Skills We Should Teach More, Part I: What Should the Point Guard Do After Passing the Ball?

In Skill Development by Brock Bourgase

What should the point guard do when they have made a wing entry pass and instigated the half-court offence?

Sit in quiet contemplation: if one’s role is to handle the ball, what are they without it? Are they still a player or merely an observer? Does giving up the rock entail giving up one’s self? Is their performance a result of their effort or the position in which they have been placed? Atlas was still a man (actually a Titan) before the world was placed on his shoulders and retains his identity despite his onerous burden.

Cut through the key and…

  • …post-up: useful against a smaller opponent and when using one or two “go to moves.”
  • …fill the near corner: crowds the wing if they intent to penetrate but provides an immediate outlet and possible high percentage shot if the player currently holding the ball cannot create their own shot.
  • …fill the weak-side corner: a thoughtful choice if they wing will be penetrating and drawing a help-side defender.
  • …set a screen: the low exchange or the flex cut may provide a post with a half-second of freedom from their defender and room to operate.
  • …curl around to the weak-side wing: this initiates a perimeter rotation away from the ball and may lead to a scoring opportunity (shot, pass, dribble) if the ballhandler can get into the paint or makes a skip pass.  The point guard can use the weak-side post and run a circle cut.
  • …give and go: an aggressive manoeuvre if the defence is not playing closely and a an option that can be used in any offence. A U.C.L.A. screen could involve the high post player in the action.

Screen away and set a…

  • …shuffle screen: the opposite wing can enter the high post and curl towards the hoop for a quick pass.  A simple away screen enables a different player to come to the top of the key and facilitates the ball reversal.
  • …downscreen the help-side defender: if there is a penetration, this will lead to a wide open shot when the wing kicks the ball to the shooter. The action also permits a post who can shoot or another forward with scoring potential to come to the top of the key and execute their best skill.
  • …backscreen: the point guard would need to fake a cut into the paint for a step or two before coming back to the perimetre to back-screen the weak-side wing.  The defence might be caught off-guard and the athletic wing could receive a lob pass.

Participate in a swift ball reversal: if the point stays at the top and receives a reversal pass from the wing, they must not hesitate to make a decision. The first look should be inside, to see if the strong-side post has sealed their defender with a drop-step. The next look would be to the weak side to determine if any shooters are immediately open. If the point was comfortable with their offence, they could attempt a fake (jab-step, shot-fake, head-fake) and attack but I think that the prompt reversal opens up so many more options.

Fake a cut and return to the top of the key: suitable if the point guard is a skilled player who is tightly defended. They may have lost their dribble or need a quick break from their manic defender in order to reposition and better attack the defence.

Use a flare screen: this will open up the court for the point should they receive a skip pass. The screen will also be in a good position should they choose to roll or pop after setting the screen.

Swiftly cut behind the ballhandler and receive a hand-off: if the point guard can create their shot succinctly, this hand-off screen may provide all the space that they need. When the wing rolls to the basket, they can seal the defender and create a good passing lane to the block.

Set a ballscreen: I don’t care for this play because it does not create a mismatch. When a big sets the ballscreen, the other players normally have cleared out and formed a weak-side triangle. If the two defenders cannot handle the screen, a help-side defender must rotate, opening up an opportunity for the perimetre players. When a guard sets the screen, there is no mismatch if the opponent switches the screen and the screener is most likely to N.B.A. roll. A big can roll to the hoop or slip the screen, two high percentage options.

Get back on defence and stop any run-outs: at least the point guard won’t be in the way and should give the team a head start on defence.

Walk towards the ball or stand in place without being ready: two horrendous choices, displayed in the worst pick-up games, which badly clog the half-court offence. Any of the other above options would help the team more.

There are dozens of options for the point guard after they have passed. If a point guard does not have the nerve or intensity to force the action with a rapid and aggressive play, they should not be on the court.  Even though they do not have the ball, it is still an opportunity for the point guard to take leadership.