What is ISO in Basketball? Tips To Master ISO for Beginners

Have you ever heard or read about ISO play from other basketball players and wondered, what is ISO in basketball

Maybe you’ve heard about ISO plays and want to experience it for  yourself, but you have no idea how to set them up. In this article, we will answer all of your wonders.

In the article below, we will discuss what ISO in basketball is, how they combine to form different offensive looks and sets, three different ways to master isolation play, and then give examples of some well-known NBA players who like this type of play, too.

What Is ISO In Basketball?

What is ISO in Basketball

ISO stands for isolation in basketball. It is known as a person-to-person game when a player dribbles man-to-man with another. It is an extremely powerful weapon that every player should have if they want to become a good player.

In this tactic, the three players of the team will move toward the half court line without the ball to entice the opponent defenders to follow, leaving half of the court empty for two of their good teammates. 

This will help them bring scores to the team because one player can not handle the attacks while the rest of the defenders have been drawn to the weak side of the field and too far away to cover for teammates.

Isolation basketball plays are used in all the different types of leagues. Even in high school and elementary school, there is always at least one outstanding player on every team.

What makes isolation plays more intriguing than other types of offense is how their formation constantly forces defenders to make tough decisions on the playing strategy themselves.

However, this indicates that the one who has the ball will be isolated from his defender until another play takes action.

What are the pros and cons of ISO in basketball?

It is undeniable that ISO technique plays a vital role in a basketball team. Let’s look at the pros and cons of this play.


Getting to the rim

The team will often try to dribble the ball a lot across the field to make the opponent move as much as possible, thereby causing them to gradually decrease their physical health. 

Therefore, defensive players will be more likely to make mistakes and not be fast enough to defend. This will be the time when the attacker takes advantage of the opportunity to score.

Creating space

This one-on-one tactic will minimize dribbling turnovers and offer more opportunities to get the hit by creating space and beat defenders off the dribble.

Drawing more fouls

Drawing fouls is an effective way to bring the score to your team. The free-throw line will be a chance to score if you’re fouled while shooting it. 

You may also get your opponents into foul trouble, perhaps pushing them out of the game. Aggressive attacking actions, in general, are more likely to result in fouls.

What is ISO in Basketball 1


Losing the team spirit

Basketball teamwork is essential because it allows the team to perform as a unit rather than as individuals. When it comes to teamwork, without the coaches, team leaders, members have to work on their own. 

Therefore, overusing isolation play makes players feel they do not belong to the team anymore.

Losing strength balance

Because most defenders do not participate in the ISO play, they will have more time to rest. As a result, the one who plays ISO has to deal with the defending individuals many times. Thus, this will lead to the fact that the main ISO player will get injured or exhausted.

Tips To Be A Great ISO Player

There are several tips that you must practice on your own in order to improve your abilities as an ISO player. Separation in basketball lets individuals focus on themselves for a period of the game by trying to create more mismatches. 

The same as other sports, basketball also requires a lot of tactical elements.There are various strategies you may use to improve your one-on-one scoring. Here are three different tips to become a great one-on-one scorer.

Number one:

You need to be able to have very quick handles if you can dribble the ball right away. For example, Steph Curry can dribble the ball through his legs and around its back rapidly.

Number two:

If you have the confidence not to turn over the ball when you’ve got one, two, or three different players guarding you at the same time, you will also be a great isolation basketball player. To do this, you have to master the fake movements, passing people and so on.

A great isolation basketball player that you can watch on TV is Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry. They both have different types of games.  For example, Kyle Lowry is more of a slasher; he’s the type of player who drives right towards the rim and scores a layup, while Steph Curry is more of a shooter.

Number three:

Don’t bounce the basketball too much if you’re standing up top.  In case you’re just dribbling to buy time, you will not achieve any scores. You should not keep looking down to look at the ball, but you have to observe and bounce the ball well.

When you need to get that ball, keep in your mind where you’re going . If you can be decisive on your moves and take one or two dribbles, you will score a ton of points.

Best ISO Players In NBA History

Here are the 4 best ISO players in the NBA nowadays.

1. James Harden 

What is ISO in Basketball 2

James Harden is such a star in the basketball universe; he always creates new miracle rules. After Jordan’s 37.1 PPG as a 23-year-old player, we haven’t seen such a great scoring record. He played a whopping 38.9 points after 19 games.

Since 2013-14, no player has logged more than 12 ISOs per game in one season. But Harden, who reached 17 ISOs and an average ISO plays of 18.5, deserves the best perimeter isolation player in the world.

2. LeBron James

What is ISO in Basketball 3

In game one of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 97-89. James scored 31 points, grabbed eight rebounds and six assists, passing Michael Jordan for first place on the all-time postseason mark for games with 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists. 

3. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

In the year the Cavs won the championship, Irving gets the point in every possession using ISO tactic. In the Finals, he made 100% of his 3-point attempts in the clutch – that’s unbelievable. Without a doubt, it’s one of the greatest shots in NBA history.

4. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is not only one of the best ISO scorers in the NBA but also the heart and soul of the Portland Trail Blazers. He has two ‘Big Sky Player of the Year’ honors and the second-highest total points in ‘Weber State’ history. 

Moreover, when facing the high-performance opponent Miami Heat, Lillard scored 49 points, and the Trail Blazers became the spotlight with a 115-104 victory.

It was no surprise that the Portland Trail Blazers ranked him sixth overall in the 2012 NBA draft prospects since he was the best point guard in the class.

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Maybe you have found your answer to the question, what is ISO in basketball? after reading this article. Although isolation play can take away the team’s spirit in a game, it’s still an important skill in basketball. 

Especially in last game situations, you will definitely want the ball in the hands of players with outstanding ISO skills because they will preserve the ball and bring the score to the team.

Reference Source: What is ISO and Isolation in Basketball

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