This article was written by Basketball HQ co-founder Kyle Ohman.
A common misconception about finishing at the rim in basketball is that you have to be long and athletic or bigger than everyone else to be a great finisher. And although size and athleticism help, it is more about how you use your body and the types of finishes that make you a great finisher, especially as a guard or wing player.
The higher the level of basketball you play, the bigger the size difference between post players and guards. This means that you have to use different moves and be fundamentally sound in the way you finish. Otherwise, you are just going to be throwing up a prayer to the basket and hoping it goes in. This basketball article for players will provide some great keys to finishing at the basket in basketball that every finisher should work on.
Seek the Contact When Finishing
One of the biggest things that guards struggle with is seeking contact before finishing. To be clear, we are not talking about running over a defender in a 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 contact with the defender that is guarding you, or it could be with the help defender rotating over.
What often happens with an inexperienced finisher is that they will try to avoid the contact. This will end up causing them to take 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 to take away the defender’s 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. On the flip side, 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 contact, though, either. You may want to use some kind of Euro step, pro hop, floater, etc., to avoid the defense. However, 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 Contact When Finishing
- Don’t expose the ball to the defender and 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 to Get Your Finish Off
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 contact, we will assume that the help defender has good positioning or is a high-level shot blocker.
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 of keys to finishing in the gap are making sure you 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 will pick up a charge.
Floaters and runners are just like jump shots, and just like a jump shot, you must hold your follow-through on the finish. This is especially true as you begin to take more difficult floaters and runners. The more complicated the shot, the more you need to lock in on the details of having the correct form and touch.
Protect the Ball as you Go to Finish
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 the defender’s 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 will always 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.
Dual Threat to Finish and Shoot
This key doesn’t directly apply to finishing at the basket, but it will be tough to get driving angles past your defender without it. By being a threat to hit an outside shot, you put the defender in a hard guarding situation. On the other hand, though, if you cannot be a threat from outside, the defender will just sit back and dare you to shoot the ball. With this much of a defensive gap, it will be tough to get an angle to get past your defender.
The best offensive players can 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 the dribble. A lot of this comes down to reading the defender as you are catching the ball.
If you are attacking off the dribble and can be a threat to shoot the ball, focus on pausing and putting your eyes on the rim like you will shoot the ball. When the defender raises up out of an athletic stance to contest, drive past them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Give the Ball Up
As a finisher, you must read each situation and understand what the help defense is doing. Reading the help defense will allow you to make the correct decision when it comes to finishing the ball yourself or creating for a teammate. If you do not have a good balance with this, the defense will adjust, and you will either end up forcing finishes or passing to teammates when you should be finishing.
So as you drive to the basket, make sure that you are under control and can execute your finish and pass the ball to any teammate whose defender over-committed to your drive.
Use the Rim to Protect You on the Finish
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 getting 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 one side of the hoop, and then as soon as they commit, change to the other side of the basket for your finish.
Strong Base When You Finish
This key goes back to seeking contact and absorbing the bump, but it is worth discussing further. If you come into your finish off balance or with your feet together, you will get knocked off balance at the first touch. A strong base allows you to get straight up and down and finish with confidence at the basket. Even finishing off of one leg, you can be balanced and under control. So as you are finishing, really make sure that you are staying in an athletic stance as you plant and drive to the basket.
Using a Quick Finish
Shot blockers rely a good amount on timing. They will try to time your finish up and then meet the ball as it leaves your hand. 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.
This type of finish works so well because as soon as the ball touches the backboard, the shot blocker is not allowed to touch it, or it is goaltending. So when using the quick finish, you want to extend the ball out quickly and get it up off the backboard as fast as possible.
Rather than using the typical footwork and finish for a layup, you can mix it up and finish with the same foot/same hand, extend out quickly with the ball, use your inside hand, etc. It is all about throwing off the shot blocker’s timing as you go to finish at the basket. This is considered being crafty around the basket, but it is a must for any guard who wants to finish inside where the shot blockers roam.
Shot Fake Before Finishing
The shot fake in basketball is kryptonite to a shot-blocker, but to use it, you need to be under control and really sell the move first. If you drive to the basket or recognize that your teammates are driving to the basket and the post defender is continually leaving their feet to try and block every shot, drive in there and use your shot fake before you finish. You will most likely, at the worst, end up shooting free throws when the shot blocker fouls you.
You mustn’t tip your hand, though. Your shot fake needs to have the same approach as your actual shot or finish. After you shot fake, only bring the ball back down to your chest. If you bring it down to your waist, you invite defenders with quicks 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 Basketball Finishes
The more types of finishes that you can master, the better you will be able to read the situation and then make the correct move quickly. Here are a few different finishes and links to videos so that you can see exactly how to make each move.
- 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 Rondo Fake Shot Fake Step-Through
- How to Do a Steve Nash Back Leg Finish
Finishing at the Basket in Basketball Conclusion
Finishing in basketball is a skill that takes hours and hours to master. There are various types of finishes, different types of defenders, what the help is doing, and so much more. The better you can master the details, the more you will be prepared for every type of finishing situation. If you can control your body, initiate contact, use crafty finishes, etc., you will allow yourself to create high percentage finishing opportunities for yourself.