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Basketball Court Layout: Create Your Playing Strategy

Basketball Tactics
Last Updated on: June 16, 2023

Basketball Tactics

The symmetry of the basketball court layout features half a court that’s a mirror image of the other half. The entire court measures in at ninety-four feet by fifty feet. On each side of the court, you’ll find painted lines that clearly show the circle and free throw lane, in addition to the three-point line, which has a distance from the basket that tends to vary depending on the level of hoops played.

Learning the Layout

When you’re practicing at home using the best wall-mounted hoop, you’re imagining yourself on the court, taking and sinking the most challenging shots. But if you’re not familiar with the different areas of the court, the best areas to take shots, areas of the court that you struggle with, and what common areas that the offense love slipping in to take the ball, then you’ll be lost during a game. Learning about the layout of the court will also come in handy when you’re practicing passing fundamentals and drills with other players on the team. If you’re new to basketball, then learning the court layout is a great place to start, and one that can teach you a lot about the best areas to take a shot and where you’ll be the most vulnerable on the court.

Basketball Court Lines

In order to eliminate any confusion fans, players, and coaches must communicate using the same basketball terminology.

The following names refer to the borders of the court:

  • The borders along the length of the court are called the sidelines
  • The borders along the ends of the court are called the baselines or endlines
  • The midcourt line is the line that separates both halves of the court.
  • The center circle is found in the very center of the midcourt line, where the center toss will take place at the start of every game.


As I mentioned above, the sidelines are the boundary lines that run the length of the court. The location of the sidelines is typically fifty feet wide, however, the length can also depend on the length of the court. The sidelines, in addition to the endline and baseline, are what establish the size of the playing area.


The endline runs from sideline to sideline and can be found behind the backboard at each end of the court. The endlines are located four feet behind the hoop and are typically fifty feet wide. The endline is also called the baseline, and it’s an interchangeable term that’s used depending on which team has the ball. Endline is the term used for the defensive end of the court, while baseline is used for the offensive end.

Free Throw Lines and Lanes

basketball field

The free throw lane, which is called the hub of action on each side of the court, measures sixteen feet wide in the NBA and twelve feet in high school and college basketball.

Every level measures the length of the lane from the free throw line to the basket, which is fifteen feet. Offensive players cannot stand inside the lane for more than a couple of seconds unless a teammate is shooting. After a shot is taken, the count restarts. Defensive players have the freedom to remain inside the lane for as long as they need.

When one player fouls another player, the fouled player may receive a free throw shot, also known as a foul shot. The player takes this type of shot from the free throw line, located fifteen feet from the basket at the end of the lane. These shots are called free throws because defenders do not guard the shooter during the shot. When someone takes a free throw shot, they must not cross the line until the ball has hit the rim. If their feet cross the line before the ball reaches the rim, the shot will not count.

During a free throw, players from both teams line up on the free throw lane or behind the shooter but must not interfere with the shot. The players line up on each side of the lane in a specific order. Only four players are allowed to stand on one side of the free throw lane. If a player chooses not to line up, an opposing player can take their spot on the line. Behind the hoop, the fans usually generate noise, jumping up and down, and doing their best to distract the player taking the shot.

Three-Point Arc

Another important marked feature on a basketball court is the three-point arc. This arc extends in a near semicircle around the basket. The distance of the arc from the basket will differ, depending on the level of play. The NBA changed the distance of the free throw line a couple of times but has since gone back to the original distance of twenty-three feet, nine inches. Nineteen feet, nine inches is the college distance. Twenty feet, six inches is the international distance.

A shot that’s taken from beyond the arc, even a shot that’s made in desperation from the half court, is worth a total of three points. Three-pointers only count if the shooter has both of their feet behind the arc as they take the shot, however, if one of the player’s feet lands on the other side of the arc it will still count as a three-pointer.

Frontcourt and Backcourt

Think of a basketball court as two half-courts: one end is the backcourt, and the other end is the frontcourt. You’ll find the offense’s basket located on the frontcourt.

Mid Court

This is the line that divides the court in half. Once the ball has crossed the mid court line, it will become a boundary line that reduces the offensive playing area to half of the court. For most levels, the offensive team will only have eight seconds to move the ball across this line.

Court Areas

Every area of the court has a name. It’s crucial that you use the correct terminology when these areas are described. The main areas of a court include the following:

Three-Second Area

The three-second area is the space located between the lane lines and the free throw line. It is also known as the paint because it is painted. If a player on the offense remains in this area for more than a few seconds, it constitutes a violation and obliges the player to surrender the ball to the opposing team.


A buffer area is painted on the lane lines, and it serves as a separation between defensive and offensive players during a free throw. It is also a highly strategic zone. Any player, whether defensive or offensive, can establish a position and gain an advantage.


This is the area of the court where the lane line meets the free throw line. Just like the block, the elbow will be important when it comes to dribble penetration. Any player who gets to the elbow first will have the advantage.

Free Throw Line Extended

An imaginary line is present, representing an extension from the free throw line that spans across the court. Coaches frequently utilize this line to establish defensive rules. When the ball is above the extended free throw line, players apply a specific rule, while they apply a different rule when the ball is below it.

Top of Circle

This is the area found straight out from the basket, right outside the free throw circle. It’s primarily used as a reference point for aligning defensive and offensive players. It’s also a spot that many players love to shoot from.


The side of the court, extended by the free throw line, contains this area. We designate these areas as weakside or ballside, depending on the location of the player who possesses the ball. The weakside refers to the wing on the side away from the player with the ball, whereas the strong side denotes the side with the player in possession of the ball.


Players mainly use this area to designate the meeting point of the baseline and sideline. It is also an area that players love shooting from. When playing zone defense, they typically choose an open area. However, it’s an area where defensive players will often trap offensive players.

Short Corner

This is an area that’s located along the baseline, halfway between the lane line and sideline. It’s considered a strategic offensive area that’s used against zone defenses.

Shot Charts

To become a better player using shot charts, you must memorize the court layout. While coaches commonly utilize these charts, players can also leverage the data from these sheets to enhance their performance on the court. Some coaches may choose not to use these charts, while others strongly believe in their effectiveness.

How a Shot Chart Works

Many coaches consider shot charts to be a necessity when it comes to games and scrimmages, but why?

On the shot chart, the court is divided into three sections. Regardless of how good a shooter a player is, they usually only shoot a higher percentage from two out of the three areas.

In the pros, every strong shooter has one of these areas as a cold point. If a pro can shoot well from two out of three areas, then the chances are that even a decent younger player will only have one spot that they’re effective from.

Coaches need to determine each player’s strength on the court and where their strongest shooting area is. These charts are basically the most accurate way of obtaining this information. Is a player attacking just one side of the defense or are they attacking the entire floor? How well are they swinging the ball from one side of the court to the other? How good is their floor balance?

These charts can give coaches the answers they need. A player may also respond well to these charts. Many players are unable to clearly identify their weaknesses and strengths on the court. Using the data from these charts, a player can work on the areas of the court they’re struggling with and focus their practices on their cold spot on the court.

Checking Out the Offense

Coaches not only use these charts to scout the effectiveness of their offense but also utilize them to identify the sweet spots of opposing players. This enables them to exert more effort on defense and prevent the opponent from making catches in areas where they excel. The chart will show coaches who the team’s strongest player is, where on the court the player does their best work and also allows them to find where that player’s best shots come from and what areas on the court they struggle to shoot from. This allows the coach to create a great strategy that they can incorporate during practice as players focus on mastering the bounce pass, and how to slip by the offense.

Filling Out a Shot Chart

People often print off these charts on paper and keep them on a clipboard, so the coach or other staff members can always access them. Filling out these charts is easy, but you need to pay close attention to the game and each player, noting where they take their shots on the court and whether or not they make them. The shot chart provides an outline of the court. Whenever a player takes a shot, you write down the player’s number in the area of the court from which they shot. If they make the shot, you circle the number. If the player misses the shot, you do not circle it. When a player makes a layup, they write the number on the side of the basket and the baseline from where they took the shot.

Shot Chart Apps

If you don’t want to use paper and pencil to fill out a chart, you can download a shot chart app on your iPad. These apps will allow you to fill out the charts much in the same manner as the paper version, however, with an app, you’ll be able to safely store the charts on your tablet or PC, and access them on most of your digital devices. You’ll also be able to save them for later use.

Using an app for your shot charts also allow you to create reports easily, based on the whole season, conference games only, multiple games, or one game. You’ll also get to view breakdowns based on shooting percentage or shot distribution.

These apps can be found for both iOS and Android devices. You’ll find some that are available free of charge, however, the apps that cost often offer the user more features such as storage, uploading options, software updates, and more.

Many of these devices are very user-friendly and feature intuitive interfaces that make it easy for anyone to use, even if you’re not the most tech-savvy coach or player.

Final Thoughts

The game of basketball is thrilling, whether you’re sitting in the stands, on the sidelines, or you’re on the court. If you’re a new player, it’s important to learn the basics of the game. Especially when it comes to the basketball court itself. This guide on the basketball court layout will help you become familiar with each area of the court. The areas where you can find the sweet spots that allow you to slip in and take your shot. And will come in handy when you’re learning how to create a strategy. With the use of a shot chart, you can utilize your strengths. Focus on your weaknesses and learn a lot about your shooting style and which areas of the court. You’ll want to avoid during a game, but will want to focus on taking shots from during practice.