Here are 23 tips, in no particular order, that I jotted down in the first read of STUFF Good Players Should Know by the late and great Dick Devenzio. There are hundreds more nuggets of wisdom and dozens of acronyms for any ball player to learn and memorize all-around basketball fundamentals. Just reading this book will make you a smarter better player before you get a chance to go put any lesson into practice.
1) When running out towards an open man with the ball, instead of running hard to try to block the shot and jumping out of the play, take long strides and when 6-8 feet away, stop with short, choppy steps and stick your hand in his face. It’s dumb to try to block that shot; instead, contest low and in control and box out if the shot goes up.
2) Good players imagine and picture, in advance, their behavior when things go wrong.
They picture themselves getting yelled at by coaches in timeouts and accepting the criticism trustingly. They picture themselves maintaining composure when refs “cheat” and focusing fully on the next possession. They picture themselves laughing or brushing off any negative remarks from opponents and spectators.
Crucial basketball moments don’t just happen in crunch-time with time winding down on the clock in one or two possession games, they happen all the time during practice, during 1st quarter and in the clutch. They also happen off the court and so good basketball players, like a good leader anywhere, need to monitor their behavior at all times because of trickle-down impact to others around him.
By this definition, we all have crucial moments in the day-to-day. Take some time to think about how you want to behave the next time crap hits the fan at work or at home and when it does, how do you respond?
3) Go to the ball 6 feet away from potential disaster. Don’t wait until your teammate dives out of bounds to save the ball, be there a second before for him to throw it to you. Don’t wait for a double-team to trap your teammate and force him into a bad pass, be there quickly to open a new passing lane. Anticipate these plays before they happen and you’ll end the game with more and quality possessions.
4) Facilitative passes are greater than needle-threading passes. Energize your offense and keep the pressure on the defense by moving the ball and getting everyone involved with accurate passes.
5) Good players spend most of their time passing up bad shots and taking great shots. Most players take more bad shots and make less good shots.
6) 60% shots win games, 45% shots lose games, yet most players, and even good players, take the 45% shots more often. Subtle difference, almost no difference in the shots, but 60% shots win close games.
7) Head lower than guy you’re guarding on-ball. Go lower when he lowers his head to drive.
8) Be in somebody’s grill all night and you’ll never have to block a shot or deflect a pass to be considered a great defender. Jumping for blocks, reaching for steals, gambling for deflections result in mistakes. Do the math:
[(steals + blocks + deflections) – (fouls + easy shots)] / total number of defensive opportunities = % of quality defensive possessions
# of possessions with contested, irritating defense / total number of defensive opportunities = % of quality defensive possessions
Plug in Jimmy Butler’s efforts vaguely in these formulas any given night and you’ll notice that he’s an All-NBA defender because his genius lies in the latter. There are 5-10x more possessions he plays ‘in-your-grill’ defense against his guy than there are possessions he ends up forcing a turnover.
9) Learn the bent-elbow pass. Disregard every other word in the book if you must, but learn the bent-elbow pass and you will rapidly become a smarter, more effective basketball player.
10) Your head, not your back, your arms or your legs, is the most crucial position in a box out; get your head in front of any body moving towards the rebound.
11) Offensive rebounds are rarely ever hitters and spinners. Good offensive rebounders just do the simple job of boxing out more often than even good defensive rebounders. There are no fakes or special techniques to get more. Form follows function.
12) Never jump to block a shot.
13) Only throw bounce passes — the slowest passes –when there’s someone to throw under.
14) LONHOBIRS – All those “high-percentage shots” Hubie Brown constantly refers to during broadcasts, can be summed up by LONHOBIRS. Get a Layup Or contested by No Hands, On Balance, In Range Shots.
15) Quick Releasing Groove Shots – shots taken in practice with one quick dribble at the feet and an exaggerated, quick release in order to groove a particular rhythm on the last dribble of any move.
16) SCOT – Scoring Spots: hot spot areas where a player can get off quick shots confidently and accurately.
17) Complete your passes and you give yourself a chance to beat any opponent on any given night: keep completing passes until you get a shot a fourth-grader can make.
18) Ever day you practice shooting, aim to shoot better than you shot yesterday.
19) FORM shooting: shoot about 20 of these before every practice. Shots must use proper form the entire motion and the ball should swish as not to touch any part of the rim.
20) A standard shooting workout plan to shoot 600 shots in every session with the goal of improving accuracy in each:
- 100 free throws
- 100 right-hand off-the-dribble shots
- 100 left-hand off-the-dribble shots
- 100 “zone” shots
- 100 shots 3-feet beyond your normal comfort range
- 100 quick-release groove shots
The better you want to be, the more frequently you will hold these shooting sessions. Good players do it daily.
21) In baseball, the distance between bases is 90 feet like a basketball full court. Most baseball players run in 4 seconds from home to 1st base. If there are 5 or less seconds on the clock, don’t hoist desperation shots, run the length of the court and shoot with 1 second left on the clock. You’ll shoot smarter shots.
22) Forget fadeaway shots. Forever.
23) Roll the inside shoulder on off-the-dribble shots like you’re driving for a layup to create last-second space before you go up for the shot. If you stay high, keep your shoulders squared to the basket, your defender will know you’re going to pull up.