There's no doubt that working on your jumpshot is very important for developing as a player. Being able to knock down open jumpers and stretching the floor is critical for any team at every level. However, often overlooked is the ability to finish at the rim. It may not be as fun to work on as training your three point shot, but it is essential for becoming more effective and versatile during games.
Take Kyrie Irving for example. His incredible ability to finish at the rim with 7 footers contesting him helped allow the Cleveland Cavaliers secure the 2016 NBA Championship. While he clearly has a knack for finishing strong with great touch, there's no doubt he works tirelessly on his finishing ability.
Here are 3 important keys to work on when finishing at the rim. The only way to truly get better is through purposeful training. That's why we designed the Dr. Dish All-Star as the only shooting machine on the market designed to work on finishing basketball drills as well as outside shooting drills.
Focus on Footwork
Having proper footwork is very important in all facets of the game and especially when attacking the basket. The best finishers are able to take off both feet, or either foot, to finish effectively.
The most common way of learning to shoot a layup, for example, is to take off of your left foot on the right side and right foot on the left side. This is the most fundamental way of teaching finishing at the rim. However, great finishers are able to take off either foot and can throw the defense off if they take off the "wrong" foot at the rim. One of my favorite "wrong" foot finishers is Tony Parker. While he is a smaller player for NBA standards, he's able to finish over 7 footers consistently many times because he catches them off-guard with his diverse and adept footwork.
The best way to finish with complete body control, though, is off of two feet. This allows you to have a strong base, absorb contact, and even pump fake if needed. As with your jump shot, balance and body control are essential to finishing around the rim. Work on finishing strong with power when jumping off two feet.
While different circumstances call for different types of finishes, it's important to work on all types of footwork to be ready for game-like situations.
Finish Strong Through Contact
This is an essential one, and can be easily practiced. Both contact and the expectation of contact are enough to alter a shot, but it's very important not to shy away from contact. Rather, in many cases, it's actually better to seek it out. Players have to adjust to keep the shot from being blocked as they go up in the air, and players often have to compensate by putting extra force into the shot, or adjusting the arc to get it up over opponents.
All of this can be simulated in practice with basketball drills. Have your players drive on each other and establish contact close to the rim. Teach your players not only to be ready for contact, but the possibility that another player may dart in to try to swat the ball away or to take away the lane to the hoop. The more prepared your players are, the better.
The expectation of contact can be very intimidating, but with exposure this effect decreases. Players who are comfortable with contact don’t back away from finishing just because a player is there to defend. Slowing momentum or stopping to avoid contact risks a turnover or an offensive foul. Players who finish aggressively and aren’t afraid of contact can overpower their defenders and draw the defensive foul.
It's important that players do not expect or hope for a foul call when absorbing contact. Basketball is a physical sport and different referees will call contact in different ways. Practicing through contact will only help prepare for game situations.
Diversify Finishing Moves
There are many different ways to finish at the rim. And while closer shots may seem easy, you'll see many missed layups at all levels, including the NBA and NCAA. That's why it's essential to have many different types of finishing moves in your bag of tricks to be as effective as possible. Practicing one-foot and two-foot layups are important but how often do you get wide open layups in games? Not very.
Through purposeful basketball drills, focus on finishing in diverse ways. Below is a list of different ways to finish at the rim:
One foot finishes
Two foot finishes
Right hand finishes
Left hand finishes
Jump stop finishes
Pump fake (Up and under) finishes
Double clutch finishes
Finishes through contact
Fake pass finishes
Combination of those above
Keep opponents guessing by constantly expanding upon your players’ repertoire of in-close moves. Emphasize the role of unexpected changes in direction, the use of changing pace to throw an opponent’s speed off, or coming in with unexpected force.
Most of all, let your players know that all these moves have their own advantages and can come in handy in certain situations. Let your players grow to feel comfortable using their own discretion to decide how to finish, and stress that versatility is the key to keeping your team from becoming predictable. Establish enough moves and your team will become a talented and forceful presence at the rim, with too many options to predict and too much experience to intimidate.
There are numerous ways in which an offensive drive may result in action close to the rim. Teach your players to be experienced, unafraid, and efficient in finishing strong and capitalizing on high-percentage shots. Creating a scoring threat inside exhausts the other team and keeps them guessing where the next shot will take place. Footwork, experience with physicality and versatility all go a long way in establishing your team as a premier presence at the rim.