What Does ISO Mean in Basketball? Ultimate Guide

Welcome to the dynamic world of offensive basketball strategy. We will explain what is Iso in basketball.

In basketball, “ISO” (short for isolation) is a play strategy in which one talented offensive team player who has the ball puts themselves in a one-on-one competition against another team player and hits a successful score.

How to Score from Iso Play

JamesHarden basketball iso player

Develop a strong handle and dribbling ability:

Being able to control the ball and create separation from your defender is essential for any successful iso player. This means dribbling with both hands, changing speeds and directions, and using your body to shield the ball.

Attack the basket:

Don’t be afraid to take the ball to the hoop and draw fouls. This is where you have the best chance of scoring in isolation. If you can’t get to the basket, kick the ball out to a teammate or reset your position.

Learn different offensive moves:

Having a repertoire of offensive moves will make you more unpredictable and challenging to defend. This includes crossover dribbles, jab steps, spins, and fake shots.

Attack the basket:

Don’t be afraid to take the ball to the hoop and draw fouls. This is where you have the best chance of scoring in isolation. If you can’t get to the basket, kick the ball out to a teammate or reset your position.

Be a good passer:

If you’re attracting double teams, you need to be able to find the open man. This means being aware of your surroundings and making quick decisions.

Be patient:

Scoring in isolation takes time and patience. Don’t rush your moves or try to force anything. Let the defense come to you and take advantage of their mistakes.

Practice regularly:

The more you practice, the better you’ll become at scoring from iso plays. Regularly work on your dribbling, footwork, and offensive moves.

Know your strengths and weaknesses:

Play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses. If you’re a good shooter, take advantage of your open shots. If you’re a good driver, attack the basket.

Scout your opponent:

If you know what your opponent is good at and weak at, you can exploit their weaknesses. For example, if your opponent is slow, try to blow by them. If they’re short, try to post them up.

Be confident:

Confidence is key in any basketball game, especially in isolation plays. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Steps to Execute Basketball ISO Play

ISO basketball player startegy

Clear Out Space:

  • Communicate with teammates to vacate the area where the isolation play will occur.
  • Ensure no unnecessary obstructions or double teams allow for one-on-one play.

Establish Position:

  • Get into a strategic position on the court, considering the player’s strengths and the defender’s weaknesses.
  • Utilize spacing to your advantage, positioning yourself where you can effectively make your move.

Signal Intent:

  • Indicate your intention to initiate the isolation play through gestures or communication with teammates.
  • This helps coordinate actions and alert teammates to be ready for potential passes or offensive rebounds.

Read the Defense:

  • As the play begins, constantly assess and read the defender’s positioning and reactions.
  • Read the overall defensive scheme to make informed decisions during the isolation.

Execute Moves:

  • Employ a variety of dribble moves, fakes, and quick footwork to create separation from the defender.
  • Stay unpredictable by incorporating different offensive maneuvers, making it challenging for the defender to anticipate your actions.


  • Make split-second decisions based on the defender’s reactions and the evolving game situation.
  • Choose between driving to the basket, taking a jump shot, or passing to an open teammate if the defense collapses.

Follow Through:

  • Regardless of the outcome of the play, stay engaged.
  • Be ready to contribute to offensive rebounds or defensive transitions if the shot is missed.

Pros and Cons of Basketball Iso Play

Pros of Basketball Iso PlayCons of Basketball Iso Play
Individual Creativity: Allows a skilled player to showcase their one-on-one offensive skills and creativity.Predictability: Iso play can become predictable if a team relies on it too much, making it easier for opponents to defend.
Defensive Focus: Opponents can focus their defence on the player in isolation, making it harder for them to score.Team Cohesion: Iso play can disrupt team flow and ball movement, leading to a lack of involvement from other teammates.
Exploiting Mismatches: Can exploit matchups where a player has a clear advantage over their defender.Limited Ball Movement: Iso play can lead to stagnant ball movement, reducing the team’s offensive effectiveness.
Late-Game Situations: Useful in late-game situations where a team needs a quick, individual scoring option.Fatigue: Constant isolation play can lead to fatigue for the player, potentially affecting overall performance.
Drawing Fouls: Skilled iso players can draw fouls, putting pressure on opponents and getting to the free-throw line.Inefficiency: Not all players excel in isolation situations, and inefficient shot attempts can hurt the team’s overall scoring efficiency.
Confidence Boost: Successful isolation plays can boost a player’s confidence and energize the team.Entertainment Value: Iso plays can be exciting for fans, especially when executed skillfully.
Entertainment Value: Iso plays, especially when executed skillfully, can be exciting for fans to watch.Team Morale: Overreliance on isolation may affect team morale if other players feel left out or underutilized.

5 Best Iso Basketball Players Ever

To become a skilled isolation player, it’s wise to watch legendary athletes who excel in this aspect of the game.

1. James Harden

Harden’s isolation scoring reached its peak in 2018-19, with 36.1 points, the seventh-highest in NBA history. Although his scoring has dipped since joining Brooklyn, he still leads in isolation scoring, drawing free throws on 22.4% of isolations.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The league’s top players, Harden and Gilgeous-Alexander, rely on isolation plays for over 21% of their offense. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 0.93 points per isolation possession and a 43.6 effective field goal percentage. SGA leads all players with six isolation shots per game, surpassing Harden four times and Russell Westbrook once.

3. Kevin Durant

Durant is averaging 5.1 points per game on isolations this season, his highest since 2015-16. He consistently averages around four points per game on isolations, except for his first season in Golden State. Durant ranks third in field goal percentage at 49.3% among 42 players, averaging at least two isolation possessions per game.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis is set to reach a career-high in isolation scoring with 5.0 points per game, thanks to increased efficiency and a nearly 50% field goal percentage over the last two seasons. However, his 13.8% turnover rate, second only to Westbrook, raises concerns about his ability to commit turnovers in isolations.

5. Jayson Tatum

Tatum’s isolation usage has increased each season since 2017, but his efficiency hasn’t kept up. His best efficiency was in 2019-20, with a 40.8% shot. The question is whether he can regain efficiency with increasing isolation frequency.

Common Types of Basketball Iso Play

Wing iso:

In the wing, iso play occurs when the offensive player is positioned on the wing near the court’s perimeter. The offensive player will use their ball-handling skills, dribbling, and shooting ability to score against their defender.

Pick-and-roll iso:

In a pick-and-roll iso, the offensive player sets a screen for a teammate, then rolls to the basket or pops out to the perimeter for a shot.

Post-up iso:

In a post-up iso, the offensive player receives the ball in the post and tries to back down the defender to score.

Hand-off iso:

In a hand-off iso, the offensive player passes the ball to a teammate, then cuts to the basket or pops out to the perimeter for a shot.

Drive-and-kick iso:

In a drive-and-kicks iso, the offensive player drives to the basket and draws a double team, then kicks the ball out to an open teammate for a shot.

Fadeaway iso:

In a fadeaway iso, the offensive player turns away from the defender and shoots the ball while falling back.


What is an ISO in basketball?

In basketball, “ISO” means isolation play, where a team strategically positions a skilled scorer against a defender to exploit their skills and create scoring opportunities.

How do you play ISO ball?

ISO ball isolates a player with one-on-one matchups, relying on individual skills to create scoring opportunities. Players often use crossovers, spins, or step-back moves to break down defenders and take a shot.

What does ISO mean in street basketball?

ISO in street basketball means isolation, a 1-on-1 matchup between an offensive player and their defender.

What does ISO mean on 2k?

In ISO, it’s a one-on-one situation, and your teammates strategically position themselves, especially if they’re sharpshooters. This not only widens the offensive play but also creates space for the ISO player to make a drive towards the basket. If the defense tightens up, it often leads to opportunities for your teammate to take an open shot.

Which factor determines the success of ISO?

The success of an ISO play relies on the offensive player’s ability to exploit the defender’s weaknesses and utilize their skills effectively.


ISO play in basketball is a strategic offensive move that involves a single player isolating themselves from their teammates to create one-on-one scoring opportunities. It is a valuable tool for teams, particularly when they are facing a tough defensive matchup or need to generate quick points. However, ISO play also has drawbacks, as it can be predictable and lead to a defensive focus on the isolated player. Overall, ISO play is a complex skill that requires a high level of individual talent and decision-making ability.

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