When you watch NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley, or the recently-retired Tony Parker, you may have seen them go to the floater as part of their finishing packages in the paint. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may be wondering, “What is a floater in basketball?” Offensive variety is an essential weapon, so let’s dig in and know more about this unorthodox move.
What is a Floater in Basketball?
A floater is a type of layup taken when someone veers near the rim and often in the paint. The offensive player attempting a floater gently releases the ball over the defender as if floating the ball on top. The goal of the floater is to avoid the outstretched arms of the defender before he gets to the offensive player. To put it simply, a floater looks like an overhand layup so that the player can get off a shot over taller defenders.
You may have seen the Irving, Conley, and Parker shoot floaters again and again. These guys have the best floaters in NBA history. (Floaters are also called the teardrop or a runner. Technically, a runner and a floater are slightly different, but in general basketball terms, they are interchangeable.)
They have mastered the shot impeccably, and they can go to it anytime they need to. However, do not be fooled. A floater is one of the toughest shots to perfect in basketball because it requires perfect timing and soft touch.
Why should you take the time to master the floater? It is an ideal weapon to use, especially if you’re a guard. The floater just allows enough separation between you and the defender so that you can get your shot off. Since a floater is shot with a high arc and a soft touch, it allows a higher room for error when it tends to bounce around the basket.
That is why quick, smaller guards should always have this layup as part of their bag of tricks. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily score over defenders without getting your shot blocked. Even if you’re not a guard, you are still strongly encouraged to develop the floater as part of your offensive arsenal.
How to Shoot a Floater: 5 Keys
Here are 5 things that you need to do if you want to know how to shoot a floater:
1. Do not shoot the floater too far in. Some players venture very near the basket that the advantage a floater gives is easily negated by the taller defenders. An effective floater is shot way before the defender knows what’s happening. As soon as you enter the paint, make sure you are enough, perhaps 10-12 feet from the basket, before launching a floater.
2. Do not put your head down when penetrating the paint. You can jump off of one foot or two feet. It is essential that you get off a floater after a jump step to add more momentum to the shot.
3. In shooting a floater, you must put your elbow directly below or in line with the ball. This allows the ball to have a straight path to the basket. Some players miss a floater because their elbows veer sideways.
4. When doing the jumping motion before the shot, be sure that you’re doing it vertically. If your knee hits a defender or your movement pushes you forward, hitting a defender, you might get called for an offensive foul.
5. Shoot the floater straight up, not a normal gooseneck follow-through. This allows for a minimal spin, helping the ball bounce softly in the basket as soon as it hits it.
How to Improve Floater Shot in Basketball
When talking about improvement, it’s only natural to think that practice is always involved. After, practice makes perfect. One of the simplest basketball floater drills is called the Baby Pro Hop Finisher.
This drill is done in two variations and teaches you how to shoot a floater with either hand and at different angles. As soon as you are advanced enough, you can also practice shooting floaters farther out. Here is how it’s done:
- From about 5 feet to the basket, line three sets of cones in the lane. (If you do not have cones, use your creativity and improvise.)
- The drill used a horizontal jump step or pro hop over the first set of cones and then shoot the floater. If you don’t have a rebounder, you get the ball yourself, pro hop over the second set of cones, and so on. When finished, do it the other way around.
- In the first variation, you dribble with the outside hand and shoot the floater with the other. For example, if you’re starting on the right side of the basket, dribble with your right hand, do the hop step over the cones, and shoot the floater left-handed. When going back, you dribble with the left hand, do the hop step, and shoot the floater right-handed. This way, you can practice shooting floaters with either hand, making you pretty much unstoppable.
- When you’re good enough, you can go far back 10 to 12 feet so you can extend your range. You can also mix it up by shooting off-the-glass floaters, especially when shooting it up from the angles.
7 Best Floaters in the NBA
If you want to watch how the pros do it, check out the players with the 5 best floaters in NBA history:
1. Tony Parker
Parker was consistently among the NBA’s best paint scorers in his heyday, and he’s doing it at a listed height of 6-foot1! The Frenchman has a variety of finishes up his sleeve, but one of those is– you guessed it– the floater. In fact, Parker was probably the one who made the floater mainstream, so learn from the master himself.
2. Mike Conley
The best thing about Conley’s floater game is ambidexterity. In fact, Conley, who shoots left-handed, prefers to shoot floaters with his off-hand. He occasionally uses his strong hand in his paint forays, but in any case, the guy is definitely a floater god.
3. Chris Paul
CP3’s midrange game is smooth as butter and is one of the best at shooting floaters. His primary weapon is that step to the right midrange fallaway, but make no mistake about it, the perennial All-Star has a mean floater.
4. Derrick Rose
What’s so scary about Derrick Rose is that he is so athletic he probably did not need floaters anyways. But here is, among the best floater shooters ever, even in his Minnesota, Detroit, and New York days. If anything, his athleticism is the reason why his floater game is so unstoppable.
5. Kyrie Irving
Irving arguably has the best handles in NBA history and a jaw-dropping layup package, unlike anything we have ever seen. Again, like many in this list, he gets a fair share of his points by shooting floaters. His ball control is too good that if he decides to shoot a floater, it’s basically an automatic two points.
6. Steph Curry
Steph Curry is widely considered the best shooter to ever step on a basketball court. His range is practically 94 feet! That insane long-range game is something like a setup to Curry’s underrated floater game. His touch pretty much makes him unguardable.
7. Kobe Bryant
Kobe is known more for fadeaways and his difficult shot-making, but his floater game was nothing less than elite. His athleticism is definitely an advantage, and he is also adept at using his offhand. What do you expect? The guy has scored over 30,000 points in his long career!
Wrapping Things Up: What is a Floater in Basketball?
In basketball, your offensive arsenal should be pretty vast for you to be successful. Jump shots, layups, floaters– the whole nine yards. A floater is a high-arching basketball shooting technique often taken in the paint to avoid taller defenders. This shot is a critical weapon for smaller players since it is difficult to block.
Given this fact, players need to develop the floater. To do so, it must be practiced time and time again using basketball floater drills. A simple one that you can begin with is the Baby Pro Hop Finisher. This drill will help improve a floater using the right and left hands, and also the distance in which you can pull it off.
Among the keys to shooting a floater are the stance and shooting motion. This shot needs to be taken in a vertical stance and most effective after a hop step or a jump stop. The shooting motion is also straight up so that the ball comes up soft into the basket, resulting in a higher chance of going in.
It may take several practices and drills before you start feeling a little comfortable shooting a floater. But remember, hard work always pays off. Some of the best scorers in the past and present– Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Kobe Bryant, and Steph Curry– include the floater in their bag of tricks. So the next time you hear the question, “What is a floater in basketball?” you could answer it straight up: It is a weapon that every serious player should have.
We also answer other frequently answered questions on basketball here.
More interesting basketball FAQ articles here: