This week my colleague DJ Allen shared some thoughts on and examples of the benefits of ball movement in basketball. He touched on the mentality of “me” versus “we” and sacrificing good shots for great shots — these principles encompass the essence of the commitment to move the ball.
There’s a concept of morale that comes with ball movement. It’s a sense of collective inclusion — the willingness and understanding to involve all five players on the floor. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all five players will touch the ball every single possession, but it’s a shared mission that the ball will touch at least a few different hands before a shot goes up.
Take the Spurs’ 2014 Finals as another prime example, statistically one of the most efficient offensive performances in NBA Finals history. This possession from Game 4 is indicative of how the commitment to keep the ball in motion impacted their offensive success, and in this case, all five players touched the ball.
The understanding of ball movement comes with a knowledge of attacking and spacing, driving and kicking, reading and reacting. In the Spurs clip, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard drove the ball into the paint by attacking from the perimeter and they both reacted to the defense by making the next available pass. Neither takes more than three dribbles.
The basketball almost has to be treated as a ‘hot potato’. Not where you’re trying to make fast, impulsive decisions, but more so not wasting time with aimless dribbles or holding the ball longer than you need to. Here’s a great clip of the Mavericks running some transition offense. No one takes more than four dribbles, the floor is spaced, and everything is quick, looking to make the next pass.
When you play on a team that has the understanding and willingness to move the ball, playing offense is much easier. Teams that move the ball are inherently unselfish, play high-IQ basketball, and have a sense of discipline. Not to mention they’re harder to defend.