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Basketball Ball Handling for Awesome Play

Wong Wei Long Singapore Slingers point guardWong Wei Long, Singapore Slingers Point Guard (photo by Danny Toh)

By Alan Yuen

Difference between ball handling and dribbling

Dribbling is essentially part of ball handling and is a skill that can be practiced on your own. On the other hand, ball handling requires good knowledge of the game and encompasses dribbling, passing and decision-making on the court.

The burden of engaging every player in the team and ensuring that offense flows continuously falls almost exclusively on the point guard. Point guards are after all also known as the floor generals of the game.

Ball Handling Scenario

It is the final minute of the game and the point guard sprints towards the scoring zone with ball on hand on a fast break. In a short span of 3 - 5 seconds, he has to scan the entire court to identify where the opponents and his teammates are positioned before he can decide when to make a pass.

If any of his team mates are in an open position, he will make a pass. Otherwise, the point guard will continue dribbling to create more space and opportunities for his team mates. The point guard usually has to make such decisions under high pressure and maintain perfect control of the ball simultaneously, often times flanked by the opposing team defenders.

Under such situations, ball handling is very important as mishandling may result in a turnover and loss of ball possession.

The Importance of Ball Handling for Point Guards

Much of the point guard's role is to read the game and respond to the opponent’s game play. Hand-mind-eye coordination is paramount for point guards. During offense, point guards try to create opportunity for their team to penetrate the opponent’s defense and score.

Chris Paul of Los Angeles ClippersChris Paul of Los Angeles Clippers

A good example of an outstanding Point Guard is Chris Paul of the LA Clippers. His excellent ball handling enables him to get to his positions decisively – either by crossing over or simply maneuvering past his defender.  After which, he will create chances for his teammates to score. Otherwise, he will take the shot himself.

Chris Paul’s ability to shake off his defenders allows him to read the game more clearly, thereby enabling him to create more opportunities for his teammates to score. Chris Paul’s excellent ball handling is what allows him to dictate the flow of the offense, read the oppnent’s defense and make the right decisions.

Ball Handling in Gameplay: Running the Pick and Roll

Good ball handling is crucial when running the bread-and-butter play of modern offense. When the opponent’s big (Power Forward/Center) comes close and sets up a screen, thereby placing pressure on the point guard, the point guard (PG) has to be confident enough to dribble close to the screener without allowing a ball steal to happen. By doing so, the defender is forced to move back, and the screen becomes useless. As other players of the opposing team will usually move in anticipation of an effective screen, a good ball handler will expect such a move and execute a quick crossover away from the screen, towards the basket before the defender can react.

When this happens, the screener will roll (run) towards the basket. At this point, the PG is surrounded in traffic. He has his defender behind him, his rollman nearby and probably multiple secondary defenders hovering near him. The PG has just a split-second to decide if he can find an opening to slip a pass to the rollman for an easy score or to drive towards the basket to create space for the pass or score.

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