One of the most critical questions that ball handlers have to constantly face is how to know when to pass or drive in basketball. While both of these actions don’t immediately end up with points on the board, they’re often what’s needed to get open shots on the court.
What Does it Mean to Pass or Drive in Basketball?
Moving the basketball around is one of the keys to scoring. It keeps the defense on its heels, trying to read and react to what you’re doing on the court. So, it’s essential to know when to pass or drive in basketball as a ball-handler.
How to Get Past a Defender in Basketball?
The game’s objective is to score more points than your opponent, and moving the ball around to get open for a shot is the most efficient way. So in a way, winning or losing is mainly dependent on how teams move the ball around. Driving and passing, therefore, are important facets of the game that must not be neglected.
These actions can get ball handlers past their defenders, opening up a more significant range of options to score on offense. While you have both options open all the time, it’s essential to know when or which one to utilize given the opportunity.
Driving means trying to dribble past your defender on your way to the basket. A successful drive typically ends up in a layup or dunk, but a collapsing defense can also force driving players to kick out the ball to an open teammate for a more efficient shot attempt.
On the other hand, passing the ball can also get a player past a defender. In fact, it’s the quickest way to get the ball from one point to the other. A lead pass, for example, is an excellent way to quickly take advantage of a defense that’s caught flat-footed by an off-ball player. One of basketball’s most popular plays, the alley-oop, is a brilliant example of a well-executed lead pass.
How to Drive in Basketball Without Getting Blocked
One of the biggest problems with driving to the hoop is that it usually entails having to attack a bigger defender. This raises the chance of getting your shot blocked or at least bothered enough to make you miss.
Luckily, the drive also opens up many other possibilities for the offense. With a little bit of practice on your decision-making skills, you’ll be able to take advantage of the defense.
If you want to become more effective at driving to the basket, here are a few things that you can work on:
Pull-up jump shots: Driving often leads taller defenders to switch on to you, especially as you get nearer to the basket. One of the ways to avoid getting blocked by these bigger guys is to pull-up early and go for a jump shot instead of a layup. The distance between you and the help defense can help you shoot over them and avoid the block.
Finishing with contact: Of course, you can always go all the way to the basket and try to absorb the contact and finish the play. With some upper body strength and flexibility, you might just be able to make a basket despite the contact. Or, if the defender overextends himself, you may even be awarded some free throws at the end of the play.
Passing: While it’s not the most attractive play to make compared to finessing a layup around a taller defender, passing the ball is one of the surest ways to avoid getting blocked. Your pass may just lead to an open shooter and a made basket.
There are plenty more options you can take while driving to the basket. However, honing your proficiency at each one will make you unpredictable, making it more difficult for the defense to read what you’re about to do.
How to Know When to Pass or Drive in Basketball?
While it’s an incredibly nuanced thought process, knowing when to pass or drive can be honed through practice and on-court experience. But, to help you shorten that learning curve a little bit, here are a few tips.
Read the Defense: Whether it’s the defensive pressure or a teammate suddenly getting open, there are plenty of factors that can affect your decision to pass or drive. So, you must have the ability to read the defense to see all the options you might have.
Decision-making skills are essential yet often neglected for basketball players during training for any position. Of course, it doesn’t help that some coaches are of the belief that it’s something that comes naturally to players instead of a skill that can be worked on during practice.
Here are a couple of tips on how you can read the defense better:
Keep your head up: One of the most critical lessons coaches teach young ball handlers is to keep their heads high while consistently scanning the court for scoring opportunities. This should help you in the vital task of reading the defense.
Keep your dribble alive at a reasonable height: Another crucial piece of advice coaches give to their players is to keep your dribble alive whenever possible. When you pick up the basketball from a dribble, you’re effectively curtailing the option of driving to the basket. Furthermore, it’s also important to keep your dribble at a reasonable height so the ball can stay a little bit longer in your hands. Keeping your dribble low does not only keep you from seeing the floor; it also effectively shortens your decision-making window.
When to Pass the Basketball?
When a teammate is wide open in their preferred spot on the floor – Your teammates will have a spot on the floor where they feel most comfortable shooting the basket. For small guards, it’s often in the perimeter where they can launch a jump shot without worrying about shooting over tall defenders. For forwards and centers, their sweet spot is usually near the basket, where they can use their height and strength advantage to hit a high percentage shot. If you suddenly find a teammate wide open in their sweet spot, don’t hesitate to pass as they’ll most likely make a basket.
When you’re being double-teamed – Sometimes, the opposing team will decide to pressure ball handlers with double teams. When this happens, the most prudent thing to do is pass the ball. Because you’re drawing two defenders, at least one of your teammates will surely be wide open.
When to Drive to the Basket?
Open lane to the basket – Whether it’s via a defensive lapse or your coach’s tactical brilliance, there are rare opportunities when you can get an open lane to the basket. It’s important to grab these opportunities to drive to the basket for a high percentage shot or a chance to draw a foul.
When the defense is playing you tightly – Tight pressure is aimed at making it difficult for offensive players to square up and shoot high-percentage shots. However, it dramatically reduces a defensive player’s ability to react to your dribble moves. This gives ball handlers the perfect opportunity to get past the immediate defense and drive the basket. Be sure to look out for the help defense as they can alter your course.
When your defender is closing out – A closeout happens when a defender decides to recalibrate and put more pressure on you by getting closer to you. Depending on how much distance he needs to cover, you’ll have a window of opportunity to use your defender’s forward momentum against them by driving or attacking them from either side.
If you want to learn more about how to know when to pass or drive, this video from Get Handles Basketball sums it up pretty well.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Know When to Pass or Drive in Basketball?
No matter what his position may be, a ball handler will always find himself deciding between passing and driving on behalf of his team. Fast breaks in basketball are especially tricky as these often involve split-second decision-making.
Both actions are, in most cases, prerequisites to scoring as they’re what helps players get past their defense for an efficient shot. However, it’s a nuanced decision-making process that involves the extremely complex exercise of reading the defense.
So, remember to keep your head up and your dribble alive. This way, you can read the defense and have an adequate amount of time to decide whether to pass or drive to the basket.
Luckily, by honing your pull-up jump shots, finishing in contact, and decision-making, you can excel at both passing and driving.
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