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10 Components of Ball Movement


It is not a surprise that great teams have characteristics that many of us wish we could implement into our own program. Great ball movement, in particular, has become even more sought after by coaches everywhere since the rise of the San Antonio Spurs coached by Greg Popovich. Today, more and more teams, including the Golden State Warriors, are trying to copy this unselfish style of play.

When a coach picks an offense, one of the major criterias that they will use is whether or not the offense can get their players open shots. However, as any experienced coach or player will tell you, not every offense creates a great shot one hundred percent of the time. Sometimes the result of running an offense is just an average shot. Other times the offense doesn’t even produce a shot. This is where ball movement can come into play.

Ball movement can do a TON of positive things that will enhance a team’s offense including; break down defenses, create mismatches, create scoring opportunities and turning what would be an average shot attempt into a high percentage look.

Ball Movement

Teams with great ball movement all share these 10 characteristics:

#1 Fundamentally Sound Players: In order for the basketball to move freely amongst all teammates, all teammates must be able to pass, dribble and shoot. While this sounds like common sense it is not a common practice. Can all of your players pass, dribble and shoot? How often do they individually work on these three things?

#2 Trust: Perhaps the biggest factor in terms of limiting ball movement stems from a lack of trust amongst teammates. When teammates don’t trust each other to be able to know the difference between a taking a contested or uncontested shot, handle the basketball against pressure or use their dribble to extend the pay, ball movement tends to come to a halt. The reason behind this is because players will start to rationalize their decisions in a selfish way. If player A knows that player B can’t hit an open jump shot or is turnover prone chances are player A will not pass to player B unless he or she has no other choice. Some “player A’s” will even go as far as to think the team is better off if they take a poor or contested shot instead of passing to player B. This mindset is the primary reason why coaches label some of players as “ball stoppers”. When all five players trust one another the ball seems to be shared freely amongst each other.

#3 Coach’s Offensive Philosophy: Believe it or not, right behind fundamentally sound players and trust, the next determining factor for successful ball movement is a coach’s offensive philosophy. If coaches want the ball to move freely in the half court, coaches need to literally give athletes the freedom to do so. If a coach does not instill confidence in his players to do so, he or she cannot expect players to do this on their own. Another issue involving coaching philosophy, is the type of quick hitters and sets a team runs. If a team’s main emphasis in the half court is on quick hitters, players sometimes become mechanical and start thinking only in terms of “A then B then C then D”. Instead players need to read the defense and take what it gives them.

#4 Ball Reversals: To many players want to catch the ball, get in triple threat, jab at their defender 4 times, take a few dribbles and then pass to a teammate only to find them going through the same process. This is to slow and doesn’t make the defense work! Most great shot opportunities come when defenses are forced to scramble! If the ball never moves, or moves slowly, the defense will never have to scramble and rotate. If your team can reverse the ball to the second, third and fourth side of the floor the defense will break down and great things will follow. Also, when defenses are forced to work, they get tired and become foul prone!

#5 Player Movement: Stagnant players are easy to defend! If a play breaks down, players should be constantly moving! When a player decides to either front cut or back cut they just need to remember to set their man up, change speeds, change directions and look for the ball.

#6 Dribble Penetration: There is definitely a difference between good and bad dribble penetration. Bad dribble penetration can lead to turnovers, bad shots (depending how bad the shot was you could make an argument that it was a turnover) or a clogged offense. Instead, dribble penetration should only come when the defense permits its. If a defender doesn’t close out properly or jumps on a shot fake, offensive players should attack the lane. By attacking the lane, defensive players will be forced to collapse, which if they do will provide a great opportunity for a drive and kick situation to a shooter on the perimeter. This is a perfect example of how one extra pass can turn a good scoring opportunity into a great one! Just make sure to be constantly reminding your players to stay under control when driving!

#7 Screening Action: Teams with great ball movement set great screens! They understand the importance of getting open and they use screens to help achieve this. The best teams make sure to utilize a variety of screens as each type forces defenders to think and react differently.

Screen types include:

  • Down
  • Back
  • Flare
  • Cross
  • Double
  • Staggered

If a player comes off the screen, receives the ball and has an uncontested shot that they can make, they should shoot! However, if they receive the ball and are not wide open, their first look needs to be to pass and then if no one is open, dribble. If a player comes off a screen and does not receive the ball, the worst thing they can do it to stop and stand on the perimeter. Instead they need to make a cut or re screen for one of their teammates. Remind your players that even though they don’t get the ball their cut or screen may open up a scoring opportunity for one of their teammates.

#8 Inside Out Mentality: Ball movement is all about making that extra pass to the open player. When the ball gets into the paint; whether that’s from dribble penetration, a pass to the post, or a pass to a cutter – defenses are forced to either collapse or give up a scoring opportunity. Most will collapse. When the defense collapses it opens up opens up a kick out scenario. While the original kick out will generally produce a good look at the basket, you team must be disciplined enough NOT to force the first semi open look. After the kick out, defenders will be scrambling to find their man. This is a perfect time to give a shot fake, attack the gap again and find the next open player! The main point I hope you grasp is that ball movement is all about turning a good shot into a great one!

#9 Floor Communication: Teams that communicate with one another are more engaged with one another. Communication builds trust but also lends to developing a “we not me” mindset.

#10 Show Examples and Give Praise: Before teams become great at moving the ball they must be shown what great ball movement looks like. Becoming a team who shares the ball is not an accident, its intentional. Just like a coach has to show a first time player the proper form for shooting a basketball, coaches need to show their team what great ball movement looks like. More importantly, coaches need to give their athletes praise when it happens!

Article Written By Dave Stricklin

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