As players begin playing against better opponents, getting to the basket and finishing with a score becomes more difficult. Because defenders are bigger, quicker and more athletic, the risk of steals and blocked shots becomes much higher.
Offensive players must develop a variety of ways to counter these potential problems around the basket and score as they get to the rim. Players must have the ability to avoid the steal and the blocked shot if they want to be consistent finishers at the basket.
Avoiding the Steal
Players must be aware of the hands of their defender as well as the hands of any help defenders. To avoid being stripped on your drive, here are some general rules:
- Lock It: After the last dribble, keep the ball away from the hands of your defender by keeping the ball on your outside hip. We tell our players to “lock it in your pocket.” This way, if the defender tries to steal or strip, he will wave at air, or will foul you on your inside arm as he reaches across your body. This must be practiced and perfected so that it is not a reaction to the defenders move, but preparation for it.
- Cover It: When driving through traffic with your defender and helpside defenders reaching for the ball, cover the ball up with both arms – just like a running back in football. This gets you through the hole of reaching hands and arms, and allows you to finish the play without being stripped. Again, this must be practiced and perfected in preparation for this situation.
Avoiding Blocked Shots
It is important to prepare for different scenarios based on where the shot blocker is positioned. Here are two basic situations to prepare for.
- Reverse Lay Up: When the shot blocker is coming from the foul line area down toward the baseline to block your shot, he is usually timing your move to block the shot on your side of the basket. He’s lining it up to pin it on the glass. As you see him coming, stretch out your move out by lengthening your steps to finish underneath on the opposite side of the basket. Most shot blockers will have a difficult time adjusting to this move. Once again, this is not a reaction to his attempted block. It is prepared for in advance and anticipated based on where the help is coming from.
- Overhand Floater: When the shot blocker is coming across the lane, waiting on you or coming out to meet you, you now shorten your move and float the layup overhand. Your footwork is the same as a regular layup, just shorten the steps. The overhand shot rhythm should be smooth and unhurried, and the ball be released high and hit softly on the rim or backboard.
At higher levels of basketball, players often make good moves to get by their defender, only to encounter trouble when they get near the basket. Finishing plays becomes more difficult as the athletic ability of your opponents increases. By developing the above techniques, players can to avoid steals and blocked shots and become more proficient at finishing the play at the rim.