login to members site  

Taking Good Shots - Shot Selection

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, which means that Coach's Clipboard receives a small commission (at no cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links.

"Offense is not equal opportunity." – Bob Knight

"Bad shots will beat you faster than anything else" - Rick Majerus

An important goal of your offense is to get a good shot each possession. Getting good shots is an important component of improving your team's offensive efficiency.

If your team takes a lot of contested shots, forced shots, off-balance shots, etc, your shooting percentage will plummet. Good defense can force you into bad shots as players become impatient and try to force the issue. And then there is the occasional player who is only concerned about his point total that game... but let's forget him/her for now.

Throughout the season, in practice, define for your players what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.

See this clip from Geno Auriemma "Geno Auriemma: Coaching Q & A".

"Bad shooters are always open." – Pete Carril

What is a Good shot?

  1. The shot must be a high percentage shot for the shooter taking the shot.

  2. The shot must be expected by your teammates.

  3. The shot must be able to be rebounded by two of your teammates.

  4. The shot must be able to let our defense have a chance to get back in transition after it is taken.

  5. The shot is dictated by time, score, and situation.

a good shot
Probably going to be a good shot

Let's look at the last one, #5 above. Taking a 3-point shot early in a possession, late in the game, when you have the lead... is a poor shot, even if it goes in. It would be better to run some time off the clock, get a high-percentage shot or get to the free-throw line. In this situation, most successful teams will either get the ball inside to their best post player, or have their star perimeter player attack the defender off the dribble. Get inside or get to the line!

The 3-point shot is an important part of the game. But shooting a 3 every trip is not high percentage basketball. A 3-point shot taken with a defender flying out at the shooter is not a good shot (a shot fake and drive would be better here). It's not a good shot for a player who can't make at least 35% from the arc. So when is a 3-point shot a good shot?

It's a good shot when your best shooters get a wide-open look... or when a guard dribble-drives and then kicks the ball outside for a wide-open shot... or on a skip-pass where the shooter is wide-open. A 3-point shot in transition can be a good shot as well, unless we have a slim lead late in the game (as discussed above).

Forced shots inside are not good shots either. How often I see younger post players get an offensive rebound, only to throw it back up, contested, or off-balance and not squared up to the hoop... it's like the player thinks, "I got the rebound so I get to shoot it again." If the put-back shot is not open, a much better play would be to kick it outside to a perimeter player, who might be wide-open for a 3-point shot, or at least restart the offense and, if you are leading, run some more time off the clock.

Dribble-drive and dish (or kick-out) is great offense and difficult to defend. But dribble-driving into a crowd and forcing up a bad shot is bad basketball.

Passing up a good, open shot is not desirable either, unless you are trying to run time off the clock. Sometimes a player will pass up a good shot, and then a bad pass or turnover occurs, and we get no shot at all.

Every possession is important. Strive to get a good shot each time.