This article was written by Basketball HQ co-founder Kyle Ohman
A common misconception with finishing around the basket is that you have to be long and athletic or bigger than everyone else to be a great finisher; and although size and athleticism helps, it is more about the way you use your body and the types of finishes that make you a great finisher, especially as a guard.
The higher level of basketball you play, the bigger size difference there will be between post players and guards. This means that you have to use different moves and be fundamentally sound in the way that you finish. Otherwise you are just going to be throwing up a prayer to the basket and hoping it goes in. This article is going to provide some great keys to finishing at the basket that every finisher should work on.
Seek the Contact
One of the biggest things that guards struggle with is seeking the contact before finishing. Just to be clear, we are not talking about running over a defender that is in great guarding position, we are talking about when you get an angle on a defender and have a lane to the basket. This can be seeking the contact with the defender that is guarding you, or it could be with the help defender that is rotating over.
What often happens with an inexperienced finisher is that they will try to avoid the contact and will end up taking a difficult shot falling away from the basket. There is almost always going to be contact when trying to attack the basket on a straight line. If you let the defender come to you, you are going to get knocked off course; however, if you seek the contact you can keep your great angle to the basket and finish strong.
Another great reason to seek the contact is that you take away the defenders ability to get off the ground to block your finish. If a defender is trying to time your finish up and they get a good jump, they will have a great chance to block your shot; but if you get into them before they can leave the ground, they won't be able to contest it nearly as well.
Not every finish calls for seeking the contact, you may use some kind of Euro step, pro hop, floater, etc. to avoid the defense, but if you are on a straight line drive with a defender on your side or have a help defender trying to close the angle on you, seeking the contact will help you finish strong at the basket rather than falling away and hoping your shot goes in.
Tips for Seeking the Contact
- Don't expose the ball to the defender, keep your body between the ball and the defender.
- Don't extend your arm or push off. Instead, use your hip and side, don't lower your shoulder.
- Must have a strong base to absorb the contact.
Find the Gaps
You don't always have to get all the way to the rim to finish. Sometimes the best finish is in between your defender and the help defender. Unlike with the previous key of seeking the contact, we are going to assume that the help defender has good positioning or is a high level shot blocker.
So instead of driving it right into them, you want to use a floater or runner before the help defender can reach you to block your finish. You may still have to shield off your defender if they are on your hip though, and that will require absorbing the contact or slightly initiating it (don't extend your arm or lower your shoulder).
A couple keys to finishing in the gap are; stay balanced, jump straight up and down, and hold your follow through on the finish. If you go to finish off of two feet, jump from a strong athletic base - as mentioned, you may have your defender still on your hip and if you don't jump from a strong base, you will end up drifting on your finish which really increases the difficulty of the finish.
The reason you want to jump straight up and down is because of potential charge situations. If the help defender is set up in front of you and you let your momentum carry you forward on the finish, you are going to pick up a charge.
Floaters and runners are just like shots, and just like a shot, it is important that you hold your follow through on the finish. This is especially true as you begin to take more difficult floaters and runners. The more difficult the shot, the more you need to lock in on the details of correct form and touch.
Protect the Ball
Many players don't ever get the chance to get into their finish because they allow themselves to get stripped of the ball first. They either rock the ball, carry it loosely, or don't protect it well enough in some other way. One of the best players at protecting the ball when finishing is James Harden. He does a great job of keeping the ball away from defenders hands by keeping it high, low, or on his hip.
When you go to finish at the basket, you must do a great job of protecting the ball. There are always going to be defenders trying to get their hand in on the ball to strip it, so make sure that you are conscious of this and making the proper adjustments.
This key doesn't directly apply to finishing at the basket, but without it it will be really hard to get driving angles past your defender. By being a threat to also hit an outside shot, you put the defender in a hard guarding situation. On the other hand though, if you are not able to be a threat from outside, the defender is going to just sit back and dare you to shoot the ball. With this much defensive gap, it will be really hard to get an angle to get past your defender.
The best offensive players are able to simply read the defender and then make the correct move. If the defender is playing too far off on the catch, shoot it. If they take a poor closeout and give you an angle to drive, attack off of the dribble. A lot of this comes down to reading the defender as you are catching the ball.
If you are attacking off of the dribble and are able to be a threat to shoot the ball, really focus on pausing and putting your eyes on the rim like you are going to shoot the ball. When the defender raises up out of an athletic stance to contest, drive past them.
Use the Rim
As a finisher the rim can be your best friend when it comes to shielding you from shot blockers. If you can get the shot blocker to think that you are finishing on one side of the basket, but then reverse your finish, you will keep them from being able to get their hand on the ball. This can be done with several types of finishes; reverse finishes (chest to the basket or back to the basket), Euro step finish, pro hop finish, jump stop shot fake and step through, etc.
Whatever type of move you use though, you need to be under control and reading the shot blocker. Try to sell that you are attacking on one side of the hoop, and then as soon as they commit, change to the other side of the basket for your finish.
This key goes back to seeking contact and absorbing the bump, if you come into your finish off balance or with your feet together, you are going to get knocked off balance at the first touch. A strong base allows you get straight up and down and and be able to finish with confidence at the basket. Even finishing off of one leg, you can be balanced an under control. Really make sure that you are staying in an athletic stance as you plant and drive on your finish.
Shot blockers work on timing. They try to time your finish up, and then meet the ball as it leaves your hand. So a great way to finish at the basket and get your shot past the shot blocker is to use a quick finish. Some of the best players to ever do this are Steve Nash and Tony Parker.
The reason this type of finish works so well is because as soon as the ball touches the backboard, the shot blocker is not allowed to touch it, or it is goal tending. So when using the quick finish, you want to extend the ball out quickly and get it up off of the backboard as fast as you can.
So rather than take the typical footwork and finish for a layup, you are going to sometimes finish same foot same hand, extend out quickly with the ball, use your inside hand, etc. It is all about throwing off the shot blockers timing off of your finish. This is considered being crafty around the basket, but it is a must for any guard that wants to be able to finish inside where the shot blockers roam.
The shot fake is kryptonite to a shot blocker, but in order to use it you need to be under control and really sell the move. If you drive to the basket or recognize that your teammates are driving to the basket and the post defender is constantly leaving their feet to try and block every shot, drive in their and use your shot fake before you finish. You will most likely at the worst end up shooting two free throws when the shot blocker fouls you.
It is really important that you don't tip your hand though. Your shot fake needs to look exactly like your finish, but then stop it right when the ball gets to your forehead. After you shot fake, only bring the ball back down to your chest. If you bring it down to your waist, you invite guards to strip the ball. A shot fake can be a really great tool for finishing at the basket if you are willing to put in the time to master it.
Types of Finishes
The more types of finishes that you can master, the better you will be able to quickly read the situation and then make the correct move. Here are a few different finishes and links to videos so that you can see exactly how to do each move.
- How to Do a Euro Step
- How to Do a Rondo Fake
- Kobe Bryant Pivot Series Rondo Fake Finish Drill
- Kobe Bryant Pivot Series Shot Fake Reverse Pivot Drill
- Kobe Bryant Pivot Series Fake Spin Pull up Shot Drill
- How to Do a Jamal Crawford Finish
- How to Do a Decelerated Euro Step
- How to Do a Pro Hop
- How to Do a Rondo Fake Shot Fake Step Through
- How to Do a Steve Nash Back Leg Finish