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How to Play Smart Basketball

How to Play Smart Basketball

What differentiates a good basketball player from a great one?  And why is it that some players seem to innately understand the flows of a basketball game versus their teammates and opponents?  While it may seem that these players were born with this ability, nothing can be further from the truth.

Rather, these players have worked on developing their basketball smarts and IQ.  And below, we’re going to show you, step-by-step, how to play smart basketball.  You will learn not only how to be a smarter and better player on the court, but also how to be a smarter basketball player off the court.

What is a Smart Basketball Player?

While football may be a game of inches, basketball is a game of seconds.  With only a 24-second shot clock, players must successfully dribble the basketball down the court and complete an offensive play with a high probability of being made.

And knowing what to do with the ball within those precious 24-seconds is what elevates the great players from the good ones.  Because basketball does have a shot clock it is all the more important to develop yourself as a great player, so that for each second on the shot clock, you will play it as efficiently and as well as you can.

A smart basketball player, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best basketball player on the court.  You don’t need to be the best shooter, dribbler, rebounder, or defender to be a smart basketball player.

But being a smart basketball player can be advantageous to your overall game.  By being a smart basketball player, you will be able to more effectively play the game.  This can, and will, be accomplished on both the offensive and defensive ends.

A smart basketball player is simply a player who understands the game and understands what actions should be performed, dependent on the play and the reaction of the opposing team.  Again, a smart basketball player isn’t the best player on the court, but rather they are the ones who understand the game best.

In addition, by being a smart basketball player, you will be able to overcome any disadvantages you may find on the court.  Whereas you may be facing and playing against a bigger, stronger, or faster opponent, your basketball smarts will help you to overcome those disadvantages.

Developing Technical Skills

One of the absolute ways to be a smart basketball player, and to play smart basketball, is by developing and honing your technical skills.  When we say technical skills, we are speaking of your passing, dribbling, shooting, and footwork skills specifically.

By mastering these technical skills, you not only elevate yourself on the court, but also begin to be seen as more of a threat by the opposing team.  In addition, by developing these skills you are better able to utilize the shot clock more effectively.

Lastly, by mastering the technical skills, you are also able to understand, innately, what course of action you should take with the ball when you receive it.  In a split-second, you are able to decide on whether or not you should pass the ball, take a shot, or attempt to drive to the basket.

Without the technical, fundamental skills, you will receive the ball with less confidence and in a frantic, chaotic state.  However, developing and honing in on those technical skills will help you to make quick, fast-paced decisions that can help both yourself and your team effectively utilize the 24-second shot clock.

Having Court Vision

Perhaps even more important than your technical skills is having court vision while on the basketball court.  Court vision is not only understanding a specific play on the offensive end, but also being able to determine the opposing teams offensive play in order to better defend against it.

Court vision means being able to see and know where each player on the court stands and what their likely next move is.  While you may never be able to fully assume what another player may do, court vision will help you assume how a certain or individual player will play.

For instance, if you are dribbling the ball down the court and are looking to pass to your shooting guard, court vision will help you identify their defensive player and quickly determine that players ability to quickly intercept the incoming pass. 

As a smart player, you may want to first ensure that your shooting guard is well positioned to receive an incoming pass and pass the ball in a manner that significantly reduces the likelihood of being intercepted.

Similarly, as a smart player, you will want to have court vision on the defensive end.  Try to watch the point guard and where their eyes are looking.  Many point guards will “give away” their next move with their eyes.  You will be able to follow their line of sight and determine where their next pass will go, allowing you to intercept the ball or disturb the play.

Confidence Through-and-Through

Being a smart player, above all else, comes to being confident on the basketball court.  It means that you are extremely comfortable with your own abilities on the court and do not easily or quickly get nervous.  One of the best ways to play smart basketball is to do so in a confident and self-assured manner.

This confidence will not only help you on the offensive end but will also help you to play a defensive scheme that looks for the vulnerabilities in the other team. 

Similarly, being confident on the court will help you to fully follow-through on your decisions on the court.  As we’ve stated before, “a thinking man is a dead man”.  And what is meant by that is that if you are unsure of your next move and overthink a play, then you will be placing yourself at a disadvantage on the court.

Rather, a smart basketball player quickly assesses a basketball situation and makes the right, proper move, immediately.  They do not overthink their decision nor do they hesitate to execute against their decision.  Doing so only allows for more time for the opposing team to regroup and defend against a set play.

In addition, overthinking your next move can be a quick and easy way to lose confidence.  If you overthink a play or an action, you may fumble the play, leading to a turnover or a poor shot attempt.  These sequences can have you lose confidence.

Rather, play confidently and fall back on your own skills and the trust of your teammates.