What is an ISO in NBA?

The acronym ISO stands for ‘isolation’—a type of basketball play most commonly seen in the NBA. It is a one-on-one offensive play between a single player and his defender. When a player is ‘isolated’, the team’s other four players spread out across the court, usually behind the three-point line, to give their teammate the space and time he needs to create a scoring opportunity.

History of Iso Plays in the NBA

The use of isolation plays has been around since the early days of the NBA. Players such as George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West were some of the first to exploit this type of play. They used their size and strength to overpower their opponents in one-on-one situations and create scoring opportunities.
Iso plays became even more popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. Players such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal were renowned for their ability to score in isolation. This style of play became known as ‘iso-ball’ due to the high number of isolations being used.

Benefits of Iso Plays

Isolation plays can be beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are effective in creating high-percentage shots. When a player is isolated, they have more time and space to drive to the basket or set up a shot. This can result in a higher percentage of scoring opportunities.
Secondly, isolation plays can be used to free up other players. When a player is isolated, the opposing team will often double team them, leaving the other four players on the court with more space to operate. This can create easier scoring opportunities for the team.
Finally, isolation plays can be used to target a team’s weak link. If a team has a weaker defender, isolating them could be a useful tactic to exploit.

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Types of Isolation Plays

There are several different types of isolation plays. The most common is the pick-and-roll play, where a player sets a screen for their teammate and rolls towards the basket for a layup or jump shot.
Other types of isolation plays include the post-up, where a player posts up in the low post and attempts to score with a jump shot, and the isolation drive, where a player drives to the basket for a layup or dunk.

Drawbacks of Iso Plays

Iso plays can also be detrimental if used too often. If a team relies too heavily on iso plays, they can become predictable and easier to defend against. This can lead to a decrease in scoring efficiency.
Furthermore, if a team doesn’t have a player who is a good one-on-one scorer, they may struggle to create scoring opportunities in isolation.


In conclusion, isolation plays can be an effective way to create scoring opportunities in the NBA. They can be used to free up other players, target a team’s weak link, and create high-percentage shots. However, they can also be detrimental if used too often, as teams can become predictable and struggle to create scoring opportunities.