Players today are huge, quick, and can jump out of the gym. This makes it very hard to finish inside, especially for undersized players. The days of finishing with a basic overhand one-handed lay-up are just about finished. Even on seemingly wide-open fast breaks players are subject to a Lebron James style track down block from behind. There are some advanced things that can be done to improve your chances of finishing inside.
Finish with two hands: It is a rare occasion that a player is going to get the opportunity to get to the basket without any contact and with no incoming big-man. Often times if you get past your defender it is a good idea to not completely blow by them, but to rather keep them on your hip/butt as you continue to drive. If you maintain this contact you should be able to go up strong and finish with two hands.
The Steve Nash scoop: The basics of this are similar to finishing with two hands. The idea is to keep a defender on your hip as you drive, then reach out as far as you can with one hand and shoot a scoop shot lay-up. This puts both the size of your body and the length of your arm between the defender and the ball.
Do not bring the ball down to waist: Putting the ball at waist height through traffic is a turnover waiting to happen. When you go through traffic, one option is to put the ball on the opposite shoulder or hip as the side of your body where the defender is.
In traffic…go running back style: Another option for moving through traffic is to cover the ball up running back style as you go through the lane and take your two steps. With your arms wrapped completely around the ball, no defender should be able to tie you up or strip you.
Use the rim to protect the ball: The rim can be used like a “screen” for your shot. The goal is to keep your defender on the opposite side of the rim from where you intend to finish (using either a reverse lay-up or your body). If the rim is on your side, you will be much more likely to finish without a big guy getting a hand on the ball.
Cross court bank shot: This shot has been popularized in the NBA by Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade. There are a few ways to get into this finishing move, with the two most prominent being a spin move, or simply driving across the lane, rather than straight towards the basket. The idea here is to get close to the hoop (3-8 feet) while moving parallel to the backboard of the hoop. When you drive a defender expects you to come try to finish at the rim, but if your momentum is taking you away from the rim, it increases the distance between you and the shot blocker. The finisher than shoots a bank shoot once the distance between the potential shot blocker is large enough.
Hook: Stopping on the right or left side of the lane 5-8 feet short of the hoop rather than attacking the rim, can sometimes leaves a shot blocker on their heels. If you can do an abrupt stop and get off a high arcing jump hook…this is a great way to finish over a taller defender.
Run-away shot: This is used occasionally by small guards who can keep their dribble alive after a drive. The run-away shot is done after a deep drive to the hoop, the player maintains their dribble and starts to dribble toward the top of the key. The then quickly turn while jumping off one foot away from the hoop and shoot a surprise fade(run)away shot. This catches defenders by surprise and doesn’t enable them enough time to react in order to black the shot.
Floater: The ever-popular floater can be a giant killer when executed well. The floater is done by shooting a high arcing shot over the defense. See the floater description in the types of shooting section for the basics.
The element of surprise: There are some subtle “surprises” that can be used that trick or catch the defender off guard. These include: shooting an inside hand lay-up, a quick lay-up without taking extra dribbles or full two steps, as well as other tricks of the trade…play with it, and be creative!
Control your body, jump off of two: some players have body control beyond compare, but all players need to be aware of the situation around them. Once you get into competitive HS, college, and pro ball…there are often players ready to take a charge. If you jump off of two feet you will be stronger, more balanced, and slowed down enough to control yourself around a potential charge taker. Know the situation, know if the defender will try to block the shot or take a charge.
Other advanced finishing moves: There are a ton of other advanced (i.e. euro step, reverse lay-ups, dunks, scoop, etc.) See the Moves section of the site for more information.
The art of spin
In order to be a great finisher, a great tool can be mastering the spin on the ball so that the ball moves differently once it touches the back board. This skill is best learned by some basic practice standing directly in front of the rim.
Right hand: From you position, hold the ball in the right hand. Toss the ball up towards the hoop like you would on a normal underhand banking lay-up on the right side of the backboard (finger roll), except this time impart some spin on the ball by twisting your wrist in a counter-clockwise direction (this is a similar to motion you would use if you were taking a light bulb out). When the ball hits the backboard it will bounce much further to the left that it would with a normal lay-up. The more you spin it by twisting your wrist, the more the effect of the bounce or “english” on the ball.
Right hand: The opposite spin is demonstrated taking the same position in front of the rim, but by shooting the ball on the left side of the rim with your right hand (like a reverse lay-up). Except this time, put spin on it by twisting your wrist in a clockwise direction (this is similar to how you would screw a light bulb in). When the ball hits the backboard it will bounce much further to the right than it would with a normal reverse.
Left hand: Just as for the right hand, the direction you spin the wrist (clockwise vs. counter-clockwise) will determine the bounce of the ball. The clockwise spin will cause the ball to bounce further to the right, whereas the counter-clockwise spin will cause the ball to bounce to the left.
So, why bother mastering this? This is often valuable when going hard to the rim to finish. One example is on reverse lay-ups, the reach of your arm and the use of spin will enable you to finish at angles other basketball players cant and defenders are unable to block. As this is mastered you will also be able to combine the arc of the lay-up, the softness/hardness of the lay-up, and spin on the ball to use different angles off the backboard for normal lay-ups. For example, high arcing, soft lay-ups, with gentle spin were used for years by Allen Iverson to drip in lay-ups over 7-foot centers coming towards him to block his shot. So play with this trick and get comfortable using spin in different situations; reverse lay-ups with either hand, regular lay-ups…as well as combining with different arcs and angles. This will help you become a monster finisher.