1. Make Every Dribble Productive
The dribble is a "finite resource" weapon. You use it, then you lose it. Accordingly, you should use it well and intelligently. Yet most players view the dribble as an inexhaustible natural resource that regenerates exponentially in relation to its use. Nothing kills offensive efficiency more than players who immediately pound the ball into the floor and go nowhere. Even worse are the players who immediately pound the ball into the floor at their feet and then pick up their dribble. Wasted resource and sitting duck! Every dribble should be threatening to the defense. It should attack the basket for a score; or it should engage a second defender (creating a 4-3 advantage for the offense); or it should improve a passing angle; or it should put pressure on the defense in transition; or it should get a player out of trouble against traps or double teams. If you aren't dribbling for one of these purposes, then pass and move!
2. Throw "Sure" Passes, Not "Maybe" Passes
Every pass is a transaction. It requires the passer and the receiver to have a "mind meld". The passing transaction requires stealthy non-verbal communication. A knowing glance, nod, or body gesture between the passer and the receiver ensures that the pass transaction is successful. Occasionally, a verbal command to the receiver is effective, but may also lead to "telegraphing". All too often, however, players with the ball simply (and blindly) pass to an area that a seemingly open teammate occupies without making sure that a transaction is occurring. What results are silly turnovers, last minute "check" passes that float into 50/50 ball land, or passes, that even if completed, place the receiver in a vunerable position against aggressively closing defense. A "sure" pass is made quickly, decisively, crisply, and in synch with the receiver.
3. Reduce the Size of Your Court
Sounds radical, right? But so many silly turnovers occur within the three foot strip of court along the sidelines and baselines. All too often, players with the ball attempt to tight rope the sidelines and squeeze through a 12" space with clever dribbling. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of turnovers occur in that three foot strip. A light bump that is not a foul and the ball handler steps on the sideline…turnover! A player trying to avoid going out of bounds goes airborne and heaves a Hail Mary "maybe" pass into the hands of a defender….turnover! An emergency cross-over dribble into a double team is stolen….turnover! Eliminate these silly turnovers by drawing "imaginary" lines. A regulation basketball court is 94 feet long by 50 feet wide. You should make your court 88' x 44'. You should consider it a turnover if you ever dribble into the three foot forbidden zone. This tactic was taught to me by the late Dick Devenzio, one of the greatest teachers in the game. Dick always said that if I adhered to the imaginary line concept, my silly turnovers would be imaginary!
4. Take Smart Shots
Good shot selection is difficult to articulate. Reasonable coaches can disagree on whether a given shot is a good shot or a poor shot. However, there are objective criteria that good players should reinforce and make "good constraints" habits and that almost all coaches would agree upon. Be on-balance. Be in range. Be free from defensive pressure that may alter your form. Don't shoot in the half-court set before a pass is made (unless it is an uncontested lay-up). Rarely shoot in the half court set after only one pass has been made. Think about it. Most defenses are at their most alert in the first 8-10 seconds of a possession. After that, they tend to slow down, get lazy and stop moving with a purpose. Take advantage of that natural tendency and take objectively good, smart shots!
5. Force Ball Handlers Left
No player is equally good dribbling with either hand. All of us have a preference, and for 90% of us, that preference is our right hand (I am a lefty, all the way!). As a ball defender, you should almost always try to force the ball handler to his/her left side. If you employ good "discomfort zone" ball pressure defense and make sure that the first dribble the ball handler takes is with his/her left hand, you will greatly increase the likelihood that the ball handler will make an "unforced" mistake.
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