The Swing Offense was developed by former University of Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, who is considered as one of the all-time greats in the college coaching ranks. He won 747 games over the course of his career as a head coach that included stops at UW-Platteville and UW-Milwaukee before spending his last 14 years with the Badgers.
The Swing Offense is an interchangeable offense where spacing, screening, cutting, and passing are key components to its success. As the name implies, the offense is designed to get the ball from one side of the court to the other side - and back again. In this offense, you literally want to “swing” the ball and test the defense to be able to guard you with this much ball movement involved.
In this article, you will learn the strengths and weaknesses of implementing the Swing Offense along with the basics of the offense to determine if it’s the right fit for your team.
Strengths of the Swing Offense
- Positionless Basketball. All five players are interchangeable in the Swing Offense. This allows the offense to easily be adapted to fit a team’s roster while allowing players to become comfortable playing anywhere on the court.
- Strong fundamentals. Cutting, screening, passing, and spacing are the foundational fundamentals that allows a team running this offense to excel. If your team can execute these four concepts then you will easily have high-scoring opportunities each offensive possession.
- Team Effort. This offense is a team offense - you can’t rely on one player to carry the team. Everyone has to be involved in the passing, cutting, and screening to make this offense run efficiently. If the entire team works together, the offense will be hard to stop.
- Develops Basketball IQ. This offense allows players to develop their game because it forces them to learn how to read the defense and their teammates and make decisions based off what they’re seeing unfold.
Weaknesses of the Swing Offense
- Repetitive Offense. The Swing Offense is a continuity offense which means the same actions repeat themselves. This can lead to difficulties when the defense learns the pattern and start making stops. Your offense must be able to read the defense and use counters to create new scoring opportunities on offense.
- Dribble-Drive Mentality. If your team’s strength is attacking off the dribble, you should consider a different offensive strategy. Unlike other offense, the focus in the Swing Offense is passing, screening, and cutting.
- Basketball IQ. The success for this offense relies on your players being able to read the defense and make counter moves to their defensive adjustments. If your team isn’t able to execute these type game-time decisions then you may want to rethink using this offense as part of your game plan.
Who should use the Swing Offense?
The Swing Offense is best suited for a team where every player on the floor excels at the basics: passing, cutting, screening, and spacing. This is extremely important to the success of the offense because it’s what allows the offense to be positionless, players to develop their skills, and a high-scoring opportunity every possession.
I highly recommend this offense if your team places value on each possession and has the patience to not settle for a good shot, but a GREAT shot every offensive trip. If your team can buy into this true, team offense then there will be GREAT rewards on the offensive end.
Lastly, a team successful in the Swing Offense must be able to read the defense and make offense moves and counter-moves accordingly. With the continuity within this offense, each player must be able to understand what they’re looking for and what to do if the defense takes that away.
Getting Started with the Swing Offense
The Swing Offense is designed to create a versatile offensive attack. Many Bo Ryan teams feature big players who can step out and knock down the outside shot or smaller players who can take their man into the post and score.
Can you imagine being able to put a team on the court who can all play inside and outside who patiently work the offense for the best match-up and scoring opportunity? If your team can execute this type of offense then you’re going to torment the defense.
The Swing Offense is used against man-to-man defenses and combines parts of other offenses such as the UCLA offense, the flex offense, and the triangle offense. There can be many different entries to get this offense started and the counters are endless for any type of defense.
All of the actions within the Swing Offense are wanting to generate mismatches and scoring opportunities for both sides of the court whether that is in the post area or open shots on the perimeter.
To get your Swing Offense set up start with 3 players on the right side of the court and 2 players on the left side. You’ll always want to create a 3 player side on the ball side of the court.
Check out Bo Ryan breaking down the initial set up for the Swing Offense position by position.
Swing Offense Basic Continuity
Here are the steps for the basic foundation to the Swing Offense. Every trip down the floor may not look exactly like this because your offense will be reading the defense, but with these steps you'll be able to teach your team what the basis of the offense to use when you're not running set plays.
The initial set-up starts with a ballside triangle.
To keep it simple, the odd numbered players start on the right side of the court and the even numbered players on the left.
- Player 1: top spot with ball, lane line extended
- Player 2: opposite side wing, free throw line extended
- Player 3: ball side wing, free throw line extended
- Player 4: top spot opposite ball, lane line extended
- Player 5: ball side low block
The first option is for 1 to enter the ball to 5 in the low block if they have the advantage.
If 5 is not open, 1 passes to 3 on the wing.
As this pass occurs, 2 and 4 interchange on the opposite side of the court.
You want the interchange on the opposite side of the court to occupy the defense and make it difficult for them to help.
When 3 receives the ball, if 5 is not open for a pass, then they get set a UCLA or 'up screen' for 1.
1 reads the screen and cuts to the ball side low block to post up.
After screening, 5 steps out to the perimeter
3 can either pass the ball to 1 if they are open or pass to 5.
3 passes to 5
When the ball begins to be reversed, 4 setst a flare screen for 2 who will fade to the wing.
5 can throw a skip pass to 2 if they're open or pass to 4 if they're defender helps off the screen.
As 5 passes to 4, 1 steps out to set a flex screen for 3.
3 cuts off the screen to the ball side low block to post up.
4 can either pass to 3 on the flex cut, reverse the ball to 2, or pass to 1 who flashes back for a second before relocating on the opposite wing.
You have now moved the ball to the other side of the court and the 3 man set up is on the left side of the court and the 2 man is on the right side.
This means your actions that occurred on the initial side of the floor now occur on the opposite side of the floor.
The first option is for 4 to enter the ball to 3 in the low block if they have the advantage.
If 3 is not open, 4 passes to 2 on the wing.
As this pass occurs, 5 and 1 interchange on the opposite side of the court.
And follow the same steps from there!
RULES FOR SWING ACTIONS
Remember these 3 rules when you're running the Swing Offense:
- Top to Wing Pass: weak side players interchange
- Wing to Top Pass: weak side wing sets flare screen for top spot
- Top to Top Pass: flex cut on 3 man side
Here is a full video breakdown of the continuity for the Swing Offense.
Teaching the Swing Offense
The only way to truly learn the Swing Offense is practice, practice, practice. In order to be prepared to run this offense in a game, you must practice. An obvious way to drill the Swing Offense is 5-on-5 full-court, but a better way to drill this is to break it down and focus on different segments and reads within the continuity.
Here are a few practice drill recommendations...
In the continuity, flare screens happen when there is a pass from the wing spot to top spot on the 3 man side. When you see this pass being made the weak side wing sets flare screen for top spot. This is an important segment of the continuity to isolate and drill.
- Player 1: left top spot
- Player 2: left wing spot
- Player 3: right wing spot
- Coach: right top spot
Things to Note
- 2 passers in Coach spot with 2 basketballs
- Run this drill to both sides of the court
How to Run
- 3 starts with the basketball and passes to Coach
- As pass is made, 2 runs up to set flare screen for 1
- 1 flares to the wing off the screen and catches a pass from Coach for a shot
- After screening, 2 fills to the top spot and catches a pass from Coach for a shot
Another important part in the continuity is the flex cut. The flex cut happens when the ball is passed from top spot to spot. When this happens, you have to use the flex cut to create the 3 man on ball side. This is a great drill to work on the transition of your 3 man side to the other side of the court.
- Player 1: right top spot
- Player 2: right wing spot
- Player 3: right low block
- Coach: left top spot
Things to Note
- 2 passers in Coach spot with 2 basketballs
- Run this drill to both sides of the court
How to Run
- 1 passes to coach
- 3 steps out and sets a screen for 2
- 2 makes flex cut off of screen and catches a pass from Coach for a lay-up on opposite low block
- After screening, 3 fills wing spot and catches a pass from Coach for a shot
The Swing Offense is designed to expose all positions on the court, especially the guards in the low post. During practice, make sure every player works on post moves. In the video below, Bo Ryan outlines the different post moves they drill in practice.
The Swing Offense has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with for any defense. If you’re players excel at passing, cutting, reading the defense, and make smart decisions with the ball then you have found the perfect fit.
We have given you the foundation to implement this into your game plan, but there’s always more to learn. A great tool for any coach is learning directly from the coach who put the Swing Offense on the map - and that’s Bo Ryan. His DVD, The Swing Offense, thoroughly breaks down everything you need to know. In this short instructional video Ryan gives you step by step instruction on the whiteboard.
Another one of our favorite Swing Offense videos is with Greg Gorton. In his video, Specializing the Swing Offense, he goes into detail about his version of the offense along with a deep dive into their reads and counters. On of that information, this video is a great option if you’re looking to take the Swing Offense a step further and want ways to counter a sagging defense, pressure releases, or using this offense with your post player never leaving the post. It's basically the complete package for the Swing Offense!
If you want to learn even more about the Swing Offense, check out HoopsKing.com for DVDs you can download or rent.
What Are the Pros of the Swing Offense?
Some of the pros of the Swing Offense is that it is a positionless offense meaning that players are interchangeable and free flowing. The Swing Offense also develops strong fundamentals resulting in high-scoring opportunities from your players. Check out the other benefits to running the Swing Offense here.
What Are the Cons of the Swing Offense?
Who Should Use the Swing Offense?
Teams with a high basketball IQ and all-around skills benefit most from the Swing Offense. If the five players out on the court have strong fundamentals this gives you the opportunity to be hard to stop from scoring in the Swing Offense.