 post in some Division III school - but - we get to see him today as a 6'11 athletic player that can pass, dribble, shoot, and score. He's a nightmare matchup because he learned those fundamentals early on."

These are the same principles that fall into a position-less basketball system. Team each and every player how to play the game from all positions.

How do you play position-less basketball?

First step is to space the floor with 5 players on the perimeter.

These 5 players spaced out roughly 12 feet apart. The spacing can be found using the following markers.

  • Ball - Center of floor

  • Wing R - Free Throw Line Extended R

  • Wing L - Free Throw Line Extended L

  • Corner R - Furthest Corner R

  • Corner L - Furthest Corner L

The 5-out set up can move into just about any offense you can think of. However, we're focused on creating a system that enables any player on the floor to be able to make a pass, cut, attack the paint or take the open shot.

Utilizing Circle Offense

Our favorite system is the Circle Offense. The Circle Offense is a very diverse set up, that enables pass-cutter movement, double gap attacks, and corner hammer screens. This is a very difficult offense to defend, let alone scout. The vast majority of teams we play, end up going into a zone as they struggle to defend all of the position, and options of the Circle Offense.

Unlike the Dribble-Drive Motion, this system is not based on four (4) guards having the ability to beat their defender off the dribble. This system is based on ball movement, passing, cutting, and attacking gaps with 1-2 dribbles. Let's take a look at a couple of basics to understand how the Circle Offense works, and advantages to the system.

Circle is a continuity offense that circulates players into all 5 positions on the floor, while getting cutters into the paint. There are opportunities for the screener to slip the rub screen. Other opportunities include the ball handler to attack the middle, as the screen vacating the top position creates a double gap. Additionally, the ball-side corner has the option for a backdoor cut. Ultimately, Circle empties the post, and sends cutters, screeners, and ball handlers into the paint to create advantages for scoring opportunities.

Circle Offense Optional Sets

The Circle Offense also creates opportunities to run a duck-in option for mismatches in the post, it creates opportunities for pick-and-roll, and one of our favorites includes a stagger-screen away from the ball. All of these options put help defense in difficult positions.

In conclusion, you can run these options:

  • Duck-In Post Options

  • Pick and Roll Continuity

  • Stagger Screen Continuity

  • Hand-off Continuity

  • Zone Offense Attack

All of these options can work against any defense; man or zone. The ball doesn't stick long enough to be trapped, we keep the ball out of the corners to avoid traps.


Position-less basketball can be accomplished through Circle, Read & React, Dribble-Drive Motion, or any other open-post offensive system. However, we like this particular offense simply because it minimizes dribbles, keeps the ball moving side-to-side, creates double gap penetration, drive-and-kick options, as well as slipped screens, and the infamous pick-and-roll.

This is a very simple offense to teach and implement in just a few practices.

Rising Stars Basketball
Hayward WI 54843