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How to Maximize Basketball Skill Development

by Bill Brown, content editor of www.lines.com

NBA players often do things that seem impossible for us normal human beings to accomplish. While it is true that professional basketball players are physically gifted, they have gotten to where they are because of hard work and skill development.

how to maximize skill development

The best players in the NBA are those who maximize their talent by developing the various skills that are necessary in order to dominate the competition. The good news is anyone with a ball and a hoop can put in the work just like the pros do in order to improve at the game. Furthermore, there are ways to maximize your improvement that will elevate your game in no time.

Things to do in practice

While shooting shots for hours on end and constantly playing the game will surely deliver improvement, it's important to practice efficiently in order to maximize your development as a player. There are certain principles in practice that you must observe if you want to stay ahead of the competition and become the best player you can be as soon as possible.

Develop the fundamentals

Fundamentals may seem boring for some because it's not what we usually see on highlight reels, but there's a reason why they're called fundamentals. Simply put, your fundamentals are the most important part of your game. Proper fundamentals allow you to score and move on the court efficiently and is something that every coach is looking for.

The core competencies you should look to develop are dribbling, shooting, passing, and defense. To improve your dribbling, perform dribbling drills every time you practice, and don't try to handle the ball like Kyrie Irving yet. Make sure that you have total control over the ball first and that you know how to keep it secure before trying any flashy moves.

When trying to improve your shooting, start practicing your shooting motion from near the basket first, and move outwards as you develop consistency. Make sure that your shooting motion is consistent from all points of the court, and that you're not heaving the ball when you're shooting from far distances. Instead, add power to your shot through your legs to make sure that your shooting stroke is consistent every shot.

Passing may look as simple as throwing the ball to a teammate, but you want your passes to be crisp and accurate in order to avoid turnovers in the game. To practice your passing, pass the ball to the wall and catch it as it bounces back to you. Do this exercise with the different types of passes until all your passes are sharp yet easy to catch.

4 ways to maximize skill development

Defense is a skill that is showcased through effort and dedication. It is also practiced best when you're practicing with another player. Always make sure that you're at a proper defensive stance and that you exert every effort to stay in front of the opponent to contest his shots.

Increase intensity

Your practice regime should always push you to your limits. You can only improve if you push yourself every time you practice. Do every drill with maximum intensity, even if you start feeling tired. Not only will this improve your skill, it will develop your stamina as well.

When doing dribbling drills, for example, always pound the ball and don't just lazily let it bounce off the ground. This will help you develop a tight handle and will make the ball difficult to steal from you.

Get out of your comfort zone

Practice can start to turn into a chore if you're doing it regularly, unless you push yourself to get out of your comfort zone every time. To make practice more exciting and to expand your skillset, always try to learn or master new things every time you practice.

If you're used to playing in the post, try to get some shots up from the three-point line, while if you're a sharpshooter, try to develop your dribbling and finishing. By doing this, you make yourself an even bigger threat once you're out on the hardwood.

Simulate real game experiences

It's good to get as many shots up as possible to develop consistency, but the speed of the game can seem vastly different from the pace of practice. This is why you should make some moves in practice in the same way that you'd do them while in the game.

Even if you're practicing by yourself, you can still simulate in-game situations, such as through passing the ball to yourself and replicating a catch-and-shoot scenario, or through making a quick crossover and finishing with a reverse layup to mimic contested shots in the paint.

Get a good coach

While you can always look to improve through practicing by yourself, it's always better to have someone who can guide you and tell you what you need to improve on. Having a good coach by your side can accelerate your development as you'd have someone to keep you disciplined and accountable while at the same time teaching you the skills that you should learn.

Plus, a good coach can also teach you principles that you can't develop by yourself, such as off-ball movement, making the right play, and defensive positioning. It would also save you plenty of time if you have someone passing the ball to you during shooting drills instead of having to rebound for yourself.

Study other players

Honing your skills will indeed make you a better basketball player, but to truly learn and elevate your game, it's important to take notes from the best players in the world. Studying the players who have made it to the highest level of the game will not only teach you things you might not learn from practice, but will also give you motivation to keep on working to develop as a player.

It's also advisable to try to mold your game with that of a player you idolize and who you think shares similarities with how you play. This will help you find your role and in turn give you more tips on what you need to focus on. Try molding your game with a player who plays the same position you wish to play.

Point Guard

If you're a point guard, study players like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Rajon Rondo in how they dictate the pace of the game, make the correct passes and move around the court when looking to score.

Shooting Guard

Shooting guards you can mold your game after are Klay Thompson, James Harden, and Bradley Beal. Study how they move with and without the ball, and analyze the moves they make in order to create scoring opportunities.

Small Forward

Great small forwards to look up to are LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant. When watching how they play, take notes on how they manage to get buckets on and off the ball, how they run during the fast break, and what their role is during set plays.

Power Forward

The best power forwards in the game who are continuously revolutionizing the position are Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Watch how these power forwards are no longer confined in the post and how they can score and even handle the ball from all levels of the court. At the same time, observe how they can still grab numerous rebounds despite their versatility on the hardwood.


Another position that has dramatically changed in role throughout the years is center, and the leading centers in the league are Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid. Pay attention to how they move in and outside of the post, and do more than just score on the offensive end. Also examine how they anchor their team's defense and protect the rim from aggressive finishers.