In the game of basketball, we are often told to focus on getting open looks instead of forcing shots. That is why plenty of offensive sets are designed to get open looks for any player out there on the floor. But what does it mean when you call a look open? What are open looks in basketball?
What is an Open Look in Basketball?
We throw around the phrase “open look” in basketball slang quite often. But what does an open look mean? In some ways, some people do not understand what an open look means, especially when we watch too many highlights of some of the best players in the world making all sorts of crazy shots.
Open looks can be subjective, in a sense, because it can depend on who is taking the shot. But, to make things simple, let us look at what constitutes an open look in an objective but subjective way.
In short, an open look can depend on certain factors and on different circumstances that are relative to the individual player’s skills, capabilities, and efficiency.
Let us break it down into certain factors:
1. Distance of the defender
The first factor that comes into mind when defining the meaning of an open look is the defense relative to the look. Whenever there is no defender in front of the player or within his vicinity, wherever that player may be, it could mean that the player has an open look. This can be out in the three-point area or probably right under the basket.
This can be an open look as long as there is no defender close enough to block or bother the shot. But there is also a catch here because a player’s location can also determine whether or not the look is open.
For example, a shooter out on the perimeter with a defender a foot away from him probably does not have an open look. On the other hand, a player with an equal-sized defender a foot away from him right under the basket has an open look. This is because the comparative difficulty of these shots relative to their locations is different from one another, so that defenders should be treating them differently.
So, even if an outside shooter has a defender that is a foot away from him, that defender can still bother a jump shot, which is more difficult than a layup. Meanwhile, if you are doing a layup right underneath the basket, a defender a foot away from you will not be able to bother your shot that much.
2. Quality of defense
Even if you have a defender close by, the type and quality of defense that he is playing can determine the type of looks you have for yourself. If you are a skilled shooter who is proven to be efficient from the three-point line, a defender should not be giving you a few inches of room to shoot. But, if he is at least a foot away from you, that can mean that you are open.
At the same time, if you are a smaller guard and are trying to attack the basket, the defender in the paint can also determine whether or not you have an open look. If there is a center that is a foot taller than you manning the paint, you do not have an open look. But, if there was a blown defensive rotation and a guard of the same size is trying to contest your shot in the paint, then you could say that you have an open look.
3. Player skills
A player’s skills can make a difference in terms of the kind of looks that he should be given by the defense.
A guard who has worked on his ability to shoot off the catch out on the perimeter should be able to say he has a good open look the moment he catches the ball and there is no defender within a foot from him. But this is not the same for a traditional seven-foot center who has spent his entire life developing paint skills.
However, for a center who is adept at making shots over other centers close to the basket, a look can still be considered open even if there is a defender who has a body all over him so long as he has the skills that will allow him to make all kinds of shots close to the basket. For instance, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had an open look every time he was in the paint because no one could guard his skyhook.
Likewise, if there is a non-shooter handling the ball out on the perimeter, he does not have an open look, even if the closest defender is five feet away from him. And the reason here is that he does not have the skills that allow him to take advantage of the lack of a defender.
As such, Ben Simmons with no one within 10 feet close to him when he is outside the three-point line does not have an open look. But that shot will always be an open look for a shooter.
4. Star factor
The final and most subjective factor when it comes to determining what an open look is can depend on the stars on the team. This is because a team’s best player can have looks that may not be open in the traditional sense but are still makeable for him.
As they say, a shot is an open look as long as you can hit efficiently and consistently. This is why any look is open for Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard once they cross the half-court line and there is no defender a few feet away. Likewise, even if you have a defender contesting his shot, the shot is still an open look for Kevin Durant precisely because he is too tall and too long to be bothered by the defense.
So, what do we mean by star factor? We are basically saying that a shot can be considered open or, at the very least, good as long as you have the skills, confidence, and consistency to hit it. What might not be considered open in the conventional sense can be open for you if you have proven that you can hit that shot.
How Do Basketball Players Get Open in Basketball?
Now, the ways that a basketball player uses to get open and have a good open look can depend on the type of player.
Isolation players like James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Michael Jordan rely on a combination of footwork and dribble moves to create enough space to become open. On the other hand, a player like Klay Thompson relies more on his off-ball movement and ball screens to get open. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis relies on cuts and ball screens to get a good look close to the basket.
In other words, the way basketball players can get open looks can depend largely on their style of play. But there are universal ways that you can use to get open in basketball. And these methods will work regardless of whether you are an isolation scorer or a spot-up shooter.
3 Ways to Get Open and Score More Points in Basketball
If you want to understand how to get open and score more points in basketball, here are the most basic ways to do so:
1. Moving without the ball is a surefire way to get yourself open because this is how you take advantage of off-ball screens to get your defender off of you. At the same time, making sharp cuts at the perfect moment when your defender is too focused on the ball-handler can allow you to get an opening near the basket.
2. Setting screens as an off-ball player can help give you open looks as well. This can happen right in the middle of the pick-and-roll action or even away from the play. The reason why off-ball screens can give you open looks is that a defense that does not communicate well can get scrambled to the point that two defenders might end up recovering to the player you set the screen for. You can take advantage by rolling to the basket or getting yourself set on your favorite perimeter spot.
3. Ask for screens whenever you are the one handling the ball. It might be a good idea to use dribble moves and crafty footwork to get yourself open, especially when it comes to the “wow” factor. But there is no harm in asking for a screen because this can either give you the slight opening you need to get a good open look or put you in a favorable mismatch situation.
3 Basketball Drills to Make Screens and Cuts
If you want to practice the art of cutting and making use of screens, here are some neat basketball plays and drills that you can use even without a ball and even without anyone else to help you:
- From the wing, quickly move towards the basket to make it seem like you are cutting towards the paint.
- When you are near the right post, make a quick stop and imagine putting the defender on your back or hip to get him off-balanced.
- Drive off of the leg you stopped with and use the momentum to get yourself back to the wing as you essentially create a V-shaped motion.
- Provide a passing target by extending your outside hand and then quickly pivot the moment you get the ball, imaginary or not.
- Starting from the low or high post, try cutting to the lane while essentially fooling the defender.
- When you are inside the lane, make a quick stop and hold for a bit to keep your defender guessing.
- Run up to the high post and make a quick-moving cut out to the wing.
- Extend your outside hand to create a passing target and then quickly pivot the moment you get to the wing.
3. Chair screens
- Place chairs on both the low and high post areas of one side of the court. These will act as your screeners.
- Start out on the wing and then cut towards the chair at the low post to try to get your imaginary man screened. In a real-life situation, this can be enough to get yourself open near the basket.
- Don’t stop the movement there and follow it up by running towards the high post chair, which is the second screen that can allow you to lose a defender that rotated after the first screen.
- Run around the second chair and get yourself back to the wing to get an open shot.
If possible, try doing the abovementioned screens with at least two other people. One should function as your primary while the other acts as the ball passer. You can also add more people into the mix and allow them to act as defenders that rotate to you after you screen your first man.
Wrapping Things Up: What Are Open Looks In Basketball?
The way you can look at an open look can be subjective in a way where it can depend on your skills and capabilities as an offensive player. But what has always been true is that an open look will always be an open look as long as you free yourself up from your defender.
As such, the best way to get an open look in basketball is through the use of off-ball movements and screens that are designed to take advantage of defensive weaknesses. After all, the ball will always move faster than any player ever could. And, as long as you can get yourself away from your defender by moving without the ball, that will always be an open look regardless of your skills.
We’ve compiled some of the most common basketball slang and terms here.