A Complete Guide to Horns Offense

Horns offense

Horns is a basketball offensive set designed to better utilize fundamental Middle Screen action where the Guard has the ball and the Inside players are making a Screen for the ball-handler. In horns alignment, both of the "Bigs" are in the middle arc area allowing the guard to chose where he wants to go. Having both of the high players high is neutralizing the baseline help in terms that there no Power Forwards and Centers lurking near the basket, and in this setup, if they try to help, wide open shooters will emerge on the top of the key.

Horns is popular because there is no way that the defense can deny a high screen action because there is a screen on the both sides. This way, ball handler can't be influenced by the defense in any way.

Horns Strengths:  

  • good spacing
  • pressure is off the ball handler
  • emphasize corner 3 shots
  • emphasize middle screen action
  • no baseline - weak side help on defense

Horns Weaknesses:

  • not a balanced floor geometry
  • not emphasizing low post game
  • not good if the "bigs" are not shooters
  • not good if the wings are not good corner shooters

Basic Horns Offense geometry setup

Horns Loop STS

Pass and cut to the strong side corner

The action starts with the traditional horns setup, with the 4 and 5 slightly above the elbows and the 2 and 3 in the corners.

1. 1 is going to pass to 4 (or 5, depends on the covering and the positioning of the defense) and he is going to run towards the strong side corner

2. 3 is going to slide towards 1

3. 1 loops around 3 (no screens here, just crossing paths on the first run)

4. 3 is cross screening for 5

Think about: After one or two runs, defense may get loose a bit so you can tell your players to try:

  • Instead of going to the corner, 1 can cut towards the rim and receive a lob pass or go for a hand-off and drive towards basket
  • 1 can screen for 3 so now 3 can cut inside the paint
  • If the screen from 3 is good and 5 is all alone, 4 can pass the ball to 5 (high-low pass


Pass and screen for the guard

5. 4 swings the ball toward 1 and goes for a screen to 3 that is inside the paint area

Think about:

  • If the 3 is a good shooter, maybe defense is going to try and flank him, 4 is sometimes going to be alone in the middle of the paint or if there is a read from the D3 (player guarding 3), then he can curve around the 4 and cut towards the basket or have an open close range shot

Options for the inside or the outside pass

6. At the end, there are two options, either to hit a 3 on the arc or 5 on the low post.

Points of Emphasis:

  • Good shooting big and a guard (4 and 3 in this case) should be on the same side and 1 should play for them
  • Read the defense because there are many opportunities for a cut.
  • 3 should be really good shooter for the play to have an effect.
  • Do not rush the pass on the last play ( No 6).
  • If, on the last play (No 6), 1 pass the ball to 5 on the low post, 3 should move to the 45 degree spot on the weak side and 4 should move to his spot


Horns Handoff

Pick and pop action

Horns Hand-off is another version of the "traditional" horns offense. Again we have 1 -2 -2 geometry on the court.

1. The action starts with the "pick and pop" action with 1 handling the ball and 5 making a screen for him but he stays at the arc after the first movement.  

2. After the pass, 1 should space on the wing below 45 degree spot

Think about:

  • If the D5 (player guarding 5) slow, attacking him on the drive and finishing or kicking the ball to 2

Two screens and a hand-off

3. 3 is setting up a cut and 4 is sliding down to set a screen for 3

4. 5 dribbles towards the down-screen towards the 4 and setting a hand-off action for 3

5. 2 is crossing the paint to set a screen for the screener 4 (STS)

Think about:

  • 3 can cut to the basket and if it does not work he can resume the play and go to receive 2 consecutive screens
  • 3 can loop around the first screen set by 4

Baseline screen for the Big man

6. 3 is with the ball at the Point and 2 is making a screen for 4 and giving a 3 chance for an inside pass

Think about:

  • I like these screen+hand-off situations because they always end with the miss-match. In this situation I strongly suggest that 3 tries to beat D5 on the penetration and if D1 comes to help there is a good 3pt shot opportunity.
  • If D5 is a good defender and your 3 losses a dribbling, and there is a good missmatch down at the low post with D2 guarding 4, make the ball swing to 1 and then he will be the one that is going to give the pass to 4

Screen for the screener

7. 5 pins the screen for 2 to bring him on the arc

Think about:

  • 2 making a loop and cutting to the rim
  • 5 staying with the D2 on the low post
  • 3 making a pass to 2 who is going to pass it to 5

Points of Emphasis:

  • Play this action only if your 5 has good dribbling skills.
  • 3 has to be a play-maker in terms that he needs to have good vision and good passing because in times he hits the Point many options are going to open for the team

Horns Dive

Pick and roll action while the other man dive for the basket

Diving horns are the most simple way of playing this offensive setup in times we want to take one of the bigs out of the paint and to leave our dominant big to play one on one.

1. 4 is going to set a screen for one and he is going to pop afterwards. 1 should dribble to the 45 degree spot and pass the ball to 4.

2. 5 is diving inside the paint area and he needs to position himself as near the basket as he can. 5 needs to keep his man on the one shoulder, and to ask the ball with the free hand.

Think about:

  • if you are coaching seniors, 5 can dive on the other side of the paint (not like on the diagram) and 1 can throw a lob pass
  • if the D5 is trailing, 1 can throw a fast pass and 5 can go for a flashy layup

Swing the ball over the top

3. 1 turns it back to 4 that is now on the Point position after the pop. If D5 is somehow in front of the 5, 5 needs to pin in his defender to be able to receive the lob pass.

Think about:

  • teach your 5 to be aware of the help defense, and if he is likely to be doubled he needs to get a ball to the open shooter.

Horns Dip Under

Pass, cut toward the basket and a back screen for the center

1. 1 is passing the ball to 4 who pops a bit off of the elbow

2. 1 cuts to the heart of the paint and then dips under 5

3. 1 makes a back screen for 5

Think about:

  • 1 cutting all the way and getting back for ball
  • 1 faking a cut and gong to 4 for a hand-off

Options for a pass depending on the switches

4. 4 can make an entry pass to 5 on the low post

5. 1 pops out of the screen and if the blocking of a D5 is good, we have a miss-match on the perimeter or 1 is going to be alone for a 3pt shot

Think about:

  • Strong Side: 4 gets the ball to 2 and he swings it inside for 5
  • Weak Side: Fast ball to 1 who gets on a fast dribble toward the basket with an option to swing it for and open 3pt shot from 3

Horns Iverson Down

Two screens for the wing in the corner

1. 2 and 3 start their movement at the same time. 3 is going towards the horns where 4 and 5 screen for him. 2 runs in opposite corner.

2. 1 drives the ball to free space for 3 and passes the ball to him after he receives the screen from 5.

Think about:

  • 3 can cut towards the basket before or after both screens made by 4 and 5.
  • D2 can fall a sleep so look for flashy pass underneath the basket to 2

Screen for the screener and a cut toward the basket

3. 5 now screens for 4 who can either loop around and get on the low post or can receive the ball on the elbow for a mid-range shot

Think about:

  • 5 faking a screen and cutting toward the basket

pick and roll on the side

4. 5 comes up again and goes for some pick and roll action with 3

Think about:

  • 5 asking for a ball on the free throw line from where he can make a high-low pass to 4.
  • 5 playing pop after the pick, receiving the ball on the arc and making a pass to 4 or shooting a 3 pointer.

HORNS Rim Cut DHO Throwback

Pass and a middle cut

1. 1 makes a pass to 5 who is on the elbow and then goes through the middle and towards the weak side corner

2. 3 climb up to 45 degree spot

Think about:

  • 1 - 5 hand off or a lob pass inside the paint
  • after 1 is in the corner, 3 can fake a climb and cut to the basket

Bigs passing on the arc

3. 4 steps on the arc and receives the pass from 5

Consecutive screens for the guard and a hand-off

4. 5 runs to a corner and screens for 2. After the screen 5 needs to open toward the low post

5. 4 dribbles the ball on the arc and to the 2, and at the same time, 2 received the screen from 5 and now runs for a hand-off with 4

Think about:

  • 4 making a pass to 5 (who is opening inside from the screen)
  • 4 faking a hand-off and driving toward the basket in a sprint

Two big man on the same side

6. 2 receives the ball and dribbles it to the point (its a miss-match) attacks the basket or there is a possibility of a pass to 4

Think about:

  • Swing - swing action on a 3 who can swing it to 1 for a corner 3 pt shot (most likable shot in the NBA)

Horns Stagger

Simple pick and roll

1. 1 and for are playing a pick and roll action

Think about:

  • 1 attacking the D4 and driving to the basket
  • passing it to 3 for a corner 3pt shot

Two screens for the wing on the weak side

2. 4 and 5 running toward the weak side corner and screening for 2 who loops to the basket after the second screen

3. 3 cutting to the basket

Think about:

  • 2 can fake that he is going for those two screens and cuts underneath the basket
  • 4 or 5 can pop out of the screen

Two screens for the wing on the strong side

4. 5 and 4 are now repositioning and making 2 consecutive screens for 3 who is going from the inside to the outside and on the point

5. 1 makes a pass to 3

Think about:

  • 3 can loop around 5
  • 5 can STS for 4

Second round of the screens

6. 3 dribbles the ball to the other side toward 1

7. 5 and 4 are now making two consecutive screens for 2

8. 1 is going in the strong side corner

Think about:

  • 2 faking to go under the screens and going over the screens toward the FT line

Final baseline screens

9. 5 and 4 are positioning to be flat with the baseline

10. 1 is now receiving two screens and running toward the opposite corner

11. 3 pass the ball to 2

12. 1 is coming from 2 screens and can receive the ball

Horns Double On Ball

Pick and a roll toward the low post on the strong side

1. 1 and 4 play pick and roll

2. 4 goes to the strong side low post

Think about:

  • 1 pass the ball to 2 for a corner 3pt shot or an entry pass on 4

Second pick and roll but bigs are switching places

3. 1 and 5 now play pick and roll

4. 5 and 4 change places

5. 1 dribbles to the other side

Think about:

  • 5 fakes a screen and cuts to the basket

Swing over the point and a High-Low pas

6. 1 pass the ball to 4 and 4 can pass the ball to 5 on the low post

Horns Swing Entry

Pass on one side and cut outside of the off ball screen

1. 1 pass the ball to 4 who steps on the arc

2. 1 receives the screen from 5, cuts outside the screen and goes to low post on that side and screens for 2


Think about:

  • 4 makes a lob pass to 1 after he receives the screen from 5

Flex like screen in the weak side corner

3. 1 makes a screen for 2 who cuts to the basket

This is some of the ideas of how to play horns offense with your team. If you want to learn more in depth horns analysis, you can always visit us at Hoopsking. You are just one click away for having some of the best coaching videos that is going to give you expand your knowledge and help your team get to that next level of basketball.

Sep 20, 2022 Viktor Sadikovic

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