Portland Trailblazers: Flow Offense

K.J. Smith
Feb 27, 2017 · 5 min read

The basketball arms race has taken the game to another level. Today’s players demonstrate video game-like athleticism, suffocating defense, and an arsenal of offensive abilities that will place any individual or team on an island. As defenses are grinding away to shrink the floor in an instant, offenses have evolved to stretch the floor on a larger scale and just as quickly. One of the many strategies that makes that phrase apparent is the Flow offense. As the name suggests, its aim is to constantly move and attack until a crack in the armor is discovered. Teams like the NBA’s Portland TrailBlazers and the NCAA’s University of Virginia Cavaliers have implemented variations of the system to spread defenses incredibly thin while teams everywhere are using versions of it to send defenses buzzing in multiple directions.

The Philosophy

The principles place an emphasis on constant, simultaneous screens away from the ball before collapsing the defense with pick and rolls or post ups. From here, it’s a game of keep away until an uncontested jump shot is created. From a player development standpoint, it teaches players how to use various screens to free each other up for scoring opportunities. No matter what type of roster you have, this system occupies the defense in a way that makes it difficult to key in on any one individual due to the cutting away from the ball. The attack works by creating a game of two on two for each side of the floor between the screener, cutter, and their defenders. Meanwhile, the middle of the floor also known as the channel is a game of one on one as the player reads the screening actions or looks to attack a seam in the defense. This can be difficult to guard since players are unable to load up and help on the ball.


On the fast break, we look to sprint to the corners and kick ahead for an easy bucket. The next progression is based on what happens on our weak side down screen action which will lead to our flow pattern. The guard has the option to either go over the down screen and then receive a flare screen or to reject/backdoor the screen and run off of a down screen from the post on the baseline. This is especially problematic as teams are taught to sprint back in transition but are then challenged to fight through screens that they usually don’t see coming until it’s too late.

Over Action

Under Action

*Anytime a player sets a flare screen, you can move right into a ball screen attack.

Weak Action

This option can be any set play that gets you into your flow spacing. For the purposes of this article, I will use a set I created from combining parts of the Cleveland Cavaliers “Up” set and the Portland TrailBlazers “Flow” offense.

Strong and Strong Flow Actions

Our next action has become very common in the NBA. It involves a ball reversal to the opposite wing which leads to a stagger screen. Once the shooter receives the ball, your team can flow into any set play of your choice such as a horns, 1–4 high, or box set. The benefit of this action is that it loosens the defense before the point of attack. For teams that play with more of a motion or freelance concept, the action that I call “Strong Flow”, allows you to dive right into the desired spacing following the stagger screen and does a great job of catching defenders by surprise.

Strong into Horns, 1–4 High or Box

Strong Flow

Dribble Action

The last option begins with a dribble entry to the wing. As stated before, you can use any set that gets your group moving. This is a set that I call “Hold” and it works well against teams that love to deny passing lanes while using their pressure against them to create scoring opportunities.

*If no pick and roll takes place, the point may hit either cutter to continue the flow.

*To shift the flow into four or five out spacing, simply have the screeners step outside of the three point line following a screen.

That does it for the Flow offense! You can find film of it in action by going on YouTube and searching “Portland TrailBlazers offense” or “Virginia Cavaliers blocker mover Offense”. I hope this article gave you some ideas and that it helps you in the future. As always, feel free to email me with questions or to just talk basketball at 14ksmith14@gmail.com. You can also direct message me on twitter @KJ_THE_SCOUT

K.J. Smith

Written by

Associate Head Coach at Unifacisa Pro Basquete (Brazil) Contributor for FastModel Sports.

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