This article was written by Basketball HQ co-founder Kyle Ohman.
I saw this basketball article the other day, and the title was “Learn 100 Signature NBA Moves” (or something along those lines). I thought to myself, “Why are kids being taught ‘NBA moves,’ let alone a hundred different NBA moves when most kids still struggle with the fundamentals of the game?”
Today’s game places so much attention on one on one moves that people lose track of what really makes a great player. If you watch and study the high-level NBA players, though, you will see that not only are they able to make some tough shots and moves, they do all of the little things well (the fundamentals).
Before they spent time working on the high-level shots and finishes, they mastered the fundamentals of the game to give themselves a strong foundation. You can’t leapfrog the basketball fundamentals and expect to be a great player. Even high-level players are continually spending time working on basketball fundamentals and reemphasizing good habits in their game.
This article is going to breakdown what you should be spending your time on as a player. If you commit to spending time mastering these ten different basketball fundamentals for players, you will have a chance to be great.
Basketball Fundamentals for Players Quick Links
- Basketball Shooting Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Passing Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Rebounding Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Dribbling Fundamentals for Players
- Moving Without the Ball Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Finishing Fundamentals for Players
- Receiving the Pass Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Triple Threat Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Screens Fundamentals for Players
- Basketball Defensive Fundamentals for Players
Basketball Shooting Fundamentals for Players
If you take a minute to study the great shooters in the game of basketball, you will quickly realize that they don’t all shoot the same way. This shows that there is no one exact right form that you need to have to become an elite-level shooter. That being said, there are things that they all do exceptionally well, which allows them to shoot as well as they do. They have mastered the fundamentals of shooting a basketball, and those fundamentals have allowed them to become the best shooters in the world. So as a shooter, here are the fundamentals that you can be working on to increase your shooting percentage and overall shooting abilities.
- Being Down Ready on Your Shot
- Get your work done before the ball gets there.
- Show your palms to give the passer a target.
- Get your momentum moving towards the basket on the catch.
- Make sure that you are squared up to the basket on your shot.
- Don’t raise out of your athletic stance as you come into your shot.
- Shooting Form
- Get the ball loaded in your shooting pocket before you start to bring the ball up into your shot.
- Keep a smooth, fluid motion coming into your shot.
- Stephen Curry isn’t the biggest or strongest player in the game, but his shooting range is so great because his motion is so smooth.
- Use your legs to help get the ball to the basket, don’t push with your arms.
- Follow Through
- Snap your wrist straight down.
- Leave your hand in the basket.
- Land on your toes and don’t be falling backward.
- Hold your follow-through until you make or miss.
- General Shooting Rules
- Recommended Basketball Shooting Drills
Basketball Passing Fundamentals for Players
Passing the basketball is sometimes an underrated skill, but without it, entire offenses can shut down. A great passer can help their team by getting players the ball where they need it to be successful. They can also take care of the basketball and not turn it over with sloppy or lazy passes. This all starts with being able to stay under control and make quality on time, on-target passes. These basketball passing fundamentals will help you become a high-level passer who will get teammates the ball when and where they need it.
- Chest Passes
- Make your passes on a straight line.
- Use your body to help snap the pass.
- If passing to a shooter, hit them right in their shooting pocket.
- Bounce Passes
- Bounce the ball 3/4 of the way to the receiver so that the ball stays low and away from defensive hands.
- Know who you are passing to. If the player you are passing the ball to cannot catch a difficult pass, don’t throw it.
- Defended Passes
- Fake a pass before you make a pass. This will help make sure that a defender’s hands cannot mirror the ball and deflect your pass.
- Use your pivot to create a better passing angle. If a defender is standing directly in front of you, pivot around them to create a passing angle.
- Be strong with the ball, and then step through to make the pass.
- Off of the Dribble Passes
- Don’t scoop the pass; push the pass. Scooping the ball off of the dribble before the pass takes longer and is not as accurate.
- Stay low in an athletic stance as you make the pass.
- Don’t stare down the receiver before making the pass.
- General Passing Rules
- Don’t leave your feet to pass as you will get stuck up in the air with nowhere to go.
- Be careful of making cross-court passes where the defense can shoot the gap and steal the ball.
- Don’t stare down the player you are making the pass to.
- The longer the ball is in the air, the more high risk the pass is.
- Know who you are passing to and what types of passes that they can handle.
- Recommended Basketball Passing Drills
Basketball Rebounding Fundamentals for Players
A lot of rebounding in basketball comes down to desire and effort, but it also has a lot to do with having the correct technique. You don’t need to be the biggest player on the floor, either. Some of the best rebounders in basketball to ever play were undersized. Players like Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace, and Charles Barkley were all undersized but dominated the boards. They were able to do so because of a strong desire to rebound and have good rebounding fundamentals.
- Boxing Out
- Locate your opponent with your forearm before turning to box out.
- Keep your arms up and wide on the box out to keep the offensive player from getting around you.
- Stay low and in an athletic stance and use your legs to drive the offensive player back.
- If the offensive player has an inside position, use your lower body to help drive them under the basket so that they don’t have a good rebounding angle.
- Don’t extend your arms as you drive them under.
- Locate the ball on the miss as quickly as you can.
- Go up and secure the rebound with both hands.
- Don’t wait for the ball to come down to you, but go up and get it.
- Offensive Rebounding
- Locate the ball off of the miss as quickly as you can.
- Read the player boxing out and use one of these three moves.
- Spin Move: Fake like you will angle past them on one side, and then when they slide to box you out, spin-off of them using their momentum to angle past them on the other side.
- Swim Move: If the player boxing out doesn’t have a wide, strong base with one of their arms, come on that side of them and use a downward swimming motion with your arm over the top of theirs and use that motion to help angle yourself past them.
- Under the Basket: If the player boxing out is too tight to the basket, use your lower body to help drive them under the basket so that they will not have an angle to the ball when it hits off of the rim.
- General Rebounding Rules
- You must have a stronger desire and fight to get the rebound than anyone else.
- The quickest to react to the ball usually gets the rebound.
- Use your body and legs to help create a space for yourself to rebound the ball.
- Recommended Basketball Rebounding Drills
Basketball Dribbling Fundamentals for Players
Dribbling the basketball or ball-handling is a big part of the game of basketball. It is also becoming a necessity for every position. Whether you are a point guard or a post player, being able to handle the basketball is going to be key. This does not mean over-dribbling or always looking to play one on one, though. It means bringing the ball up against pressure, creating for yourself or a teammate, etc. These basketball dribbling fundamentals will help you master all of the areas of becoming a great ball handler.
- Ball Control
- Handle the ball and put it where you want it to go.
- Change up the speed of your dribble and use pauses to set up moves.
- Use your dribble to go somewhere with the ball (don’t waste dribbles).
- Change Up Speeds
- Set up your dribbling moves by slowing down and then making an explosive move.
- Don’t raise out of athletic stance when you pause.
- Be able to stop on a dime to change directions or make a scoring move.
- Set up your dribbling moves by slowing down and then making an explosive move.
- Sell Your Moves
- Use your entire body to sell your moves, eyes, body position, footwork, etc.
- Read the defender before setting up a move.
- The longer you can pause the defender before making a move, the better the move will be.
- If you can get the defender off balance with a move, they will be more susceptible to a second move because they will be trying to play catch up.
- Ball Protection
- Keep the ball away from the defense and active hands.
- Don’t be predictable with your moves.
- Use retreat dribbles to stay out of congested areas.
- General Dribbling Rules
- Dribble the basketball with purpose.
- Play at different speeds and don’t be predictable.
- Stay in an athletic stance when you are handling the ball.
- Be under control, and don’t let the defense speed you up and get you out of control.
- Recommended Basketball Dribbling Drills
Moving Without the Ball Fundamentals for Players
Off the ball movement is a staple of any high-level offensive team, and if you look at the best offensive players, you will see that most of them move well off the ball. The better you can move off the ball, the more you will get high percentage shots. Whether it is cutting through the paint, using a down screen, or running the floor in transition for a shot, all of these will help you get more quality looks at the basket. So lock in on these moving without the ball fundamentals and allow yourself to get more quality scoring opportunities in games.
- Hard Cuts
- Always be a threat to score when you are cutting.
- Set up your defender before you make your cut.
- Keep your eyes up to see the passer on your cut.
- Whether you get the ball or not, a hard cut can open up a scoring opportunity for a teammate.
- Running the Floor
- The First 3 steps need to be a dead sprint.
- Get your eyes up and be ready for the pass.
- Catch the ball under control and make a controlled move or finish.
- Stay in your lane as you run to help spread out the defense.
- Sprinting the floor will help to open up shots and finishes for your teammates.
- Don’t allow one defender to guard you and a teammate.
- Drift or fill on penetration to help create space and a passing angle.
- After you drive and kick, don’t stand. Relocate to create space and an opportunity for another drive and kick.
- General Moving Without the Ball Rules
- Move with a purpose and know why you are in the spot you are or why you are moving.
- Read the defense and make them pay for overplaying or falling asleep.
- Cut hard and be a threat to score whether you are going to get the ball or not.
- Recommended Moving Without the Ball Basketball Drills
Basketball Finishing Fundamentals for Players
If you think about it, the closer you are to the hoop, the easier it should be to score, as you can finish right at the basket. Unfortunately, though, the defense also knows this and will do its best to keep you away from the basket. That means that to be a great finisher, you will have to learn how to navigate the defense and use the correct finishing moves. Sometimes that will be a physical finish, a quick finish, or a crafty finish. The better you can master the fundamentals of finishing around the basket, the better you will be able to finish around or through defenders.
- Finishing Through Contact
- If you have an angle on your defender, don’t avoid the contact, but create it.
- Finish with a strong base to help absorb contact.
- Be strong with the ball, and don’t expose it to the defender.
- Crafty Finishes
- Use the rim to protect your finish from the shot blocker.
- Get the ball up on the backboard quickly so that the shot blocker cannot touch the ball without it being goaltending.
- Float the ball over the defender.
- Make sure that you are under control and don’t pick up a charge.
- Use change of position finishes to shake the defender; Euro Step, Pro Hop, Kobe Bryan Pound Pivot, Rondo Fake, etc.
- General Finishing Rules
- Develop both of your hands so that you don’t have a weak hand.
- Stay under control and know what you want to do with your finish before leaving your feet.
- Read the defender.
- Do you have an angle to create contact?
- Are they beat and over pursuing so you can shot fake them?
- Should you be athletic over the defender or use a crafty finish?
- Recommended Basketball Finishing Drills
Receiving the Pass Fundamentals for Players
The opposite side of passing the basketball is catching it, and while that sounds like something that shouldn’t be an issue, there are a lot of players that struggle with receiving the pass. This is especially the case against good team defenses, high-pressure situations, and when a player is running the floor. So the better you can master the fundamentals of receiving the pass, the easier it will be for you to catch the ball with confidence when you are playing against an aggressive defense or running full speed and need to gather a bad pass from a teammate.
- Catching the Ball
- Don’t wait for the ball to come to you; go meet it.
- The higher the defensive pressure is, the more you need to shorten passes and meet the ball.
- Catch the ball already in athletic positioning.
- Two Hands
- Receive every pass with two hands (if possible).
- Catch the ball and bring it into a position of strength away from the defense.
- Body Positioning
- Use your body positioning to help create a passing angle against defensive pressure.
- Show a target hand to the passer so that they know where you want the ball.
- Don’t release your body positioning until you are going to meet the ball.
- General Receiving the Pass Rules
- The more defensive pressure there is, the more you need to help out the passer by shortening the pass and meeting the ball.
- Don’t let an aggressive defender push you out away from where you want to receive the ball.
- Catch the ball under control and stay out of trouble situations on the floor (the corners and other trapping situations).
- Anticipate the defense before and as you are catching the ball, especially on closeouts.
- If they closeout short, shoot the ball.
- If they closeout tight, attack with a rip through move.
- Recommended Catching Drills
Basketball Triple Threat Fundamentals for Players
Whether you are looking to score or not, if you catch and hold the ball, you should be in triple threat position. This will allow you to be a threat to the defense and allow you to play from a position of strength if your defender tries to crowd your space. This is the basics of the triple threat. If you are really able to master the triple threat position, though, you will start exploiting defenses for yourself and teammates. These basketball triple threat fundamentals will allow you to build a strong foundation and work towards becoming a player who can exploit defenses.
- Position of Strength
- Catch the ball in a position of strength, and don’t let the defender force you onto your back foot with pressure.
- Hide the ball on your back hip away from the defender.
- Sell Your Moves
- Use your eyes, the ball, and your jab foot to sell your moves.
- Read the defender and read how they are guarding you before deciding on your move.
- Don’t be predictable with your moves (don’t be a robot).
- Play at different speeds. Playing slow to fast will help to get the defender to relax before making a quick, explosive move.
- No wasted movements. The more unnecessary movements that you have, the more the defender can recover.
- General Triple Threat Rules
- Keep your eyes up and see the floor while you are playing from a triple threat position.
- Only look to iso when it is part of the offense, and there is spacing for you to make a move.
- Go somewhere with your dribble. It doesn’t matter how good your move is if you don’t make the defender pay by going by them with your dribble after the move.
- More Recommended Triple Threat Basketball Drills
Basketball Screens Fundamentals for Players
Screens are a huge part of the game of basketball. So if you can correctly set, use, and then read a screen correctly, you will put the defense at a disadvantage. However, this is easier said than done as there are many moving pieces in a screening action. There are the offensive players who must execute a good screen, but there is also the offensive spacing of the other players away from the screen. On the defensive side, there are different ways for teams to guard screens and the other players in the help. There are also different positions on the floor where screens can be set, time and score, etc. Needless to say, there is a lot that goes into the setting and use of screens in basketball; these fundamentals will help give you a strong base when it comes to screens and will help prepare you for all of these different situations.
- Setting Screens
- Take a great path to set the screen.
- The angle of the screen needs to help the player coming off of the screen.
- Make sure that you are low and wide on the screen.
- Get set before making contact on the screen.
- Don’t lean or throw your arms out.
- Make the defense pay by slipping to the basket if they try to cheat and show early on your screen.
- Must take a great angle to set the screen so that you can make the defense pay on the slip.
- Using Screens
- Set up your defender before using the screen.
- Take a great angle to the screen.
- Read the defender as you are using the screen and then make the appropriate cut or dribble move.
- Stay low and athletic as you use the screen.
- General Screen Rules
- Work together with the other part of the screen to ensure that the defense is put at a disadvantage.
- Look to read the defense to figure out the best cut or move off of the screen.
- Give yourself proper spacing so that the help defenders are not able to interfere with the screening action.
- Recommended Screening Basketball Drills
Basketball Defensive Fundamentals for Players
“Defense wins championships!” I am sure you have heard that saying before, but it is true. What is also through, though, is that playing defense earns more minutes. Not only will playing better defense help your team win more games, but it will also help you earn more playing time. And while there is a lot that goes into playing good defense, it really comes down to a player’s effort, technique, and being able to think ahead and anticipate. With these defensive basketball fundamentals, you will be well on your way to becoming a lockdown defender in basketball.
- Athletic Stance
- Sit in an athletic stance (defensive stance) the whole time.
- If you are standing up straight, you will have to load down to an athletic stance before making an explosive move, which makes you slower.
- Being out of athletic stance makes you more susceptible to contact from cutting offensive players or post players ducking in.
- On the Ball
- Know who you are guarding and do your best to force them to a weakness.
- Shooter, make them put the ball on the ground.
- Slasher, play off of them and bait them into a contested shot.
- Have a weak hand, play them to that hand.
- Stay in an athletic stance and do your best to keep your chest centered with the offensive player and forcing them in a specific direction.
- Keep your hands active and mirror the ball if the player picks it up.
- Trust your help defenders and be alert for calls on screens.
- Use your chest to cut the defender off and angle them where you want them to go; keep your hands off the ball handler.
- Get a hand up and contest every shot.
- Know who you are guarding and do your best to force them to a weakness.
- Off the Ball
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Stay in an athletic stance and keep your head on a swivel.
- Anticipate where the ball is going, don’t react to it.
- Be there on the catch. You want to be closing out your man/woman as the ball is still in the air on the pass.
- Always know where your man/woman is and where the ball is.
- Don’t allow your man/woman to get below you and out of your vision, or you will be susceptible to back cuts and lobs.
- No free cuts through the paint.
- Use your body to block the cutter and force them below you while staying connected with your body.
- Fight through all screens (unless the game plan is to switch).
- Communicate on all screens.
- General Defensive Rules
- Communicate your way through the entire defensive possession.
- Understand what the offensive player is trying to do and then force them to do something they are uncomfortable doing.
- Don’t gamble unless it is part of the team strategy. Stay disciplined and let your solid defense get the job done.
- Fight and find a way to get it done.
- Not every defensive possession will go perfectly, but it is your job to find a way to compete and get a stop.
- Finish the defensive play every time with a box out and rebound.
- Recommended Defensive Basketball Drills
Basketball Fundamentals for Players Conclusion
There are a lot of different points within these ten basketball fundamentals for players. Some of the points are pretty minor, while others are more significant. Regardless of the point, though, you should evaluate your game and note what areas you should be working on and spending time on.
The difference between the greats in anything in life is the details. If you want to set yourself apart from everyone else, spend time locking in on all of these basketball fundamentals and start mastering them.