Five Tips to Improve Dribbling Offense & Defense

I just read Stuff Good Players Should Know by Dick DeVenzio. This is a much more condensed write-up than I could have written. I actually have ten pages worth of highlights from this book. DeVenzio clarified, introduced, reminded, and confirmed various aspects of the game for me. It is easy to get lost in the shear amount of sets and drills on the Internet. Not that this stuff is not important, but most of the problems are not the sets or the drills. They are in the execution. This book provides fundamentals for how to play in virtually any system. I’m listing five tips to improve dribbling on offense as well as defending the dribble.

The dribbling lessons were the most critical takeaways, but I could have just as easily summed up his thoughts on transition, offensive rebounding, or boxing out. Eric Musselman has his own take of the book. I would highly recommend this book to any basketball coach and player.

Tips on Offense

1. Avoid “P-Dribbles.”

A player that is dribbling the ball and not moving is being inefficient. DeVenzio described these players as “peeing with the ball.” As a result of the dribbling, the movement off the ball is worse. The person with the ball is inviting better defensive pressure if they are p-dribbling since they eliminate the shot fake opportunity. As DeVenzio claimed, “You can play an entire season without taking any backwards or sideways dribbles.” Watch the best players on television (minus James Harden) and note how efficient they are with the dribble.

2. Burglar Alarms.

That is the term that DeVenzio uses to describe how the help defenders interpret a dribble. It’s an easy cue to notify an off-ball defender it is time to help. This piles on the point about why P-Dribbles are dumb, but it also lends itself to another point he makes.

3. One move.

The more times a dribbler changes direction, crosses over, and goes behind the back within one continuous dribble, the more a mistake. All that is really need is one move to get free.

4. Effective dribblers take up more than one defender.

If a player is making one move that is going north, they should draw extra attention. That extra attention is where the defense can be broken down. Any kick out or drive and dish is where a defense is especially vulnerable.

5. Score Inside without Dribbling.

DeVenzio argues that at least two lay-ups are lost every game because players over-dribble in the paint. The burglar alarm sounds and shots get blocked. Offensive rebounders should be especially conscious of this.

Tips on Defense

1. Faking.

The most popular and obvious place that defenders should fake is in 2-on-1 situations. Other coaches might refer to this as stunting. That is not the only place. Even with a standard man to man look, players covering the ball can fake a reach and get a player uncomfortable. DeVenzio claims that faking is not done enough.

2. Palms Up.

It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard this, but the reason and the analogy that DeVenzio gave are probably new. He claims that referees are going to call a foul whether it is a foul or it looks like a foul. Not only that, but if the palms are down it causes a player to lunge and lose balance if they miss the ball. DeVenzio advocates that players should think the floor has eyes and to keep their palms hidden. This description is more memorable for young players who develop a bad habit of reaching.

3. Do not confront in the open court.

Given the momentum of the offensive player and the space available, the odds of being effective in this spot are low. This confirmed a point for me, but again he added a caveat that I had not considered. If a teammate is in extremely close pursuit on the side or behind the player with the ball, you can confront the ball-handler. I have found that defenders want to do this especially after a live ball turnover to atone for a mistake. In reality they are compounding the error.

4. Threaten, do not attempt.

Attempting to go for a steal is taking the forbidden fruit from the garden. On the contrary, players should threaten to steal. By making every dribble worrisome, DeVenzio argues that an offense will make a mistake as a reward to good defense. If the defense is faking and containing the dribbler, that dribbler will probably take more dribbles than necessary and the offense will break down as a result.

5. Vultures in the Dessert.

That’s the analogy that DeVenzio uses for a dribble that is dead. Everything that a “help defense” learned about being in help position is out the window at this point. The player on the ball should be giddy at the prospect of a deflection.

Dick DeVenzio’s Stuff Good Players Should Know is the tenth book of thirty-seven that I hope to read this off-season. I highly recommend reading it as this summary does not due it justice. If you have any books for me please share in the comments. 

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