This article was written by Georgia State University Assistant Coach Chris Kreider.
Starting anything without finishing it is pointless. It is literally “pointless” when it comes to having the moves to get all the way to the rim and then not finishing the play by converting a lay-up or dunk. For any serious player, this is something that immediately demands attention.
In fact, the ironic thing is that most young players wait until it is too late to start dissecting this skill and realizing the importance of finishing at the rim in basketball. The fact of the matter is that the best players at every level can both get to the paint or rim while finding a way to finish the play in every possible scenario.
Why not START NOW by studying and working on THE FINISH? Here are ten keys to finishing at the rim in basketball.
Study Basketball Finishes
Study every single finish you can find! Watch film. But not just your game film. Watch the best players in the world in the NBA Finals, for example. It could even be studying basketball finishes on YouTube. It is up to you to make sure that you are putting in time studying finishes, though.
Granted, there are varying levels of basketball and obviously varying levels of skill sets within the game, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find finishes to work on.
Every player or team’s goal at their respective levels is to play at the “next level” – which means the best thing to do would be to watch that “next level” for learning purposes! The game’s speed and the size at every position make attention to every detail that much more important!
Break each offensive possession down at the moment of truth and evaluate each finish’s technique and details.
Develop Touch When Finishing Around the Basket
Improve your “touch”! Just like ball-handling and shooting, finishing can be improved by working on it daily. This is a great way to start any workout or practice (varying speeds). The more quality touches you can get around the basket finishing from different angles, the better. You will have all the more confidence in finishing a tough layup in a game if you have built up this quality touch. Have a routine and stick to it!
Here are a few of our favorite basketball finishing drills that work on touch around the basket.
Two-Ball Same Side Mikan Basketball Drill
Two-Ball Same Side Facing Out Mikan Basketball Drill
Creativity Around the Basket
Develop a sense of creativity! The game isn’t perfect. Neither should your basketball training be when it comes to finishing at the rim in basketball. Varying how we get to the paint and basket is one thing (dribble moves/using screens/etc.), but we also need to allow for variation in how we are getting the ball on the rim!
Just make sure that while you are spending time working on your creativity, you are also working to mastery. If you will use a difficult finish in a game, you need to have already spent the required time mastering the move in your workouts.
Get to Your Spot When Finishing
Get to the rim when you can and always know how to get to your spot! Whatever you do, don’t drive it too deep into the “teeth of the defense!” The best finishers live at the logo in the paint or get all the way to the rim. As a finisher, you need to have a plan for both!
Work on both types of finishes so that you can read every situation and get the finish that you want and not what the defense tries to make you take.
A big part of being able to get to your spot is being under control on your drive. Yes, you will need to be explosive to get an angle by your defender, but you also need to be able to be under control to execute your finish as you are driving.
Take Off Ball Location
Evaluate the “take-off.” Perhaps the most important part of the finish is the location of the ball right before take-off. Bringing the ball back to the defense or “rocking the ball” at that point will be the difference between being able to get the ball on the rim and allowing the defender to get a hand on the ball or, worse yet, turning the ball over.
To avoid this, always position the ball on the outside shoulder at the time of “take-off!” Here is an excellent example of this with our ball protection finish basketball drill. You will notice that the player is focusing on his finish and that he is also accounting for the other defenders that are also in the area.
Ball Protection Basketball Finish Move
After enough practice with moving the ball on the drive, it will become second nature, and it will be something that you can do without much thought. In the beginning, though, you must be holding yourself accountable to have excellent ball protection.
Go-To Basketball Moves and Finishes
Have a “Go-To Move” but also have a repertoire of finishes (and give them a name while you are at it)! The game is not a lay-up line! Due to the speed of the game and nine other moving bodies, you will not be able to get to the front of the rim more times than not.
So now what? Be prepared to be able to get the ball on the rim in multiple ways (over-hand, under-hand, inside-hand reverse, outside hand reverse, runner, or floater, Euro step, etc.) and give them each a name for easy reference!
Remember, any move that you want to add to your game, you must be willing to spend the needed time mastering it. This means that you must be willing to put in hours and hours of work for every type of finish that you want to use.
It is also important to remember that your defender and the help defense should really be determining the type of finish you use. Don’t drive to the basket with a pre-determined finish; instead, read the defense and then make the correct move.
Finishing Release Points
Be able to change your release point at any point in time! You might have a clear path to the basket on some drives, but most times, that will not be the case. Prepare for these different scenarios by adjusting and releasing the ball in different ways at every position on the floor!
Another reason why this is so important is because of unpredictability. As a finisher, you want to be as unpredictable as you can with your finishes. If a defender can consistently time up your finishes, they are going to either be able to block you or, at the least, force you into a tough finish. Learning to finish from different spots on the floor will help keep the defense off balance.
Basketball Weaknesses to Strengths
Work on your weak hand continuously! Not only do you have to work on it, but you have to trust it. These are both separate things and both equally important. The only way you can build up trust in either of your hands, though, is to put in the time in and spend hours developing them.
Knowing when to use it and coming up with basketball drills to work on it is one thing, but actually using your weak-hand in live-action (especially when the game is on the line) is the tough thing. When your weak hand is needed, don’t second guess it! Trust it!
This weak-hand basketball finishing drill will help provide quality repetitions and the ability to finish from various angles around the basket.
Two Minute Combo Move Weak Hand Finish Basketball Drill
Use the Glass When Finishing Around the Basket
Have a relationship with the glass! You need it, don’t be stubborn! I love this quote by Kevin Eastman, “Eyes make lay-ups. Feet make jump shots.” The more you use the glass around the rim, the higher the percentage of a finisher you will be.
You are moving, but the target is not! “High off the glass” is the teaching point! And it may take a little while to get used to doing something different, but the payout at the end will be worth the added discomfort at the beginning.
Finish Through Contact
Deliver the first blow at all times and play 1-0 at the rim instead of 1-1 whenever possible! If you have the angle on your defender, look to create contact before finishing at the basket. If you allow the defender to come to you and bump into you first, you will take an off-balance finish.
Creating the contact also helps eliminate a shot blocker’s ability to get off the ground to contest your finish. One of the best players to watch when learning how to create contact before finishing at the rim in basketball is Chris Paul. Even though he is usually shorter than the defender playing defense on him, he uses his body to create an angle for himself and limit their ability to get off the ground.
A significant teaching point with this is making sure that you are using your body to create the contact and not extending your arms or dipping your shoulder. The more subtle you can make the contact, the better. This will make it look more natural and keep the referees from favoring the defense or rewarding them for a flop.
Finishing at the Rim in Basketball Conclusion
Finishing at the rim in basketball, like any other skill, must be worked at. Along with working hard, though, you must also be willing to work smart, and that is precisely what these ten basketball finishing keys are going to allow you to do. They will help players finish at a higher percentage and will help to limit empty possessions.
This will be critical because while shooting can add a lot of value to a player’s game or a team, getting to the basket is going to be just as vital. And not only will it provide quality finishing chances, but it will also put pressure on the defense and force them to commit unwanted fouls, and this means trips to the free-throw line.