This article was written by Ben Thompson who is in his 3rd season (13-14) as an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of North Carolina Pembroke. Previously he has also coached at Saint Leo University and Virginia Tech.
In today’s game, we are infatuated with one on one basketball. This is probably because most highlights that we see on television are individual achievements. However, some of the most important work in basketball is done before a player even catches the ball. There are guys that can score, but many times those individuals struggle against teams that really buckle down defensively. What really makes a basketball player successful in the guts of the game?
Moving Without the Ball
Obviously the first thing we think of is skill and that is an important attribute to have. However, there are less “talented” players that get more done, especially against tough minded defensive teams. These individuals know the value of possessions and getting open. Depending on how your team plays, whether it be mainly motion, sets, or a combination of the two, moving without the ball is critical.
The ability to set up a defender and create spacing gives the offensive player a huge advantage. When you can catch the ball wherever you want, and create spacing based on your offensive scheme, it puts a ton of pressure on the defense. That being said, how can you teach players to master this skill?
Reading the Defender
Some players have an innate ability to read their defender and figure it out naturally, however, most players do not. One of the biggest things that can wreck an offensive scheme is when the defense pushes out so far that the offensive execution becomes ineffective. The biggest mistake players make, is they want to take the easy route or push off with their hands; a lot of the time it boils down to laziness. Players who have the discipline to battle and grind with footwork give themselves an advantage against their defender.
Ways to Get Open
Some of the best ways to set up your defender are to change the direction of your cuts, change the speed of your cuts, and step in the middle of their stance or into the defender before making a cut. Too many times players go through the motions on V-cuts or L-cuts. A good V-cut involves changing your speeds and stepping into the middle of a defender’s stance, without pushing off, then sprinting to where you want to make the catch.
L-cuts can be similar, but players really give themselves an advantage when they battle for the top foot before they make the cut; the ability to step into your defender and sprint away creates separation. Being able to step in the middle of a defender’s stance or into them, puts them back on their heels and for a split second gives the offensive player an advantage. As we know in basketball, sometimes a split-second is the difference between a win and a loss.
Learning How to Use a Down Screen
Here is a video and some links to other videos teaching how to use different types of basketball cuts, and types on moving without the ball in basketball game situations. It is important that the player is able to read the defender, and then execute the correct type of cut to get open. Great basketball coaching is being able to take what you know as a coach, and pass it on to your players to execute. So really teach them the details of these different cuts and reads.
Other types of cuts to use off of a down screen.