Compared to shooting and ball-handling, off-ball movement is a highly underrated skill in basketball. However, perfecting off-ball movement can boost both your individual offensive performance and your team’s success in games which makes it essential to master the art.
As opposed to shooter basketball practices, off-ball movement takes place when the player does not have the basketball, as is evident from the moniker. It involves a strategic and purposeful understanding of the ongoing game and intentional implementation of footwork and positioning.
Players who excel in off-ball movement often become unpredictable to defenders, thereby increasing their chance of scoring. The opponent’s defense finds it difficult to guard such players, which triggers open scoring opportunities for your team.
Just as a basketball hoop rebounder acts as a weapon of precision for shooter basketball players, the backdoor cut acts likewise in off-ball movement. In this move, the off-ball player acts as if he is going to take the pass on the perimeter and then make an unpredictable, quick cut toward the basket. The backdoor cut is a great strategy against over-aggressive defenders and can unlock more scoring chances.
As an off-ball player, you need to do more than just setting screens or making cuts. You must be able to read the defense to make fast, effective decisions. By identifying defensive weaknesses and analyzing defensive rotations, off-ball players can strategically position themselves to exploit the defense and make way for more scoring opportunities.
Perfecting the Flare Screen
Just as shooter basketball players need to master the rebounder basketball machine, as an off-ball player, you need to perfect the flare screen. The flare screen is a strong movement technique for off-ball players as it can be employed to free up the shooters. In this movement technique, a player will set up a screen on the wing for another player from the same team and instead of heading for the basket; they flare out the ball to the three-point line. This will allow the shooter player to catch the ball and shoot it without getting interfered with or guarded by the defender.
Predicting Defensive Moves
Anticipating skills are a must if you want to master the off-ball movement in basketball. As an off-ball player, you need to predict defensive moves such as weak-side help, denial, and switching to adjust your movements and positioning in the game and score.
Zig + Zag
Depending on the player’s offense, the key is to keep moving. Keep your defender hooked by running V-Cuts, trying to go back door, and freeing up your team’s players by setting off-ball screens. Always keep an eye on the ball as while moving you may get an open shot. Try to maintain spacing on the ground to limit the chances of the defender for a steal. Continuously screen where your teammates and the ball are headed to ensure proper spacing.
Don’t Stop Moving
While there will be moments when you should stay put as an off-ball player, the majority of the time, you should be moving. This does not necessarily have to be a screen setup or a cut, you could just relocate or do a quick jab to create the right spacing for your team.
When you practice with a basketball shooting machine, you play by the set rules. However, when playing as an off-ball player, you need to be unpredictable. One great way to throw your opponent off their game is to change speed and cut to the ball basket. Another way is to attack your defender with a sudden movement and cut to the hoop. Also, use fast breaks by flaring out to the corner or filling up the lanes.
There is more to training in this sport than acing your shooting machine basketball performance. In a real game, creating scoring opportunities is just as important as shooting for the basket, which makes your skills as an off-ball player extremely crucial. There is no better way to be a complete team player than to have a thorough understanding of your team’s game play and consistently create scoring chances for your teammates.
If all the teammates shared the ball equally in a game, you would have the ball in your hands for an average of 20% of the time. This makes it essential to be as good as an off-ball player as you are with a basketball return machine.