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The Clear Guide to Playmaking and Dribbling in Basketball

by | Feb 23, 2021

The objective here is to give you the info you need to improve at dribbling in basketball and develop into an elite playmaker.

This consists of:

  1. Tips and good habits for dribbling in basketball
  2. Dribbling moves
  3. Dribbling drills
  4. How to make your moves actually work
  5. Types of passes
  6. Getting more assists

Let’s get straight to it.

1. Tips and good habits for dribbling in basketball

Firstly, we’ll go over the main dribbling habits of a good playmaker.

That way, we can prevent bad tendencies from developing as you train.

EYES UP WHEN YOU DRIBBLE

You need to be able to dribble with your eyes up.

I’m not saying that this is what you should always do.

(A common exception is when you’re doing a dribble move/using your eyes out to fake out the defender.)

But, you NEED the ability to dribble with your eyes up.

This will help you to analyse the defense and find open teammates.

DRIBBLING WITH BOTH HANDS

You need to be able to dribble well with BOTH hands.

Being a good dribbler with only one hand makes you predictable and easy to defend.

If you have a hand that’s especially worse, focus on it more in training.

USE YOUR BODY AND OFF-HAND WISELY

This is key when dribbling in basketball.

An example of this is keeping your body in between the defender and the ball when facing pressure.

Also, make a habit of dribbling the ball by your side, rather than directly in front of you.

This will make it harder to steal.

Another way to reduce turnovers is by protecting the ball with your off-hand. (non-dribbling hand)

good habits when dribbling in basketball

2. Dribbling moves to use in basketball

Here, we’ll go through some moves you can use to deceive defenders.

As you get better at dribbling in basketball, you can start to string multiple moves together consecutively.

DRIBBLE MOVE #1: CROSSOVER

How to do:

For a crossover, dribble the ball from one hand to the other, in front of your body.

Making it effective:

A good crossover is quick, also using your eyes/shifting your body to trick the defender.

DRIBBLE MOVE #2: IN AND OUT

How to do:

First, act as if you’re going to do a crossover and then – whilst keeping the ball in the same hand – dribble the ball back to the outside of your body.

Making it effective:

After previously deceiving a defender with a crossover, and in and out can be lethal.

Remember to use your eyes and shoulders to sell the fake.

DRIBBLE MOVE #3: THROUGH THE LEGS

How to do:

Dribble the ball from one hand to the other, between your legs this time.

Making it effective:

The change of direction should be as fast as possible.

Since the ball is protected as it goes through your legs, this move is simple but deadly.

three dribbling moves in basketball

DRIBBLE MOVE #4: HESITATION

How to do:

A hesitation is done by letting the ball hang underneath/by the side of your hand.

Your hand CANNOT go under the ball to keep control.

(That would be an illegal ‘carrying violation’)

Making it effective:

A great hesitation will slow down the pace of your dribble, allowing you to read your defender.

Also try to raise your body slightly, so the defense relaxes.

On the next dribble, you can catch the defender off guard by exploding forwards or changing direction.

DRIBBLE MOVE #5: BEHIND THE BACK

How to do:

Dribble the ball behind your back, from one hand to the other.

Making it effective:

This is a great way to switch hands when a defender is reaching at close distance.

It can also be a devastating change of direction, when attacking forward at pace.

3. Basketball dribbling drills

We all wanna pull off dribble moves effortlessly and have full control of the ball.

To do that, practice is a MUST.

Here are some dribbling drills to help do this, with my video demonstration:

DRILL #1: DRIBBLE POUND

Instructions:

Pound the ball as hard as you can, keeping your eyes up.

Dribble the ball with one hand, for 30 seconds.

Then, switch to the other hand and do the same.

How this helps:

This will translate to more control over the ball in games, where you’ll just be bouncing the ball normally.

As a result, you’ll be reacting to defenders better and changing direction with more control of the ball.

Tips for the drill:

  • If one hand is weaker, set a longer timer for that hand
  • Increase the timer length as you improve
  • Pound the ball as hard as you can and if you lose the ball, just continue the drill until the time runs out

Remember, if you’re doing the drill very comfortably, you’re probably not improving.

DRILL #2: CONSECUTIVE FREESTYLE DRIBBLES

Instructions:

Set a timer for 30 seconds and string together as many moves as you can.

A sequence I like to train (see video above) is crossover-through the legs-behind the back.

How this helps:

Even though it’s unlikely you’ll dribble like this in a game, it still has benefits.

Next time you try a quick crossover or stringing two moves together, you’ll be much more smooth and controlled.

It’ll be light work since you’ve been doing stuff that’s WAY harder.

Tips for the drill:

  • If you need to, start simple, but as you improve go for crazier combos
  • As you progress, dribble faster

These two drills are from the FREE Hooper Boost Skills Training Program.

If you want more training, it has 20 days of dribbling drills (all with video demonstrations), plus a full shooting workout.

4. How to make your moves actually work when dribbling in basketball

Of course, practicing dribble moves for full control of the ball is a must.

But, it’s all pointless if your moves don’t actually work on defenders.

When dribbling in basketball, your moves and fakes must be meaningful and convincing.

This is how you create space from defenders and end up getting ankle breakers.

basketball dribbling tips for ankle breakers

CHANGE OF DIRECTION

Some of the best dribbling highlights come from crossovers or some sort of stepback/dragback.

This is no surprise really…

Both of these moves involve a violent change of direction.

  • Make the change of direction QUICK, so it’s harder for defenders to recover
  • Make the direction change DRASTIC, so it actually forcers opponents to react

CHANGE OF PACE

As you can guess, dribbling slowly in front of your defender the whole time is unlikely to work.

But, dribbling fast the whole time won’t be too effective either…

Apart from tiring you out, it might also alert your defender, ruining any element of surprise.

It is MUCH more effective to vary between slow and fast dribbles.

After using some slow dribbles to ‘lull the defender to sleep’, you can catch them slipping with a quick move or fake.

USE YOUR EYES AND BODY TO DECEIVE THE DEFENDER

I’ll use myself as an example:

I was around 13 playing with my friends outside on the school hoop. Me and my teammates was joking around.

So, I decided to try an exaggerated crossover on my defender.

I used my eyes and shoulders to fake a drive to the right and brought the ball outside my body, before crossing the ball over to my left.

All I heard at first was a thud and my teammates cracking up.

I looked back out of the corner of my eye to see my defender on the floor, before hitting the open layup.

It was my first ankle breaker.

The key:

Face your head, chest and shoulders in the direction you are faking towards, before using a dribble move to explode in the opposite direction.

This will hugely help you deceive the defender.

5. Types of passes a playmaker should have in their bag

If you want to be a playmaker, you need to be able to create for your teammates…

Not just yourself.

Here are the main passes needed for you to do this.

CHEST PASS

How to:

Spread your fingers out for more control over the ball.

Then, flick both your wrists to throw the ball, pushing off your back leg for more power.

When to use:

This is the quickest and most effective way to get the ball to an open teammate.

BOUNCE PASS

How to:

On the pass, make sure the ball bounces between you and your defender.

The name pretty much explains it.

Keep the ball low, so it’s harder to intercept.

When to use:

One of the best ways to pass the ball when working in tight spaces or if there’s traffic between you and your teammate.

ways to pass the basketball as a playmaker

LOB PASS

How to:

Throw a pass with high arc to your teammate.

When to use:

This can be effective when there’s a defender in between you and your teammate.

(Especially if the defender is short)

HOWEVER, lob passes can be risky.

The ball stays in the air for a long time, making it easier to intercept.

Only use it when you are confident that your teammate will secure the pass.

OVERHEAD PASS

How to:

It’s just what it sounds like.

Throw the pass with the ball positioned above your head.

When to use:

This is useful when your defender is putting a lot of pressure on you.

FAKE/NO-LOOK PASSES

How to:

Fake pass – action as if you’re throwing a pass but then hold on to the ball

No-look pass – look one way and pass another way

When to use:

Often, players stare directly at teammates before throwing the pass, making it easy to steal.

Fake/no-look passes are not “just flashy”.

When used correctly, they can help you disguise the pass after spotting an open teammate early.

6. How to get more assists as a playmaker

Here are two keys to help you frequently set up teammates for success.

ways to get more assists in basketball as a playmaker

PRACTICE GOOD HABITS

A lot of this has been mentioned at points so far, but one last time we’ll go through them clearly all in one place.

Eyes up

Way too many assists are missed out on because the ball handler never looks up.

Of course, when making a move on a defender you might look down.

But otherwise, always be aware of your teammates’ location.

Pass selection

Make the right type of pass for the situation.

For example…

  • a chest pass to an open teammate nearby
  • a bounce pass when in a tight space

DRIVE AND KICK PASSING

This is one of the best and most common ways to get an assist.

First, you need to beat you man and drive to the basket.

Often, you’ll attract a help defender, leaving a teammate open.

The key is to be aware of your teammates’ location before you drive to the basket.

That way, you can quickly react to the defense and make a decision.