Basketball ISO Meaning, How To, Plays, Etc.

Last Updated on: 12th October 2023, 07:45 pm

Are you curious about iso basketball and how it can enhance your skills on the court? Look no further than this article; we’ll provide all the information you need. As someone who enjoys basketball, I’m excited to dive into this topic.

You may be wondering, “What does ISO mean in basketball?” Coaches commonly use this tactic to empower players to create their opportunities and stand out from the crowd. ISO can be a game-changer for any player with the right strategy at the right moment.

What Does ISO Mean in Basketball

What is ISO?

The term “ISO” is shorthand for an isolation play in basketball. This type of play occurs when an offensive player with the ball faces off against a defender in a one-on-one matchup. When you see this happening during a game, you might instinctively observe, “It looks like Player A from the offense, and Player B from the defense are going one-on-one now.”

Officially, one-on-one plays are not a distinct part of every game, and there are no established rules outlining the specifics of iso plays. It appears that way because both teams essentially step back and allow the two players to engage in their matchup without interference.

How to do it?

When planning to execute an isolation play in basketball, the first thing to consider is which player is best suited for the task. To determine this, you must ask yourself two questions:

  1. Who is your best 1-on-1 scorer? Look for players who possess effective 1-on-1 moves during practice and can attack and finish in a crowd of defenders.
  2. Who currently has a mismatch? Consider whether your strongest players are matched up against a weaker opponent or if you have a significant height mismatch that could be exploited for an iso post-up.

Once you have identified the player, the next step is to decide where the isolation should happen on the court. Factors to consider when making this decision include the strengths of the isolation player, where they feel most comfortable on the court, and the strengths of the other four players on the team. Considering these considerations, you can increase your chances of executing a successful isolation play and scoring points on the court.

How to be a better isolation player?

How to be a better isolation player

If you want to be a successful isolation player in basketball, practicing specific skills is essential. You should focus on the following key areas:

1-on-1 Drills: Isolation plays require players to create space and beat their defenders. Players participate in 1-on-1 drills like King of the Court to improve their ability to do this. By adding limitations like a four-dribble maximum, players can learn to be more efficient and effective in their attacks.

Footwork Drills: Good footwork is crucial for beating a defender in isolation. Players improve their footwork by incorporating drills on triple threats, jabs, pivoting, rip-throughs, and more. Tates Locke Box Drills are an excellent option for developing footwork skills.

Ball-Handling Drills: A player must have good ball-handling skills to get around their defender and reach the hoop, including relevant ball-handling drills in practice plans to help players improve their skills.

Decision Making: Effective decision-making is crucial for success in isolation plays. Players develop their decision-making skills by asking questions like, “If a player is double-teamed, can they make the right read and pass out?” or “If a player is forced to their weak hand, can they still beat the defender?” Players can improve their ability to run effective isolation play on the court by incorporating decision-making drills into practice.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Isolation Play

Isolation Play in basketball


1. Getting the ball to the best scorer
The isolation play has its biggest advantage: giving the ball to your best shooting or best player. Every coach wants the best player to have the ball, and this increases the chances of scoring in each play they make.

2. Can Attack Weak Defenders and Mismatches
Another of the big advantages is that the best player, who now has the ball in his possession, can attack the weakest player in the defensive team, increasing the chances of scoring. If the attacking team can make the play for their best player to be in a one-on-one with the weakest player of the defensive team, it’s the perfect way to do the isolation play.

3. Effective in Short-Clock Situations
When the time is short, and you don’t have much time left, this is also a way of trying to score while it is possible. This is a much better option than continuing to run the offense when there are only 7 seconds left on the clock, where the possession will likely end in a rushed shot.

4. Forces Defenders to Double
If the play is well-maid, probably the defense will have to double themselves, which can lead to confusion for the defending team and free 1 or 2 players from the offensive team. Providing your isolation player can read the floor and make a good pass. This can result in many wide-open jump shots and layups.


1. Can Be Too Predictable
If you use this play too much, the defenders who are not on the ball will start to know, and they will start to read your play often. Knowing what’s coming makes the offensive harder, so don’t use it constantly.

2. Less Effective Against Zone Defense
Defensive zones are made to pack things, making the offensive team try to shoot from outside. Because defensive zones are made for a player to defend a certain zone, not a player one-on-one, isolation plays are harder to execute against them. A tall player will always wait at the rim to challenge the drive. It’s not impossible to run isolation plays against a zone, but it is much harder.

3. Teammates May Not Feel Involved
If you use the isolation play all the time, the rest of the teammates can get frustrated by not getting any points during the game. They feel the play for that player.


In conclusion, the ISO (isolation play) is a one-on-one strategy in basketball that you can use to give the ball to the best player in your team and increase the chances of scoring, particularly when there is a mismatch or not much time left on the clock.

However, the ISO can also become too easy to read for the opponents. Also, it’s less effective against a zone defense and can make other teammates feel less involved. Therefore, coaches must use this strategy occasionally to ensure that all players are involved and engaged in the game to maximize the team’s chances of success.

Additionally, players who want to be successful isolation players must focus on developing key skills such as 1-on-1 drills, footwork drills, ball-handling drills, and decision-making drills to excel in this strategy.