Basketball Tutorial: How to Move Without The Ball Like Klay Thompson

A lot of players don’t value moving without the basketball. Often times, in fact way too many times, I see courts where players just stand around. Sometimes they even have their hands on their hips just watching their own game. Honestly, just buy some popcorn and sit down in the stands at that point. Don’t be enjoying the show…

Make it.

Does standing around add anything for your team? No. Almost 99% of the time, standing doesn’t help anyone but side-line photographers who can’t take action shots.

Is it possible to create opportunities for yourself and your teammates without the ball? 

I’d like to answer that question with another question…


Of course there are opportunities! 

As discussed in the video, you play 90% of the game without the ball (the small exception might be if you’re a point-guard. Even so, off ball movement is still extremely valuable for point guards, especially right after that first pass to a teammate after bringing the ball up).

If you’re not using that 90% chunk of time to your advantage, you’re hurting your team. 

You don’t need to be athletic, you don’t need to be an exceptionally intelligent player, you just need to understand a few key concepts of off-ball movement and be applying them in game at all times.

3 key concepts and 3 Real Game Examples:

Off-Ball Key Concepts: 

  • Always Be Moving
  • Be Mindful of Spacing
  • Be Constantly Trying to Fake Your Defender

Always be moving: A good defender stays tight on you when he needs to, and plays help defense when he doesn’t need to stay tight. Your constant movement means he’s going to be directing his attention more to you than help-side defense. This creates opportunities for your team. Secondly, it’s simply a numbers game. The more times you try something shifty, the more likely at least one of these shifty off ball movement will work. For example, constantly trying to back-door cut, or filling open spots for a is eventually going to get you something. Having constant movement’s going to be make your defender tired and less likely to always be in the way of the constant plays you’re trying to create. You need a single play to make his defense look silly. Keep trying those keys until the door unlocks. 

Be Mindful of Spacing: Get to open spots. Don’t stand around crowding the key, or camping out on a wing and expecting results. Be mindful of your spot, and be mindful of your teammates spots as well. Don’t run over to a teammate who was just about to beat his defender for the lane– you’d only be bringing your man over as help defense. Be thinking of these valuable spots, how to get to them without your defender, or opening up your teammates spot with a solid screen.

Be Constantly Trying to Fake Out Your Defender: Again, it’s a numbers game. The more times you’re trying to fake your defender, the more likely one of those times is going to succeed. Keep it moving. I like to watch the back of my defender’s head, taking advantage of the exact moment he ignores me, to cut to the basket or the three point line. Learn different ways to misguide and set-up your man. Perhaps taking a hard step to the basket only to sprint the opposite direction for the open jump-shot.

Essentially, taken these concepts into consideration, you need to be hard to guard even if you don’t have the ball. This is what’s going to create opportunities for your team.

Real Game Examples:

1.) Working Low:

When the ball is on the opposite wing that you’re on, it’s important to “work low.” What this means is, starting closer to the base-line/basket area rather than the top of the key. Working low enables your off-ball movement key concepts to pay off easier. Why do they pay off easier? Starting lower means your defender needs to protect the rim and “stay honest” on defense. Starting your move around the three point line, is ineffective. Your defender doesn’t need to worry about protecting the rim (for example, if you were to back door cut.)

Working low means your defender can’t cheat and be lazy. Another good reason why you want to work low is because when you catch the pass off of your movement or screen, you’re in a great mid range shooting position. If you started your off ball movement around the three point line, you’re only in a position to catch and shoot a three– not as consistent a shot as a relaxed elbow jumper should be.

2.) Base-line Drag

When you’re on the off-ball wing, and your point guard penetrates the opposite wing, open a passing lane for him with a “base-line drag“. This means you might want to get some “base-line drag” going– move down to the corner spot. Your defender (who’s help-side because you’re on the weak side) is forced to either lose you entirely for wide open corner three, or guard you closer and open the key up for your teammates. Win-win.

3.) Move Up from Penetration

If you’re inside the key, on the post perhaps, and a teammate is penetrating, you need to move from that penetration. Give your teammate the spacing he needs to go to work. Don’t let your defender guard two people by not moving far away enough. On another note, don’t just run away like a chicken with your head cut off– get to a passing angle so the penetrating guard can still feed you the ball for an easy bucket. If he’s looking to draw your defender away from you, make sure his pass is also able to get to you. Easy money.

And if you’re looking for tips to create space with the ball, here’s another sick basketball tutorial:

Two sick moves to create space WITH the ball:

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