NBA FINISHING:
LEARN THE SHOTS THE PROS USE

BY BRIAN MCCORMICK

One of the most untaught skills, and one skill going by the wayside because kids rarely playpick-up ball, is making shots. Creativity is coached and drilled right out of players. Steve Nash is a revelation because of his imagination; where other players utilize athleticism to jump and create in the air, Nash creates and makes seemingly impossible shots from all angles with either hand. He possesses a fundamental base-- the ability to use either hand-but its effectiveness is heightened by his creativity, an untaught skill left undeveloped by many players.

In most practices and pregame routines, players practice the perfect shot; they go at a comfortable pace at an optimal angle and make shots unchallenged. However, rarely, if ever, does a player shoot one of these shots in a game. Shooting game shots at game spots at game speeds is a great mantra to preach, but its transfer is never one-hundred percent as games add unpredictability unequaled in even the most game-like drills and practices. Nash did not develop his shots in a gym by himself; he developed his unique shots in one-on-one games against Dirk Nowitski during their early years in Dallas. Mastering such moves and shots requires a live defender, a game-like, competitive atmosphere, and anything short fails to excite the player's imagination and creativity to game-like levels, leaving players unprepared when the perfect, straight-ahead lay-up is eliminated by a help defender.

While learning one's own moves and shots is optimal, here are some moves/shots I use to teach ball handling and finishing with players, and which can be transferred to games if players choose. While Americans occasionally marvel at the shot-making ability of International players, one reason is European players do not do drills without ending with a shot; ball handling, passing, and on-court conditioning drills lead to a shot, not a run from baseline to baseline.

In my "Pro Moves Series," which I use when training high school players, I combine double and triple moves with these finishes to incorporate ball-handling practice with the finishing work. My Pro Moves Series utilizes shots popularized by Tony Parker and Steve Nash, smallish players who are able to finish in the key. Other players use these shots, but using a player's name helps players identify the shot, motivates players to try something that otherwise may seem unorthodox, and gives players an opportunity to watch for the shots when watching games on television.

STEVE NASH RUNNER

The "Runner" is easier than most believe. Essentially it is a jump shot off one foot rather than two. When an offensive player has a defender on his back hip, he does not always have time to pull-up and shoot. Therefore, he may utilize the runner to shoot successfully. As with any shot, the shooter must get balanced before he shoots and must square to the basket; run into the shot by jumping off one foot, in stride, and floating into the shot. Shoot the ball high, as most player miss short because they fail to shoot up, pushing the ball at the basket instead.

STEVE NASH NO JUMP EXTENSION LAY-UP

Nash is masterful at shielding the ball from the defender. Because most opponents have strength and leaping advantage against Nash, he eliminates his disadvantage by shooting quickly, often without jumping. This quick shot catches the defender off-guard and eliminates Nash's perceived disadvantage. With the "no jump" lay-up, Nash shoots immediately off the dribble, with an underhand extension, using his body to shield the ball from the trailing defender.

TONY PARKER FLOATER

The floater is a "feel" shot; it is difficult to teach a floater to a player; the player needs to get a feel for the shot, the arch needed to push the ball quickly over the defender's reach. Shoot the floater off two-feet; in a perfect floater, the player comes to a quick stride stop on balance and floats the ball over the out-stretched arms of the defense. The key is the quickness of the shot; by shooting the floater, as opposed to a regular jump shot, the offensive player lifts the ball over the defender before he has proper time to react and jump to block the shot; in this way, it is not the height of the shot, but the quickness which determines its success. Shooting off two feet is important because the offensive player has the option of extending with his last step for a lay-up, or stopping short with a quick stride stop and pushing the ball over the defender; this option prevents the defender from playing the floater, as the offensive player then steps past the defender for a lay-up.

TONY PARKER INSIDE-HAND LAY-UP

While growing up, my coaches drilled the phrase "left hand on the left side" repeatedly into our heads, demanding we shoot the ball with our outside hand every time, seeing anything else as a weakness, a deficiency to be corrected. While the ability to use both hands is essential to finishing around the basket, circumstances dictate which hand to use. The Inside-Hand Lay-up is used by Parker to get a bigger defender on his back and then extend to the basket, protecting the ball with his back. Imagine Parker using a high on-ball screen on the left wing, driving to the middle of the floor, from left-to-right with his right hand. He turns the corner into the lane and as he approaches the basket, sees Shaq in his way. Parker glides by Shaq to the left side of the basket, turning his back to Shaq and finishes with his right hand, extending the ball away from Shaq, providing enough space and protection for him to get the ball on the glass and draw the foul.

TONY PARKER UP AND UNDER

Another shot frequently used by Parker is the up-and-under, which is the same shot used by post players and typically referred to as the Kevin McHale Move. As Parker drives from right to left, he stops with a quick stride stop (right-left) and shows the ball. Once the defense elevates, he steps through with his left foot, putting the defender on his back, and shoots.

STEVE NASH HOOK

Another way to finish close to the basket is a hook shot. Against a bigger player, the up and under move may not work, as a smart defender will not jump when he has a significant height advantage. Therefore, the offensive player must create space for his shot and a hook is one way. As Nash drives from right to left, he stops with a stride stop (right-left). As he does, he shows the ball high to freeze the defense; he makes a quarter-turn reverse pivot on his right foot, steps to his left foot and shoots the hook, using the width of his body to protect the ball. By stepping away from the defense and shooting the hook, the offensive player actually creates the space of two and a half times the width of his body for the shot, enabling a player like Steve Nash to shoot over a seven-footer like Dirk Nowitski.

These are just a few shots small NBA players use to finish in amongst the seven-footers. These moves give young players a starting point and a reference as they build their own repertoire of indefensible shots through the use of their own imagination.

Reprinted by permission of BASKETBALL SENSE (The Magazine for Winning Coaches - www.basketballsense.com) McCormick is a basketball trainer in California: highfivehoopschool@yahoo.com.