One of the most important things that plenty of players today should know is to learn how to score without the ball. With that said, any player needs to know how to get open and get good shots without necessarily being the one calling out plays. This is where moving without the ball and knowing how to use timely cuts become important. Of course, a fundamental cut in basketball that any player should know how to do is a curl cut.
What are Curl Cuts in Basketball?
Regardless of your position, one of the most important basketball skills that need to be learned early on is moving without the basketball through different cuts. Cutting is one of the best ways that off-ball players can keep the defense on its heels even when the player does not have the ball. And one of the best cuts that any player should learn is the curl cut.
In basketball, players that move around the perimeter with their defenders following them anywhere need a way to score easy baskets against minimal defensive pressure. Perimeter players with a three-point range know that their defenders would rather try to keep their three-point shooting in check by following them all over the court and fighting over off-ball screens. This is where the curl cut comes in handy.
A good off-ball player knows for a fact that knowing how to use off-ball screens is a great way to find an open basket anywhere on the floor. Players such as Klay Thompson live off of screens regularly. But the good defenders know their assignments’ tendencies. That is why players that are more likely to use off-ball screens to spot up for a jump shot end up facing defenders that would rather fight over screens just to cover jump shots.
The curl cut is a cut that involves a perimeter player moving from one outside spot to the next to try to get open for a jump shot. This is usually used with an off-ball screen right before the cutter gets to the perimeter spot. But the curl cut is one of the best ways for any perimeter player to find an open basket when that player knows for a fact that the defense is trying to take away the jump shot.
However, if the cutting player saw that the defender fought over the screen to contest the jump shot, the cutter can do to continue moving towards the basket aver receiving the pick. That movement usually results in a good layup opportunity at the basket. The reason why this cut is called the curl cut is that the cutter’s entire movement from the original spot all the way to the basket resembles the shape of a curl.
How to Use Curl Cut to Score in Basketball
Curl cuts are usually very handy in many different situations on a team full of perimeter scoring threats. The reason is that opposing defenses are more likely to cater their defensive strategy to take away the jump shot of a team that uses the three-pointer as a primary weapon. So, if you are someone who wants to learn how to score more points when opposing defenders try to take away your jump shot, learning how to use the curl cut should be essential.
To perform a curl cut, start by positioning yourself out on the perimeter away from the ball-handler. Depending on the options of the ball-handler and on the available passing lanes, you might want to run towards an open spot on the perimeter using a curling movement that will allow a teammate to set a screen in the middle of your movement.
The moment your teammate sets a screen off of your curling movement, your primary defender has the option to either fight over the screen or move under the screen. If the defender fights over the screen, their goal is to try to contest your jump shot. As a cutter, you need to continue your curling motion towards the basket where you can get an open layup off a pass. The defender that fights over the screen will not be able to recover in time to deny the pass or contest your shot at the basket.
However, if the defender decided to move under the screen to anticipate the curl cut to the basket, the best option for you is to spot up for your jump shot. But, most of the time, defenders that are wary of your perimeter shot are more likely to fight over the screen to try to contest your shot.
The curl cut is also an effective weapon for a post player. When you are playing at the low post, and you are finding it difficult to get a good low post position against a talented post defender, what you can do is to use a curl cut to position yourself on an open spot for a jump shot or a layup.
Starting from the low post, what you can do is to use a curling motion that will allow you to get open out on the elbow or the free-throw line. As you move towards your spot, a teammate should set a screen to get your defender off of you. The same concept applies here. If the defender fights over the screen to contest your midrange jumper, you can continue curling to the basket for an easy layup. However, if the defender moves under the screen to keep the paint protected, you can attempt an open midrange jumper.
With all that said, the curl cut is a handy off-ball movement that any player can take advantage of when trying to score without the ball or shake off a defender. This cut relies more on reading how the defender reacts off of a screen so that you can quickly make your next move.
Refer to this video to learn how to use curl cut:
What Goes Hand in Hand with Curl Cut?
If you understood the basic concept and gist of the curl cut, you would understand that the curl cut goes hand in hand with an off-ball screen. The curl cut is only as effective as the screen that was set for the cutting player. Without a solid and well-placed screen, any defender can easily keep themselves glued to the cutter to contest the jump shot or deny the driving lanes.
So, when you are trying to score off a curl cut, you need to communicate well with the screener to understand where to place and how to time the screen. Sometimes, a well-placed screen is all it takes for a cutter to have more options off of a curl cut because it makes it that much more difficult for the defender to recover after fighting over the screen.
Without a screen, or if the screen was not set properly, a good defender would not have difficulty trying to dodge the screen to take all of the possible opportunities away from the cutter. This is why basketball is still a team game even when trying to score off the ball. Off-ball players rely so much on off-ball screens that are set to get them open.
Of course, depending on how the defense reacts to the cut, an off-ball screen can also use the curl cut to score. When the defense does not communicate well, such as when the cutter’s defender fights over the screen while the screener’s defender rotates to the cutter, the screener will be left open to roll to the basket or spot up for a good shot. This is why the cutter also needs to keep their heads up to see how the defense reacts and find teammates left open because of the off-ball action.
Other Types of Basketball Cuts
The curl cut is not the only one that can help get a player open off a good off-ball movement. Here are some other types of cuts in basketball that would be very useful when trying to get open:
1. Flare cut
The flare cut in basketball goes hand in hand with the curl cut performed at the low post. If the defender could cut the cutter off of a curl cut such that the cutting lane is taken away, the cutter should know flare out on an open spot, which is usually out on the corner.
2. L cut
The L cut is one of the most basic cuts that any basketball player should learn. It involves getting a good open perimeter opportunity without relying too much on screens. A player performing an L cut steadily moves from a low post position to the high post or the elbow. From there, the player now changes his pace to keep the defender off-balance and then quickly moves over to the wing position to get an open shot.
3. Backdoor cut
The backdoor cut is one of the most fundamental cuts that should be learned early on but is quite dangerous when used by younger players because it relies so much on a good passer. A backdoor cut can be performed by a player that is being overplayed by a defender such that the passing lane out on the perimeter has been taken away. Depending on how the defense is denying the passing lane, the cutter can make a quick and sharp movement over to the paint to score an easy basket when the ball-handler is just as sharp to make the pass before the defense can take away the passing lane.
4. Deep cut
The deep cut is a cut that involves moving from one side over to the other side behind the opposing defense. When performing a deep cut, the cutter should be positioned at one side of the court. Let us say that player is over at the left wing. What the cutter needs to do now is to move behind the defense from the left wing while cutting baseline to find an open spot on the right corner.
5. Flash cut
Performing a flash cut involves a quick and explosive post player who can suddenly move from the low post position straight to the opposite high post position. The goal here is for the cutting post player to move quickly enough before the defender could see the play developing so that the cutter could quickly spot up for a high post jump shot.
Wrapping Things Up: What are Curl Cuts in Basketball?
The curl cut in basketball is the perfect illustration of why basketball is a team sport. This off-ball movement relies not only on the cutter’s basketball IQ and scoring skills but also on the communication between the cutter and the off-ball screener.
As such, plays such as the curl cut are movements that can only be learned through repetition, proper communication, and understanding each other’s tendencies. So, as a cutter, you must learn how to properly read what the defense does off of a curl cut and how to communicate to a screener. Without proper communication, a curl cut can easily fail.