How to Improve Your Baseline Inbound Plays

How much time do you really spend on inbound offense? How many inbound plays on average do you run per game? What is your success rate? Whatever your answers to those questions are we want to give you eleven tips to improve your inbound plays.

  1. Set Up Quickly, Except the Inbounder

We want the four players on the floor to set up as quickly as possible. The Inbounder however should get to the ball as slowly as possible. This allows time for their teammates to get into position. It also allows players time to make reads on the inbound plays.

  1. Start the Movement on the Referee’s Pass

We start the action on the referee handing the ball to the player inbounding the ball. We feel it gives us an extra half a second to run the action. We also instruct the Inbounder to not look at the official as they hand you the ball. The official will bring the ball to the Inbounder and not vice versa. This allows the inbounder to focus on reading the action and looking for sleepers options.

  1. Teach the Safety Pass

We have a set location to pass the ball in safely if the inbound count gets to 4 or if the inbounder senses trouble. In all our inbound plays a player is designated as the safety. They do not go to the position. They are passed to the position. This prevents the pass from becoming a jump ball up for grabs.

  1. Read the Sleepers

Sleepers are automatic reads that occur because the defense makes a mistake in their initial inbound defensive coverage. Both players involved in the sleeper must read the opportunity and ideally make eye contact prior to the action.

Common sleepers include:

  • A direct lob pass to a player at the rim. The defender does not see the ball (Back to the inbound passer) and there is no help from a top defender.
  • A bounce pass to a backdoor cut. The defender stares at the inbound passer or plays too tight on a high player.
  • A bounce pass to a player at the rim. The defender does not split their legs.
  • A direct pass to the ballside player in the low post.
  1. Use Hot Signals

If you are worried about opponents stealing your calls on inbound plays consider using what we call ‘hot signals.’ A hot signal designates the first number or second number called as the actual play call. If the inbound play is called ‘1’  and the first number is the hot signal, then the inbounder can call 12 or 15. Players know the first number is the play call and the second is deception. If the second number is the hot signal during a game then the Inbounder can call 21, 71 etc. Players just must know whether the first or second number is the hot signal for that game.

  1. Run the Same Play Out of Different Formations

Another way to use deception and to run multiple plays is to run a set play out of different formations. For example pick the picker can be run out of a box set, a line set, a triangle set etc. One is advantage is that your players only need to remember one or two actions. Those actions can then be run out of different formations. Another advantage is that it gives your opponent the perception of your team having more inbound plays then you really do. You could run three different formations for the same play. This makes it seem like you have three inbound plays when you really have only one.

Here is an example of common baseline inbound plays being run out of multiple alignments.

You can also run the same play on sideline and baseline inbound plays.

Below is an explanation of this topic including examples of a BOB and SOB play that can be run on the baseline and sideline.

SOB Pick the Picker Series (Member Only)

  1. Save a Counter for the Second Half

An important special situation concept is to hold off on running a counter to an inbound play you have already used until the second half. This will provide a scoring opportunity when needed.

  1. Have the Inbounder Stand Deeper than the End Line

This is especially relevant in grade school or high school gyms where space is an issue. Have your inbounder stand deeper to allow for spacing on the inbound pass. The spacing can give them a better angle on the pass. Some officials designate the spot but always make them move the inbounder rather than settling for where they try and place you. Standing deeper can also help preventing the inbounder from turning the ball over by accidentally stepping over the endline.

  1. Read the Position of the Player Covering the Inbounder and Teach Audibles

Teach the inbounder how to read how their defender is positioned in defensive coverage?

Inbound Defense

We have designated audibles for an inbounder if they read a certain coverage. For example if the defender covering the inbounder is on the ball, run the primary action to the weakside low. If the defender covering the inbounder is under the basket, run the primary action to the ballside wing. We also know that a certain play will work better depending on the defensive positioning of the defender covering the inbounder. If this defender is under the basket, we run a play that attacks out. If this defender is on the ball or the post, then we run a play that attacks the basket.

  1. Teach the Screener Who to Screen

If you want your team to be effective on inbounds then teach players who to screen and the consequent reads. Just like player-to-player offence, an inbound play’s effectiveness will be determined by the details. The screening angle and the cutter’s reads depend on their defender’s path. A curl, rejection and flare are all reads similar to any other offensive screen.

What reads are available depends on where the screen is set. If the screen is set high then there is more spacing for rejecting the screen. If the screen is set low then there is less spacing for rejecting the screen. The available reads also depend on who the cutter and screener are. If the cutter cannot shoot but the screener can, then a forced curl would be a better decision for the cutter then a flare. The forced curl would open up the screener (the better shooter) for a shape-up.

  1. Practice 5-on-5

Have you ever noticed that your players are not particularly engaged in 5-on-0 inbound practice? As one player out it to me when he became an assistant coach after his playing days were done, “There was nothing more mind numbing and useless than practicing 5-on-0 inbound.” I totally agree and after initial teaching we only practice inbound vs. defense. Just like all forms of offensive and defensive learning, developing your player’s understanding and execution of inbound decision making develops best in the context it must be performed.

Here is one simple idea to teach inbound in a realistic way using a 5-on-5 challenge. 

Half-Court, Full-Court from Inbound (Member Only)

Check out more inbound plays that work:


Related Articles