Creating Space and getting your shot off

The most important thing a shooter needs to be successful is space. No matter how quick a players release is, they need some space to get it off. There are four main ways to create space:

Non-dribble move (i.e. jab step, shot fake, etc.)
Dribble move (i.e. step back or other dribble move)
Moving without the ball
Screens & Dribble weaves

Non-dribble moves are used to put the defender off balance. Using a shot fake causes the defender to either close out on the ball handler or even jump in the air, allowing the offensive player to draw a foul or get a shot off while the defender is coming down from jumping. A jab step causes a defender to back-up and puts their weight on their heels, which could give you enough room to shoot. Both of these moves can create “mini-closeout” situations. A closeout is when a defender believes the offensive player is moving backwards in some fashion or about to shoot the ball so they essentially lunge, leap, or step forward. When the defender does one of these things all of their momentum is moving toward the offensive player, when the momentum is moving one way, it takes much longer to stop or to change direction, allowing the offensive player to more easily go past the defender. Basketball is largely a game of misdirection (trying to get someone go one way, and going the other). Non-dribble can and should be used frequently in conjunction with a dribble move.

Dribble moves are used to go by a defender or to create space between you and a defender. A combination of two dribble moves or a non-dribble move with a dribble move can also be used to put a defender off balance or create a “Mini-closeout” as discussed in the Non-dribble moves section. The key in using a combination of moves is simple. Get the defender moving one way, and going the other way.

Moving without the ball has been turned into an art form by some of the greats. The ability to use screens, cut, and finding open spots are common among those thought of as the best shooters. Moving without the ball requires watching your defender, utilizing your teammates, knowledge of defensive rotations, and quickly analyzing floor spacing. Some NBA players provide great examples; Rip Hamilton and Reggie Miller were two of the best at constantly moving and using screens.

Non Dribble Space creating Moves:

Jab Step: A jab step is a simple non-dribble move used to create space or put a defender off-balance. For a right-handed player (assuming the left foot is planted as your pivot foot) here is how the jab step works. Starting in the triple threat position take a long step with your right foot to either side of your defender, be sure to stay low and balanced. As the long step is taken, the left foot should stay planted and the player should keep their body between the defender and the ball. The jab step can be used just before a pass so you have room, to create space to shoot, or to get a defender off-balance in order to go by them (jab step and go).

Pump (or Shot) Fake: The best description of a pump fake I’ve ever heard was, “It is a shot that you end up not taking”. This is important because this implies that you were going to shoot it, and then you realized a fake would be better. Selling the pump fake is vital. A pump fake is executed by initiating the beginning of the shot, this causes your defender to lunge or lean forward which creates several opportunities: If they jump you can lean into them for a foul, if they lunge forward a dribble can be used to go by them., it creates a great “give and go” opportunity, and many others.

Crossover Step: A crossover step is similar to a jab step but it is used when you step across your body to the inside of your defender (as with most moves, this originates from the triple threat position). For example if you are on the right side of the floor with your left foot as your pivot foot, you would step to the inside of the defender (as well as past the defender) with your right foot. The crossover step is best used in conjunction with another move such as a jab step to tone side then a crossover step to the other, or a shot fake to get the defender up in the air followed by a crossover step past the defender.

Short step – Long step: The “short step – long step” is similar to using a combination of two different sized jab steps. Starting in the triple threat position (assume a right handed player on the right wing with their left foot as the pivot foot). Begin with a very slow and short jab step with your right foot, this is used to lull the defender. As the right foot lands on the first jab step, quickly lunge forward with the right foot, exploding past the defender. This should be a long step past the defenders feet. This is a great, simple, low-risk move to use to get past a defender.

Space creating dribble moves

Step back Dribble: The step back is a great way to create space between an offensive player and a defender once the offensive player has already began dribbling the ball. When a player is dribbling towards the basket and sees that the defender has their momentum going in that same direction, the dribbler plants there inside foot hard and pushes back away from the basket explosively, landing in a balanced position ready to shoot or pass. When the foot is planted you must be sure to be low and balanced to effectively utilize the move. This move can be combined with a behind the back or backwards between the leg dribble. Check out the advanced moves section of the site for more information.

Hesitation dribble: The hesitation dribble works in the opposite fashion of a step-back dribble. The hesitation dribble lures a defender at the ball handler. When dribbling toward the basket at a fairly quick pace…stop and hesitate suddenly. Do not pick up your dribble, but take a slightly higher dribble still keeping your hand over top of the ball. For added effect bring the off hand should move toward the ball to give the impression of picking up the dribble. This should cause the defender to lunge toward the ball handler, as the defender shifts their momentum toward the ball handler, the ball handler should dribble forward past the off-balance defender. This should leave the offensive player with the choice of an open pass or shot.

Offensive box-out: This move applies the principles of a box out to the offensive side of the ball. Chris Paul frequently uses this move. When the ball handler gets a little bit past the defender they put their rear into the defender and force them to stay behind them (very similar to boxing out as if going for a rebound). One of two things will happen…the offensive player will have enough time to get a shot off (most likely a floater) or the post defender will be forced to help, at which point the offensive post player should be open for an easy bucket.

Fake Move: A fake move is used to create the illusion of using a dribble move (let’s use the crossover as an example) to put the defender on their heels enabling an offensive player to get a shot off. While dribbling, the offensive player should get low like they are about ready to execute a right to left crossover. This should not be disguised…the action by the offensive player should be as if they were about to let someone steal their crossover. As the ball handler starts to wind up the crossover to go from right to left, the defender should begin to reach for the ball or shift their weight in the direction of where they anticipate the crossover to go. At this time…the offensive player should quickly jump straight up (balanced and under control) and shoot a jump shot. This move does not create as much space as some other moves…but will cause the defender to be off balanced to the extent they are unable to contest the shot effectively.

Various Moves: There are various other moves that can be used to set-up a jump shot (i.e. crossover, inside out, etc…)

Moving without the ball

Footwork is another tool for getting open. Digging down a layer deeper it is about misdirection, body positioning, and deception. Here are a few pieces of footwork that can help you get open to get the ball or get an easy basket.

Cutting is all about body position, footwork, and misdirection. Use misdirection by taking a few slow steps in one direction then going hard in the other direction. Or, a player can fake a hard step in one direction getting the defender to jump, then going the opposite direction. Play with this and be creating, the key is to get the defender to think you are going to one thing…then you do the other. Whether it is playing pick-up or in a game, cutting is important. It keeps the floor balanced, it causes defenders to help, and in the case of running your team’s offense…it often sets up the timing needed for the offense to be successful.

Front cut: This is done by simply cutting in front of your defender. This forces the defender to be in a bad position being stuck behind you. This is the type of cut you would see on a “give and go”. This can be set-up by taking a couple slow steps in the opposite direction of where you are going, then cutting HARD in front of the defender.

Back cut: This is done by cutting behind your defender. If a defender is watching the ball and not you, it may give you a perfect opportunity to cut behind them in the brief instant they look away.

Flash: this is when a player sprints from the post area up to the foul line or elbow in order to receive the ball.

Iverson cut: Sometimes called a “shallow-cut”, this cut was made famous by Allen Iverson. This cut is down by a wing player who starts on the wing outside the 3 point line and runs hard across court dipping down to approximately the level of the foul line, then popping out at the opposite 3 point line.

V-cut: A v-cut is generally used in the open court to inbound the ball, or by a player trying to catch the ball on the wing or top of the key, when a defender is denying them the ball. For this example we will imagine a swingman is on the right wing trying to pop out to the three point line to catch the ball. To execute a v-cut this player will walk right up to and into their defender placing their inside (right) foot in front of that player. At the same time they step in front of the defender they should place put their thigh and butt into the defender, then push off that right foot hard to pop out to the three point line.

Seal Pivot: This is done by taking a step into your defender and keeping him behind you, almost like you are boxing them out, in order for you to receive the ball.
UCLA cut: This is a screen/cut run by many teams at all levels around the world. A UCLA cut is initiated when a guard passes the ball to the wing. One of the teams big men will be planted on the elbow on the side the ball was passed to. After the guard passes the ball to the wing they will then run off the screen being set by the big man on the elbow. Sometimes this can lead to an easy lay-up for the guard. What is often more likely to happen is the point guard will catch the pass from the wing after their cut, which forces the other big man’s defender to help…which results in a simple pass form the cutting guard to the guy that defender was guarding, and an easy hoop.

European Cut: A European cut is similar to a dribble weave. One player drives toward the basket, in this example we’ll assume the player is driving from the left wing down the middle of the lane. When that player drives, their teammate who is performing the European cut, the one performing the European cut should come from the right wing and cross just behind their driving teammate.

Ball Screens & Dribble weaves

Using Screens: Screens are one of the best and most often used ways to get open or to get a shot off. A screen is going to be basically the same regardless of the different “types” of screen you hear about (i.e. fade screen, down screen, etc.). A screen is set by one teammate for another. The “screener” is the person setting the screen. The screener must plant their feet and not move their body into the defense. Because the screener is unable to move, it is up to the player using the screen to run their defender into the screen. First the offensive player using the screen should “set-up” the screen. Setting up a screen can be done in several ways. This can be done by faking one way prior to going the other, or by walking the defender to the level of the screen before coming off it. When finally arriving at the screen, the offensive player should get into a position that is low and explosive…it should be a position in which they are ready to explode out of. (Some coaches teach players to “grab ankles”, this means the player getting screen should get low enough to grab the ankle of the screener.) Additionally, the player should just barely make contact or “brush” the screener. Brushing the screener assures that there is not enough space for the defender to squeeze through. For more advanced information on screens, screening, and other screening related topics check out the moves and the miscellaneous sections.

Ball Screens: A ball screen is a screen in which one offensive player sets a screen for the ball handler. The basics of using a ball screen are similar to using a normal screen. The ball handler should rub the offensive player right off of the screen. Ball screens will be set in different settings. Maybe on the wing before the ball handler has even dribbled and maybe at the top of the key for a point guard bringing the ball up the floor.

Level of the screen: When the ball screen is set at the top of the key, it is important for the ball handler to take the defender to the level of the screen. This means that whether to the left or the right, they should dribble down to the level of where the screen will be set. You

Normal screen: When a screen is set on the wing. You can use it normally or “bounce” the screen. Bouncing the screen is when an offensive player fakes like they are going to use a screen, and goes the opposite way. Bouncing the screen is done by approaching the screen as if it were to be used, but then quickly making a move in the opposite direction. A dribble move can also be used, particularly a spin move.

Dribble Weave: A dribble weave is similar to a ball screen, or perhaps more similar to a hand-off in football. It is used to get open, get to the basket, or even misdirection. A dribble weave is executed when one player comes to a jump stop and hands the ball to a teammate coming in the opposite direction. The player intending to hand the ball off should come to a jump stop with their back to the basket just prior to the transition. The player accepting the hand-off should be moving toward the other player and should accept the hand-off similar to a running back in football.

Hand-off & Fake Handoff: Similar to a dribble weave, except the player initiating the dribble weave does not do so with the dribble. A fake hand-off can also be effectively utilized to do this…a player should run past the hand-off pretending to receive the ball. And the player executing the fake handoff should spin back around the other way and take the ball to the basket (or square up for a jump shot).

European Cut: A European cut is similar to a dribble weave. One player drives toward the basket, in this example we’ll assume the player is driving from the left wing down the middle of the lane. When that player drives, their teammate who is performing the European cut, the one performing the European cut should come from the right wing and cross just behind their driving teammate