4-Out 1-In Motion Offense Guide

Posted by Coach Chris on Sep 18, 2018

4-Out 1-In Motion Offense

The 4-Out 1-In motion offense (also known as 41 offense)   is one of the most popular basketball offenses in today’s game. One of the reasons for its popularity is the versatility it gives any team at all levels.

The name says it all, as this offense consists of 4 players spread out behind the three-point line and 1 post player inside the lane. The 4-out 1-in motion is run using a set of rules that help players in making their own decisions based on reading the defense.

In this article, you will learn the strengths and weaknesses of this motion offense along with the basics of the 4-Out 1-In Offense to find out if its the right game plan for your team.

Strengths of 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense

  1. Teaches Players How to Play Basketball – This offense allows players to develop because it forces them to learn how to read the defense and make decisions based off what they’re seeing the defense do.

  2. Spaces the Court – The 4-out players around the perimeter are close enough to make direct passes but far enough away that one defender can’t guard two players. It’s the ideal offense for a team that has players who can penetrate the basketball and players who can knock down an outside shot.

  3. Can Adjust to Any Team’s Talent – There are so many actions that go with this offense and you can adjust it to fit your team. If you have a tall and athletic team, the offense can focus on using the space to attack the rim, curling off screens, and back cuts. If you have a team that shoots a high percentage, the offense can use the space to attack and kick for open shots. The options are endless.

  4. Maximizes Dribble Penetration – Due to the great spacing of the offense, the driving lanes are going to be wide open. And as long as your post player and perimeter players don’t get closer as the offense moves along, there will be many opportunities to attack the rim off the dribble

  5. Difficult to Scout – The 4-out 1-in offense can be difficult to figure out for defenses because it’s a true read-and-react offense which makes it hard to scout and defend.

Weaknesses of 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense

  1. Can Be Difficult to Learn – Because this offense revolves around a defense that requires reading your opponent. This can be hard to understand at first because it takes time for players to learn what to do on certain reads. With more experience and playing time, this offense becomes easier.

  2. Poor Shooting Percentage – It’s harder to hide a poor shooter with this offense because if the defense realizes you can’t shoot then it allows the defender to sag off of you. When this happens it disrupts dribbling, cutting, and passing lanes as well as makes it difficult for players to post up.

  3. Lack of MovementThe critical part of this offense being successful is motion and if your team fails at attacking, cutting, and screening then your team may get stagnant and start watching the ball more than moving to get open. Without movement, it’s easy for the defense to guard and make stops.

  4. Post PlayersIn order for this offense to be effective you need a solid post player who can be a scoring threat. If the defense doesn’t have to guard your post player, it makes it harder for the team to score as a whole.

Who Should Use the 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense?

The 4-out 1-in motion offense can be run by any team. The base of this offense comes with so many different scoring options that all can be adjusted depending on the skills level and strength/weaknesses of your players.

I highly recommend this offense for teams with a strong post player and outside shooters who understand the importance of spacing and ball movement. The spacing on the court makes it an easy offense to get the ball into the post player who can either score or find an open shooters. If you have the inside-outside combination, this offense will be hard to stop.

A team successful with the motion offense must be able to read the defense and make offense moves accordingly. If each player can understand what they’re looking for out of their offense and are good decision makers then there’s going to be an open scoring opportunity every trip to the offensive end.

4-Out 1-In Motion Offense Rules

General Rules

  1. Space the Floor – If there’s anything you need to be sure your team does its space the floor. Perimeter players should be about 18 feet from each other which keeps the floor open for the offense to works its magic.
  2. Cut Hard Every Time – Cutting is a big part of this offense. Because of that, every cut needs to be with a purpose as if you’re going to receive the ball. Make sure your cutter is calling for the ball and has their hands ready!
  3. Pass and MOVE – Players around the perimeter should be constantly moving which means each time they pass the ball, they need to move. You never want your passers to be standing still after they have made a pass.
  4. Watch for the Open Look! – It’s crucial for the player with the ball to see the open player and be ready to make the pass. This offense involves a tremendous amount of cutting and screening; both of which are going to provide you with plenty of scoring opportunities as long as you’re passer is ready and makes the pass on time for the open shot.
  5. Catch Looking to Shoot Every Single Time – With each catch of a pass, players must be ready to shoot the ball. If your offense has executed perfectly for the open shot you must make the defense pay by being ready to knock it down!
  6. Do NOT Dribble Excessively – Be smart with your dribble and don’t immediately put the ball on the floor. Take a split second to read the floor and see what the defense is doing - then use your dribble to attack the rim, come off a ball screen, or create a better passing angle for a teammate.

Position Rules

The 4-Out 1-In Offense is insanely versatile, but it’s important for you to figure out up front how your team will benefit the best from this offense.

Post Player Rules

There are three different options you can select for your post player to follow.

Post player stays on weak side but can flash to post. In this option, the post player spends most of their time on the weak side until they see an opportunity. If they see an opportunity (or simply want to keep the defense honest), they flash to either the high or low post depending on where the ball is on the court. Give them 2-3 seconds per flash then have them go back to the weak side.

  • By keeping your post player on the weak side you keep the lane open for driving, cutting, and passing for the rest of the team and put them in an excellent position to get an offensive rebound or a dish for an easy bucket.

Post player stays on weak side the entire possession. For this option, your post player no longer has the freedom to flash to the basketball but spends the entirety of the possession on the weak side. The main reasons why you may choose to leave your post player on weak side are:

  • Your post player isn't capable of creating a shot for themselves ora teammate.
  • Your team strengths are attacking the rim so you want to keep the driving lane open.

Even if the post player isn’t flashing they’re still a big part of the offense because they can pull down an offensive rebound and score easy points off passes from teammates attacking the rim.

Post player always stays in front of the basketball. This option only works if your post player is the best player on your team and the game plan is to feed them the basketball every possession.

Perimeter Rules

The three things perimeter players need to be sure to do are: fill the open spots, keep the floor spaced, and keep the ball (and themselves) moving. Here is how the player must fill the perimeter:

  1. Perimeter players ALWAYS need to fill the closest spot to the ball.

  2. If they’re inside the 3-point line, fill to the open corner. The reason you fill the corner is because the closest spots to the ball should be filled.

  3. When you pass the ball, basket cut for a possible pass back or go screen away to get a teammate open.

Every time your player is going to fill a spot on the perimeter they must read their defender and know what type of cut to make to get to the open spot.

  • If the defender is one step away, the player must use a v-cut to get open.
  • If the defender is two or more steps away, the player must can cut directly to the open spot.

4-Out 1-In Motion Offense

Setting Up

Post Players – there are 4 spots around the paint they can move to depending on their role within the offense. These 4 spots are the two low blocks and two elbows.

Perimeter Players – there are 4 spots around the 3-point arc you will be responsible for filling in this offense. These 4 spots are the two top spots (also know as slots) and two wings. All of the perimeter spots should be a step outside the 3-point line to make sure the floor stays spaced.

As you can see in the example set-up format to the right:

  • Players 1 and 4 are in the slots on the periemter
  • Player 1, or your point guard, has the basketball
  • Players 2 and 3 are filling the wings on the perimeter
  • Player 5, or your post player, is on the weak side low block

Getting Started

The easiest way to get started teaching the 4-Out 1-In motion offense is to break it down into progressions. These progressions will teach your team the offense starting from the foundation up to the more advanced segments.

By using progressions, you make the offense easier to understand for your team. Once they have a solid understanding of the progression and are able to complete it with little to no mistakes then you can advance to the next progression.

Read on to learn the 7 progressions of the 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense!

4-Out 1-In Progressions

1st Progression: Pass, Cut, and Fill

The basis of the first progression involves passing, cutting to the basket, and filling the open spots on the perimeter.

Two things to focus on during this progression: 1) every pass is followed with a basket cut and 2) on each cut, players fill towards the basketball.

Remember: what your post player does is depending on how they fit into your offense. For our examples, the post play starts on the weak side.

3 types of passes for Pass, Cut, and Fill

1. Slot to Wing Pass (Frame 3 and 4)

  • 1 passes from the slot to 2 on the wing and basket cuts
  • 3 and 4 will both cut fill towards the basketball using a blast cut or v-cut
  • After the basket cut, 1 replace 3 on the weak side wing to fill out the perimeter
  • 5 rubs off 1 to flash to ball side low block

2. Wing to Slot Pass

  • 3 passes to 4 and then cuts towards the basket
  • 3 cuts back out to the ball-side wing because there are no spots to fill on the perimeter
  • All other players stay in the same position because all spaces are filled

3. Slot to Slot Pass

  • 4 passes to 1 and cuts through the paint to the rim and fills the weak side wing
  • 3 v-cuts and replaces 4 in the slot spot
  • 5 flashes to the high post on ball side

2nd Progression: Add Back Cuts to Pass, Cut, and Fill

This progression will be easier and quicker than the first because we’re only adding another type of cut - the back cut. If a player is being overplayed by their defender, your player needs to back cut.  

3 Types of Back Cuts

1. Overplaying a Slot to Wing Pass

  • 2 cuts back door because they’re being overplayed by the defense
  • If 2 doesn’t receive the pass back from 1, they pop back out to the same wing position
  • All other players stay in the same position because all spaces are filled 

2. Overplaying a Wing to Slot Pass

  • 4 cuts back door because they’re being overplayed by the defense
  • As they’re cutting, 4 looks to receive a pass from 3
  • If 3 doesn’t pass the ball then 4 replaces weak side wing
  • 1 and 2 then move to fill the slot spots towards the basketball

3. Overplaying a Slot to Slot Pass

  • 4 cuts back door because they’re being overplayed by the defense
  • As they’re cutting, 4 looks to receive a pass from 1
  • At the same time, 3 fills towards the basketball replacing 4
  • If 1 doesn’t pass the ball then 4 fill the open spot on weak side wing

3rd Progression: Dribble Penetration

Now it’s time to add dribble penetration to the offense.

With all the movements going on within this offense, the defense will constantly be trying to recover to close out on their player. This gives the 4-Out 1-In offense the best opportunity to attack the basket off the dribble.

The player attacking with the dribble can look to create shot for themselves, a kick out for a 3-pointer for a teammate, or an easy bucket on a dump pass to their post player on the weak side.

4 Rotations on Different Drives

1. Baseline Drive from the Wing

  • 2 receives the basketball and drives baseline
  • 5 steps into the middle of the lane to create a passing angle
  • 3 slides down to the opposite corner to create a passing lane for a kick out
  • 1and 4 read the defense to find open spots on the perimeter

2. Middle Drive from the Wing

  • 2 receives the basketball and drives to the middle of the floor
  • 5 rotates under the rim to create a passing angle
  • 3 and 4 slide down to create a passing lane for a kick out
  • 1 stays in the slot spot to be able to get back on defense

3. Baseline Drive from the Slot

  • 4 receives the basketball in the slot spot and drives to the baseline
  • 3 slides down to the corner to create a passing lane for a kick out
  • 5 moves up the lane to create a passing angle
  • 1 and 2 read the defense to find open spots on the perimeter

4. Middle Drive from the Slot

  • 4 receives the basketball in the slot spot and drives to the middle
  • 2 and 3 both slide down to the corner to create a passing lane for a kick out
  • 5 stays on the weak side block ready for a possible dump pass
  • 1 stays in the slot spot to be able to get back on defense

4th Progression: Away Screen - Curl Cuts Only

The next progression of the offense is to give players another option after passing the basketball in addition to basket cutting which is the option to screen away.

For the 4th progression, the player coming off the screen must always curl to the basket and the player setting the screen must always roll back to their original position to fill the open spot.

2 Options to Screen Away

  • 1. Away Screen on a Slot to Slot Pass (Frame 5 and 6)
    • 1 passes to 4 and goes to screen away for 2
    • 2 cuts off the screen to the basket looking for a pass rolls back to fill their original spot after screening
    • 2 curls off the screen for possible shot at the elbow
  • 2. Away Screen on a Slot to Wing Pass
    • 1 passes to 2 on the wing and goes to set an away screen for 4
    • 1 sets away screen, 4 cuts off the screen to basket looking for a pass
    • 1 rolls back to their original spot after screening
    • 3 fills to the slot spot from the wing
    • 4 fills out to the weak side wing

5th Progression: On-Ball Screen

The fifth progression is another option for your players after they pass the basketball to a teammate which is an on-ball screen.

When a player makes a pass, they can go and set an on-ball screen for the player with the ball. As they’re going to set the screen, the player should call out their teammate’s name and the player with the ball must wait until the screen is set before they try to use it.

3 Options to Ball Screens

1. Slot to Slot On-Ball Screen

  • 4 passes to 1 and then sets an on-ball screen on 1’s defender
  • 1 comes off the ball screen to attack the rim
  • 2 and 3 both slide down to the corners to create a passing lane for a kick out
  • 5 stays low to create a passing angle for a dump pass

2. Slot to Wing On-Ball Screen

  • 4 passes to 3 and then sets an on-ball screen on 3’s defender
  • 3 comes off the ball screen to attack the rim
  • 1 and 2 slide down to create passing lanes for a kick out
  • 5 rotates under the rim to create a passing angle

3. Wing to Slot On-Ball Screen

  • 2 passes to 1 and then sets an on-ball screen on 1’s defender
  • 1 comes off the ball screen to attack the rim
  • 3 and 4 both slide down to create passing lane for a kick out
  • 5 steps high to create a better passing angle

6th Progression: Away Screen – Add the Straight Cut

Here we are going to give another option to the player receiving an away screen. Your player can either curl off the screen or the straight cut depending on how the defense plays the screen.

A straight cut is the player coming off the screen and filling the spot that was occupied by the player who set the away screen.

A straight cut will involve the player filling the spot that was occupied by the player setting the screen. If a straight cut happens, the perimeter is filled so the player screening needs to cut to the rim.

It’s up to the player coming off the screen on what to do but be sure to remember that one player must fill the spot on the perimeter and the other has to cut.

2 Options to Straight Cut

1. Away Screen on Slot to Wing Pass

  • 4 passes to 3 on the wing
  • 4 sets an away screen for 1
  • 1 reads their defenders and straight cuts to the slot spot
  • 4 rolls to the basket

2. Away Screen on Slot to Slot Pass

  • 4 passes to 1 at the slot
  • 4 sets an away screen for 3 on the wing
  • 3 reads their defenders and straight cuts to the slot spot
  • 4 rolls to the basket

7th Progression: Dribble At

When the defense is putting on a lot of denial pressure, your players can use the ‘dribble at’ action. The ‘dribble at’ move is when the player with the basketball dribbles at a teammate which can lead to: a dribble handoff or a back cut.

2 Options to Dribble At

1. Slot to Wing Dribble At Back Cut

  • 4 dribbles towards 3 on the wing
  • 3 reads their defender and back cuts
  • 4 looks to pass to 3 if they’re open. If not, 4 dribbles to the wing spot
  • 3 fills out to the weak side if they do not receive the basketball
  • 1 and 2 fill the open spots closest to the basketball

2. Slot to Wing Dribble At Handoff

  • 1 dribbles towards 2 on the wing
  • 2 reads their defender and receives the handoff from 4
  • 2 uses their dribble to attack the rim or go to the slot spot

Learn More

The above progressions are all the pieces you need to make the 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense your go-to game plan. As your team spends more time with the offense they will develop a basketball IQ and continue to solidify the base offense you have implemented and allow you to add advanced progressions in the future.

If you want to learn even more about the 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense check out HoopsKing.com for DVDs you can download or rent.