With all of the stepback threes, jelly layups, and flashy ankle breakers, moving without the ball is one skill that is not taught with an emphasis in basketball programs. Contrary to popular belief, this skill does not simply come with time or training; it must be a product of hard work and repetition. This article will answer the question, “what are cuts in basketball?” and learn how to do proper cutting in basketball.
Before we go into all of that, let’s first define what are cuts in basketball.
What Does it Mean to Cut in Basketball?
When you hear the terminology “cut” in basketball, it refers to that sudden movement or change of direction by an offensive player without the ball with the intent of getting open. Cutting is essential since it provides proper spacing to the offense, creates easy scoring opportunities, and makes the defense honest. If the defense respect all the off-ball movement and cutting the offense does, they rarely double-team, allowing the offensive ballhandler to go on isolation plays.
Proper execution of a cut is predicated on two things. The first is the quick change of pace, and the second is explosiveness.
A change of pace means that at some point, when you are about to do the cut, you do it at different levels of quickness. More often than not, you have to sell the idea that you’re not paying attention, perhaps jogging at half-speed. Then, as you notice the defender moving his head, you can cut by exploding to the open spot on the floor. Cuts can be done from the inside to the perimeter, or vice-versa. If done correctly, this leads to a quality shot and a basket.
Again, the importance of cutting in basketball cannot be understated. Some players make a living and score thousands of points just knowing how to get open, incorporating cutting movement into their individual offense. Right now, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are probably some of the best at cutting in the perimeter, while Dwyane Wade and Devin Harris are all excellent interior cutters in their primes.
What are the Types of Cuts in Basketball?
There are a dozen types of cuts in basketball. Some are pretty basic, which basketball players at the scholastic level can learn, while others are part of a complex offense executed in the NBA.
With that in mind, let’s start with the most basic and work our way up.
More often than not, if you’re a pretty good player, the defender assigned to you won’t let you receive the ball at your favorite spots. If the perimeter is your favorite spot, with a defender all over you, then the simple answer is a V-Cut.
The V-Cut in basketball is one of the easiest ways to get open. It is called such because of the route the offensive player takes, which resembles the letter V. The idea is to walk the defender down into the paint and, in a quick motion, push off one foot and cut to the perimeter where you catch the ball. The offensive player mustn’t come out on the same line as he went in. Otherwise, it wouldn’t b a V-Cut.
2. Backdoor Cut
A backdoor cut is used when a defender overplays a pass on the wing. When he overplays, or denies, a pass in the wing, the offense then goes backdoor, all the way to the basket.
In executing this cut, it is very important for the offensive player to adequately set up the defender by making sure he steps outside the three-point arc. Then, he sells the move as if he’s going to continue his path and then go back the other way for an open shot or layup.
The L-Cut has pretty much the same elements of a V-Cut and the same goal– to get open in the perimeter. In executing the L-Cut, the offensive player starts outside of the lane near its middle and slowly sells the idea that he is walking towards the high post or near the free-throw line elbow. Then, he quickly pops out to the perimeter in a straight line for the open pass.
4. Dive cut
A dive cut, also called a basket cut, is any cut or dive towards the basket. The most common play involving a dive cut is the give and go. In this action, two offensive players connect with Player A whipping a pass to Player B and directly diving to the basket. If Player B understands what Player A is up to, this leads to an easy score.
5. Front Cut
A front cut, sometimes called a face cut, is a cut done when an offensive player is between the ball and his defender. The offensive player actually cuts in front of the defender and all the way into the basket as a teammate hits him with a pass.
6. Curl Cut
A curl cut involves a form of screening action, making the cut more effective. In this type of cut, the receiver curls around a screener so that the defender is always trailing behind. To do this, the receiver must stay low, tight, and hip-to-hip with the screener so that there won’t be any space for the defender to squeeze through. If the defender recovers by going under the screen, the receiver’s option is doing this next cut.
7. Flare Cut
When doing the curl screening action, the defender could either go under the screen or trail you from behind. If he does the former, the cut is already defended. Therefore, it just makes sense to pop or flare to the perimeter for an open shot. If the defender closes out, then you can get closer for a layup or a drive.
8. Fade Cut
A fade is another cut with a screening action and can often be seen run by NBA teams to get the scorers and shooters open.
In a fade cut, the receiver gets a down screen. The cut is predicated on the action of the defender. Most defenders try to go in front of the pass or shoot the gap, and the fade cut is a counter to that. Instead of going into the wing, the receiver fades into the corner for an open shot.
9. Fill Cut
This cut is called a “fill” because certain players “fill” or “replace” each other’s positions as they do the cutting action.
For instance, consider this spacing: Player A is on the top of the key, Player B is on the right wing, and Player C is in the restricted area near the basket. As A passes the ball to B, he cut from the top of the key to the basket. As C notices this initial action, he vacates his area, moves to the left wing, and cuts into the top of the key, where A previously was.
10. Deep Cut
This doesn’t sound hygienic at all, but this cut is not what it sounds like. In basketball, a deep cut is when a perimeter player from one wing cuts behind the defense all the way to the opposite corner. The ideal place to receive the ball is between the wing and the corner and the corner itself.
The deep cut is particularly effective against zone defenses since most defenders in a zone watch where the ball is all the time. This allows other players to cut behind the zone and get open.
11. UCLA Cut
The UCLA cut is another cutting action that involves a strong-side screener. This is similar to the give-and-go, but the player cutting to the basket uses the high post screen to get open. The player on the top of the key passes the ball to the wing. He then simultaneously goes off the screen and cuts to the basket. When doing the UCLA cut, make sure that the help defense is preoccupied or is non-existent. This leads to an easy layup.
12. Flex Cut
The flex cut is a common action where a player from the wing or a corner uses the screen from the low block to cut into the basket. The screen from the player positioned in the low block is called a flex screen.
How to Use Basketball Cuts
The importance of incorporating basketball cuts in the team and individual offense could not be reiterated enough. It generates easy baskets, proper spacing, and team chemistry.
When cutting to the basket, bear these points in mind:
- Timing is key. You can’t just move without the ball and cut anywhere without reading the movement of the defense and your teammates.
- One concept of the cut is to use the intensity of the defender against him. When he is overeager in playing the passing lanes and always on top of you, a cut backdoor or to the perimeter is a surefire way to get open.
- Another opportunity to cut is when the defender is caught ball watching. You can “fake out” by starting out the action slow and then suddenly exploding and cutting to the basket or to an open spot.
- Cut when you know your teammate is in a position to give you the ball. Otherwise, no matter how open you are but the ballhandler could not see you, it’s useless.
3 Basketball Cutting Drills
1. Pass and Cut Drill
This drill is best taught at the youth level to instill the fundamentals of cutting and the concept of keeping defenders off-balance. The procedure is fairly simple. Position one player (A) on the wing and the other near the top of the key (B). In this drill, player B is the one working on cutting in basketball.
A begins the drill by passing to B, and B passes back to A. To receive the next pass, B appears to make a move back to the top of the key but then explodes and cuts his way to the basket. At that point, A hits him with a bounce pass on the lane.
2. Three-Person Pass, Cut, and Replace
This drill is like hitting three birds in one stone. This will teach the young players how to read the defense, how to fill spots, and how to cut.
The drill is started with the player on the top of the key (A) swinging the ball to one side to player B. A then goes all the way to the opposite side, to which another player from the other side, Player C, replaces or fills the spot of A. Player C, now on the top of the key, receives the pass from Player B and swings the ball to the opposite side. Repeat until desired results are achieved.
3. Back Cutting Drill
This is as simple a drill as you can get, but it can get you easy points. Line six players on each side, free-throw line extended. A player from one side (A) gets into the triple threat position while one player from the other side (B) races to the top of the key and goes backdoor right in the middle. A then hits B with a perfectly-timed pass for an easy finish.
Wrapping Things Up: What are Cuts in Basketball?
What are cuts in basketball? Cutting in basketball should be an essential part of any offense. It requires a player to employ a sudden, quick, and explosive change of direction without the ball with the intent of getting open. If done correctly, any type of cut results in a high-quality shot or an immediate score. That is why it is very important for any player to develop this skill as part of their offensive arsenal.
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