How can I finish better around the basket?
This is a very common question that I hear from players of all ages and levels.
There are a million different ways to put the ball in the hoop, but this post will focus on 2 tips that everyone can use to immediately improve their finishing. These tips are useful for all players, but especially for those without elite athleticism or size.
Be aware: these 2 finishes have very subtle differences so pay close attention to body positioning and timing to make the most out of these tips.
The Key to These Finishes
These finishing moves work because the offensive player initiates contact and cuts off the angle.
Initiating contact is crucial because:
- It grounds your defender
- It disrupts the shot blocker’s timing
Both of which make it much more difficult to block shots and allow you to get your shot off even among the most intimidating defenders.
Cutting off the angle is when the attacking player changes his angle of attack back into the defender’s path rather than dribbling in a straight line to the rim.
Cutting off the angle is crucial because:
- It leverages tiny advantages into clear shots at the rim.
Keep these 2 keys in mind (initiating contact and cutting off the angle) as you check out these clips. Let’s get to it.
1) The Slow Down Bump
This is a Stephen Curry special. Let’s take a look, and then I’ll break it down.
The key here is that Stephen initiates the contact. As soon as he gets a step on Channing Frye, he cuts off the angle and then slows down on that final step to bump Frye. Once he feels the contact, then he extends away to create space and finish the layup.
If he were to continue in a straight line at the same speed, my guess is that Frye pins that shot on the glass. But instead, Stephen cuts off the angle by dribbling back to the left and into Channing Frye’s path. That slight change of angle is huge in creating a clean look at the basket.
Watch the clip again and this time, watch Channing Frye. His reaction as Steph leans in and slows down is priceless. He flops backward like a fish that accidentally found itself on land.
He’s totally thrown off and can hardly leave the ground to contest the shot. He basically bails on the play altogether to avoid fouling. If he were to try and block the shot, he’d have to go through Stephen’s body to get to the ball, which is an automatic whistle.
Let’s check out another clip.
This time, Stephen isn’t able to blow by Mario Chalmers to the bucket. He gets about even with Chalmers and then leans in and slows down. Again, feeling the contact, he extends away and flips it up off the glass. Chalmers has no chance to block the shot because Stephen’s contact disrupts his timing and nails him to the floor.
Too many players fail to capitalize on the space they earn. They get their shoulders past their defender but don’t exploit that advantage. They run parallel to their defender, failing to turn that small advantage into an even larger one.
The key to great finishing is to leverage every inch of space you earn to get a clean look at the basket. With the slow down bump, all it takes is a tiny advantage, just a half step, to slow down, lean in and give yourself a good look at a bucket and possibly a foul.
2) The Goofy Foot Finish
Tony Parker uses this finish all the time. Let’s take a look.
Parker beats Joel Anthony going to his right. Normally, when this happens, guards jump off their left foot to shoot a standard lay-up off the backboard. That’s shot blocker heaven. Shot blockers love to be able to time your steps and trail from behind to toss your shot into the stands.
In this clip, however, Parker suddenly jumps off of his right foot (his outside foot) and into Anthony, creating contact. This sudden change in footwork makes it nearly impossible for Anthony to properly time his jump.
Once Parker feels the contact, he extends away from the defender and flips it in off the glass. By jumping into the shot blocker off his outside foot and then reaching away, Parker is able to finish over a bigger defender.
Again, the key here is that Tony Parker cuts off the angle. Instead of continuing on in a straight line to the basket, he veers into the defender.
Note: The footwork on this layup will be extremely awkward when you first try it. So go slowly. Literally walk through it a few times. Then, with each rep, go faster and faster until you become comfortable timing your steps to shoot layups with any hand/foot combination.
Now, what happens when you lean into the defender to create contact but there’s no contact there? Let’s check it out.
As Parker beats P.J. Tucker going left, he leans in aggressively and cuts off the angle, just like I mentioned earlier. But he ends up blowing by Tucker so that he is trailing Parker rather than sitting on his hip.
Once this happens, Tucker’s only chance is to block the shot from behind by trailing the play. Tucker assumes Parker is going to shoot a left-handed layup in this situation because that’s what most offensive players would do. However, by leaning in and cutting off the angle, Parker now has the option of finishing on either side of the bucket. In this situation, he senses the opening for a quick scoop on the right side of the rim and takes it, surprising Tucker before he even has a chance to leave the ground.
Elite Athleticism? No thanks…
Take a look back at the four clips in this article. How high did Stephen and Parker have to jump to get clean looks at the basket? I mean, I could barely slide a newspaper underneath Stephen and Parker’s feet on these finishes.
Yeah, sometimes I wish I could jump like Zach Lavine and dunk everything. But it’s not required to be an elite finisher! So if you can’t jump out of the gym, don’t worry. Training your timing, footwork and creativity will allow you to overcome athleticism deficits.
When you’re attacking the rim, it’s absolutely crucial that you cut off the angle. Running side by side isn’t good enough when you’re at an athletic disadvantage. So remember the two tips: cut off the angle and initiate contact.
Then you can use the Slow Down Bump or the Goofy Foot Finish around the rim. With both weapons in your toolbox, you’ll be better equipped to finish against even the most elite shot blockers.