9 Essential Skills Every Basketball Player Should Learn

Basketball players need to always be evolving to become the best that they can. With all of that said, there are certain skills that people need to practice when they are first starting out. These essential skills create a nice base for any player.

As far as essential skills are concerned for basketball, the nine below are always worth focusing on early on. By learning these basics, a person can then go from there and build as a player overall.

1. Dribbling

To move around the court with the basketball, a player must be able to dribble properly. That means not only getting the basic techniques down, but understanding that there needs to be ways to protect the ball from being stolen consistently.

Dribbling at its core is something that needs to become second nature for a basketball player. Moving around comfortably while dribbling is the only way to become a better basketball player, regardless of position.

Practice makes perfect with dribbling, but getting the essentials down matters. That means focusing on dribbling with the fingers, not the entire hand. Keeping the head up while dribbling is also crucial to know where they are going and stay as fast as possible.

Do not worry about any fancy dribbling skills initially, as this will throw off most players. The real focus should be on being comfortable dribbling, and understanding some of the basic rules along the way.


2. Shooting

The goal of basketball is to score more baskets than the opposition, so of course, one of the top skills a player needs to learn involves shooting. There are so many players out there who have a readily available basketball hoop, which makes it a pretty simple skill to work on alone or with someone else.

Shooting starts as stationary, but the best players will learn how to shoot in all different types of court situations. This means practicing shot off the dribble, shots off of a pass, and so much more.

In the beginning, focus on getting the form down more than anything. Start with shorter shots, with great, repetitive form. Not everyone must shoot the exact same, but the same principles mostly apply.


3. Rebounding

The art of rebounding involves a lot of knowledge as far as reading basketball shots off the rim and being in the right position. A good rebounder is not necessarily the strongest and most athletic, because there are ways to get in position without pushing around too much.

Maybe the top tip as far as developing the rebounding skill is learning about boxing out. That involves finding the player a person is going up against, and boxing them out by getting down and in front of them. This gives a player positioning, and they can start to fight for a rebound legally with a clear advantage.

There is a level of anticipation with rebounding that people need to try to master as well. As a person sees more and more missed shots, they will begin to realize where balls are likely to bounce. Having a strong reaction time will help with rebounding tremendously.


4. Passing

A basketball player needs to know how to pass, and how to pass at the right time. The last thing anybody wants to become is a ball hog, and it is not conducive to team basketball in the first place. When a new player begins to develop passing skills, they can really start to see the team aspect come together.

Different types of passes are necessary for certain situations. A standard chest pass makes a lot of sense to get the ball to someone else quickly. A bounce pass provides a bit more touch, and the person does not feel like they are in a bad situation in traffic. Sometimes, a baseball pass or a pass thrown over the head can open up the game a bit more for longer passes ahead.

Having some touch with passes makes a lot of sense. It also matters to pass the ball in the right position so that the teammate is in the right spot to make a play. Getting these basics down takes time, but there are ways to develop the skill little by little as time goes on. From practicing alone against a wall to team practice, this skill is easy to refine with patience.


5. Finishing

Driving to the basket and creating offensive opportunities matters. It is not all about shooting jump shots, as a team is rarely going to win by relying on those specifically. Finishing near the basket with a layup or dunk is a crucial step in the growth process as an athlete.

The basics need to be accomplished first, but then it is about going up against actual defenders and scoring in traffic. This can sometimes be hard to practice as far as skills are concerned, but some drills work specifically for that.


6. Defending An Individual

Every basketball player has their own experience guarding their individual matchup when they are on the floor. Learning skills necessary to stay in front of an opponent when they have the ball, and then guarding them when they are without the ball, is a useful skill to have.

For the most part, the simple concept of keeping in front of them and between them and the basket is the key to success. There are countless other nuances, but a big part of defense is also hustling and beating the opponent to a spot.

If each player on the floor takes care of their own responsibility, it makes for a better defensive team overall. There are certain instances where a player needs to rely on their teammates to help out defensively, but taking care of the individual matchup is the main priority individually.


7. Team Defense

Remember that help talk about relying on teammates on defense? That works both ways, as players need to learn how to provide team defense assistance as well.

Team defense is very effective, as players can help out on those driving to the basket, switch on pick and rolls, and so much more.

Learning the skill and some of the team defense basics will make a player valuable almost right away. There is nothing worse than playing with someone who does not help out on team defense. It can sink an entire team when that is the case.


8. Footwork

Proper footwork on the basketball court is going to make life just a little bit easier overall. Whether a person is on offense or defense, having a footboard necessary to make plays will make the game so much easier.

Working on footwork early on in the learning process is a major step in the right direction. This allows people to be very creative with what they can accomplish, and no one has to feel like they are in any way overwhelmed. Footwork can open up many creative opportunities on offense, but it works as far as defense is concerned to stay in front of the opposition.

Proper footwork is also necessary to move around the court and be as limber as possible. There are way too many basketball players out there who do not necessarily appear like athletes because they lack true basketball footwork.

I listed the most effective footwork drills in this post.


9. Screening

No matter what type of offense a basketball team runs, there is some level of screening involved. Learning how to screen is one of the crucial parts of the game, as so many players do not understand the concept and the ability to get teammates open.

As far as learning the skill is concerned, setting the screen is a relatively simple process. A person needs to be in the right position, stand their ground, and prepare for some level of impact. However, knowing how to set screens properly and all the other nuances can take quite a bit of time.

If a player does not know how to set screens properly, they will not do much as far as a team game is concerned. Learning early on how to time things up properly and move after setting the screen is crucial in the learning process.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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