There are many ways to score in basketball, and most of them are predicated on personnel movement. In fact, moving without the ball (or cutting) is probably one of the most underrated skills a basketball player can have. When mastered, it becomes a very potent offensive weapon. This article will mainly focus on what cutting in basketball is and how to use basketball cuts in a game context.
What are Cuts in Basketball?
Cutting in basketball is a quick move, usually by changing direction, to avoid a defender and get yourself open. The offensive player doing a cut is someone who doesn’t have the ball in his hands. A cut is particularly effective when the ball is in the hands of a scorer who is also a willing passer. When the entire defense focuses on that player, his teammates can do various movements off the ball, resulting in an open shot.
How do cutting and screening differ? Cutting is basically a technique used by individual players, while screens obviously need at least two. (There are cutting actions that may also involve screens.) It is also important to note that cutting in basketball can be very effective only against specific defenses, such as a man-to-man defense. When playing against a zone, cuts are not as effective. When playing against a zone, be sure to cut behind the defenders, using the element of surprise.
As mentioned, since a cut is a legitimate individual basketball skill, you need to follow pretty specific steps to pull it off. Here are the basic steps in performing a cut:
- Maintain eye contact with the guy who has the ball. You can be moving around and cutting all day, but if you don’t communicate with the ballhandler, the timing will be completely off.
- Always give the ballhandler a target with your hands. If you want the ball low, show your hands down low and keep it up if you want it high.
- Start moving slow one way and rev it up moving the other. You want to lull the defender to sleep, so to speak, so he won’t see what’s coming next.
- Explode and cut hard. The harder you cut, the higher the chance of the ball finding you.
- If possible, always cut towards the basket, not away from it, unless you’re a knockdown shooter.
Benefits of Learning How to Cut in Basketball?
Cutting is a must-have skill for basketball players. No matter what type of player you are– a natural point guard, a scorer, or a shooter– life will be easier if you know how to cut effectively.
Here are some of the benefits of learning how to cut:
- Opens up the floor, not only for yourself but for everybody, because it keeps the defense honest
- Enables the offense to find easy shots without running set plays
- Promotes ball movement and team chemistry
These things may be too insignificant for the untrained eye, but nothing can be further from the truth. The best basketball teams are also the most tight-knit, and learning how to cut fits right into that culture. If you want to play winning basketball, then individual players must learn how to cut.
How Many Cuts are there in Basketball?
There are as many as 12 types of basketball cuts. We don’t have to describe all of them here, but we will give you some of the most common types of cuts. The concept is pretty much the same, but the goals of each one are different.
1. The V-Cut
The V-Cut is one of the most common types of cutting in basketball. It is used by players to get open in the perimeter. The idea is simple: Sell as if you’re going middle and then make a quick cut back out in the perimeter as if you’re making a letter V.
As you do the V-Cut, remember not to extend your hand because that could easily warrant an offensive foul. You had the person beat, so there’s no need to do that. Second, when you catch the ball, take what the defense gives. If he is up on your grill, attack the front leg all the way to the basket. If he is slow recovering from the V Cut basketball play, you can launch a jumper.
2. Basket Cut
The basket cut is a dive towards the basket. When executed perfectly, this is one of the easiest two points you can get.
How do you pull off a basket cut? It’s really simple. When you are out on the wing and notice your defender turning his head to the ball, just cut hard to the basket. At worst, the defense collapses on you, and you get to have multiple kick-out options in the perimeter. The best-case scenario is you get an open layup right at the basket.
3. Backdoor Cut
The backdoor cut is just as its name suggests. You go backdoor, as in, go behind the defender’s back as he is looking elsewhere. It also has components of a basket cut since a basketball backdoor cut is often done going towards the basket.
The main difference between a backdoor cut and a simple dive to the basket is that a backdoor cut is done when a defensive player appears to overplay. (Overplaying means the defender wants to get ahead of the pass or is already going over even before a screen is set.) Recognizing this, the offensive player simply does a backdoor cut for a possible open layup.
The L-Cut is another kind of perimeter cut. This is often what players do when they start on the block or low post area and then get open for a shot at the wing.
It is called L-cut since your path looks like the letter L. As you start in the low block, you walk as if you want to go straight at the top of the key. As the defender looks to defend from the top, you can nudge him off balance (ever so slightly, of course) as you fade into the wing. As you do this, ready your hands for a catch. If you created enough space, then launch the shot from where you caught the ball.
5. Curl Cut
A curl cut is when an offensive player curls around a screener for a position to score. A curl can happen anywhere on the floor as the player using the screen sees fit.
To pull off a curl cut basketball play cleanly, make sure that the defender is trailing, or chasing after you. Come off the screen as tight as possible so that the defensive player doesn’t have a way to keep up. When done perfectly, this leads to a score or a foul if you can bait the trailing player to a contact.
6. Flare Cut
The flare cut works like the curl cut, but with one notable difference. When the defender fights the screen and keeps up, the offensive player can step out and use the screen to pop out. The best thing about a flare cut is it can be used even against zone defenses.
7. Flash Cut
A flash cut is an effective action if you have a big man who can pass, create, or score. It starts with one player flashing from the low to the high post. As soon as the player receives the pass, then he has multiple options to punish the defense. If the passer cuts and is open, he can hit him for an open layup. If he is double-teamed, he can pass out to an open shooter. And lastly, if he can take it upon himself, he can go all the way and score.
How Do You Know When To Cut in Basketball?
Basketball is best played when the players are just reading and reacting. As a rule of thumb, do not allow yourself to stand around and watch the ball for three seconds. At the same time, you should also pay attention to the movement of ALL players on the court. You need to know where your teammates and defenders are and make your move from there.
Here are some of the instances when it is imperative to cut:
- When you see the defender ball watching, you know it’s time to dive and do a basket cut.
- Do a cut when you know your ballhandling teammate is in a position to get you the ball. Even if your defender’s head is turned, but the ballhandler had his back to the basket, he won’t be able to hit you with a pass.
- You can also set your own personal traps as a way to fool the defender. For instance, you may sell using the screen to go up top. As soon as the defender overplays, then that’s the time you go backdoor for an easy score. In other words, if you can get your man moving one way, then you can cut through the other.
- When you get a big man who can pass and is willing to pass, don’t waste time standing around. For instance, when you dump the ball to your passing big man at the low post, continue moving to the basket because if you’re open, he can hit you with that pass.
- A cut is also a great option if you have a teammate who’s a great penetrator. For instance, if a teammate penetrates and attracts the defense’s attention, who can just follow him around the lane, and you could get rewarded with an easy basket just by doing that.
How Do You Get Better at Cutting in Basketball?
There are basketball cutting drills that coaches do to get their players better at cutting, but generally, a cut is just a defensive read that happens instantly. With that being said, to get better at cutting in basketball, you have to develop the right mindset. Keep in mind that if you’re continuously looking to take advantage of the defender’s mistakes, you can get rewarded with easy buckets.
Another way to get better at cutting is by studying how the best does it. For reference, I suggest Dwyane Wade, Devin Harris, Otto Porter, and Andre Roberson do various cuts at the highest level.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Use Basketball Cuts
Basketball is a game that involves the mind as much as it requires physical capabilities. When playing, you have to take advantage of any mistakes and make the defense pay for them.
One way to do that is by doing a cut. Cutting in basketball means a sudden movement, perhaps a change in direction so that you can avoid the defense and get an open shot. The most well-known basketball cuts are the V-cut, basketball backdoor cut, and a curl cut. A zipper cut basketball play is also a common fixture in the NBA, but it’s really a semi-complicated set play that involves a lot of cutting action.
If you want to know how to use basketball cuts, start with the proper mindset. You have to firmly believe that basketball cutting actions should be a fundamental part of the offense. From there, it is just repetition and reading the defense. If all of the players on the court can develop cutting in basketball, it makes it easier for everybody to score.