No Days Off: 5 Key Basketball Skills and Drills to Change Your Game This Summer

  • Kevin Durant

    Nike Basketball

    Shooting

    As a former shooter myself, there are about a 100 different drills I went through. I’ll just share two of my personal favorites that help develop this particular skill. Shooting to me comes down to three things: repetition, confidence, and endurance. The first one is simple, and yet it’s hard. FGCU is where I spent my first year of college and it was a type of offense that is predicated on the 3-ball, but also playing fast and outworking the other team. The underlying theme is shooting when you’re tired. When most players miss, they miss because they are fatigued. If you’re practicing through fatigue, it will translate in real games.

    The drill is called 5-minute threes. For five straight minutes, you and a partner share one ball, you shoot, follow your shot, rebound, pass it out to your partner, trying to limit rebounds to only one bounce. The goal is to get 25-30 makes in that time. If you don’t get it, or let’s say you lose to your partner, guess what? Sprints after.

    The second is a chair shooting drill. This is also a fairly simple drill. In high school I was seeing a shooting specialist coach once a week, and this was by far one of his favorite drills. Thus, if it’s the coach’s favorite…typically the players hate it. Place the chair at midcourt, have a ball in your hand, sit just on the edge of the chair, and explode toward the 3-point line. The goal is two dribbles and a pull-up for a shot. Because you are coming from a seated position, it forces you to use your legs; if you all arm it, things could get ugly. Been there, done that. It sounds easy, but it’s unnatural, difficult, and gets the job done.

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  • DeAndre Jordan Clippers

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Rebounding

    Dennis Rodman was hands down my favorite player growing up. That always draws a few suspect eye rolls. Dennis Rodman? Of all players? YES. I loved his relentless pursuit of the basketball. He never stopped. His anticipation and willingness to outwork others was superior to everyone. I loved rebounding, probably was my favorite aspect of basketball. Part of being a good rebounder is being able to read where the ball is coming off the rim and anticipating where it will go and subsequently beating the person to the ball.

    Part of being able to rebound begins with boxing out and a great drill for that is the 1vs1 box out drill. Although we’ve seen the athleticism continue to grow in the game, boxing out is still a fundamental skill that should be practiced. Start on the wing with a partner. The defender (rebounder) starts in the paint. Toss the ball out to your partner, and close out and immediately turn and box out. The offensive player is at an advantage because they are shooting before you get there, and can anticipate where the ball could go. That’s the aspect of this drill that makes it game-like. Drills are ultimately designed for game simulation, and this very much creates a situation where you have to earn the rebound.

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  • Nike Kobe 9

    @NikeBasketball

    Footwork

    Improving your footwork will drastically improve the specific skills listed above, and your overall game. I would argue that Kobe Bryant is a fairly gifted athlete, but not anything Earth shattering, especially at this point in his career. He’s aged now, but how does he still keep up and make his assignment a nightmare for defenders? His footwork.

    Infamous for a deadly jab step and jump shot, Kobe can get shots off without ever needing a dribble.

    Another player worth noting is Paul Pierce. He doesn’t blow by people; rather he’s methodical and reads the defense and outsmarts players time after time. Obviously these are some of the best players in the league and have spent years working on their foot speed and lateral quickness, which in turn helps them dictate what they want to do on offense. Lets get it started, shall we?

    I would highly recommend buying an agility ladder if you are serious about taking your game to the next level. There are alternatives, I have seen parks that have some spray painted on sidewalks, and you could even make your own.

    In college, these were implemented into daily workouts. I suggest 10-15 minutes of ladder speed work.

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  • Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry

    Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

    Defense

    Regardless of the flashiness and athleticism we see on the offensive side, defense will always remain a staple in the success of a team or individual. Keep in mind that I played against Pat Summitt, a legendary defensive wizard who believed defense and rebounding would win games, not points. That being said, use the Low Man Wins drill to help improve your D.

    Going back to my FGCU days, sometimes in practice we would never even touch a basketball or shoot it, yet work solely on defense. It seemed like an eternity but the drill wasn’t complicated: stay in a defensive stance and roll the ball along the ground for 5-10 feet one way and then pivot back the other way up the length of the court. And then back down the court. When I say this burned my legs beyond belief, there are times I literally dreaded this drill. It was not for speed. It was for strength and endurance, two things you need to stay low and keep defenders in front of you.

    Aim for 2-3 down and backs and don’t rush. Feel the burn. You want to work hard now, so games seem easy.

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  • Kevin Durant
  • DeAndre Jordan Clippers
  • Nike Kobe 9
  • Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry

The summer is the most important time for any player looking to improve. Why? You don’t always have time during the season. There are games, practices. You need rest, recovery. But in the summer, it’s often just you and a ball, and an empty gym if you’re lucky. The truly great players take advantage of that. Kobe. Mike. LeBron. And now it’s your turn.

With June officially here, I’m outlining specific drills for specific skill-sets that every great player is going to need to get to that next level, as well as how you can master these. Every high school kid needs to take advantage of the summer. Don’t miss out. In today’s No Days Off: 5 Key Basketball Skills and Drills to Change Your Game This Summer.

Follow Steffi on Twitter at @steffisorensen

image via @nikebasketball

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BALL-HANDLING
Now more so than ever, the emphasis on ball-handling skills has skyrocketed into a newfound level of importance. Remember that one time big Shaq caught a rebound, dribbled the length of the floor, and finished in transition and it was unlike anything we had ever seen? Ball-handling isn’t just a guard thing; it’s a skill every player must have. Anthony Davis is a tremendous example of the transition we are seeing in basketball. Chris Paul is absolutely masterful with the ball as well.

Stationary ball-handling is key for warming up. (Five minutes.) If you have access to weighted basketballs, I would suggest making that investment. Having a heavier ball will increase hand and wrist strength. There are 6-8 different moves I suggest to start off your ball-handling. Everyone has their own names for some of these moves; these are just the terms I grew up with. Spend 30 seconds on each exercise, a couple of times through:

– left hand dribble
– right hand dribble
– two hands, two balls speed dribble
– two hands, two balls power dribble
– hot potato
– cold potato
– spider
– spider dribble (front, front, back, back)

Now that you’re warmed up, I suggest a 2-cone drill that allows you to work in two separate moves. Let’s not practice over-dribbling. Being crisp, smart, and efficient with your dribble is key. You can use either cones, or chairs, whichever you have access to. The important thing worth noting is when doing these drills, going game speed is pertinent. What good is it if you can rock half-speed moves but can’t deliver in a game because you’ve never practiced at a significant pace? Remember those blinders I told you about? And that workout partner? Get on that.

Set a cone just about 10 feet past midcourt on either the right or left side–whichever side you start on, you’ll do both sides to work on both hands–and a cone at the top of the key. Start at midcourt and once you hit your first cone, deliver a move: crossover, hesitation dribble, behind the back. Push your dribble out toward the top of the key where your next cone awaits, and that will set up your next move.

This simulates either a transition scenario or coming off an on-ball and you can finish with a jump shot or at the rim. If you’re aiming for the rim, get there in one dribble. If you opt for a pull-up J, get somewhere with the dribble–you don’t want to come off the cone and waste a dribble, get past a defender, elevate up, and shoot. The best parts of this 2-cone drill are that its tiring, it gets you going full speed, you can use a variety of moves and work in two moves back-to-back, all while having to make quick decisions. What makes the best ball-handlers out there THE best is they lack hesitation. That’s ultimately what you want to work up to.