• Jack Fleming

Decision Making Shooting Drills


Before any great sequence in the NBA where the ball has been zipped around, penetration, extra pass to one of the worlds best shooters there has been a series of decisions. See two players then find one, move off the ball into vision away from your defender, a pass on time and on target and FINALLY the decision then the skill of shooting the basketball. In the game, the decision precedes the skill. This doesn’t mean that technique is not critical to success, both must be drilled.


You can drill in three phases, let your coaching philosophy deem the ratio between the three. Credit this to Peter Lonergan, head of High Performance Coach Development for Basketball Australia.

(1) Technique = eg. form shooting

(2) Volume = eg. Horseshoe drill

(3) Situational = eg. drills seen below


However, through strategic constraints within your situational drills you can promote great decisions with sound technique. Expert performers are faster and more accurate in anticipation and decision making, also known as advanced cue utilisation (Mann et al. 2007). Providing opportunity for learners to make decisions in a game context, the WHY and HOW can be practiced simultaneously. Where every repetition is not exactly the same, your drills can represent the game in a more accurate way. This is also known as random practice, which research has shown to lead to greater effectiveness in motor learning. Here are some situational drills below, along with accompanying video of my U16 Diamond Valley Eagles boys giving them a go. When we let the game be the teacher, it does not mean you don’t coach — but it might mean you talk less.


While the benefits are evident within the research, one of the greatest challenges is players will revert to old habits. One of my athletes if we did contested finishing 1v1 100 times, he might shoot 99 of those shots on his strong hand. Therefore your coaching must challenge their skill set, by putting constraints within your drills. Create the understanding of what will be required at the highest level, or towards their next level of play.


Here is a video of some shooting drills that include decision making, the diagrams and constraints will be explained below.


https://youtu.be/xIc5m5GFEps


DHO 1v1 (Credit: Ash Arnott)

  • Set Up: Cone on top of the key just below the 3pt line, cone just inside the elbow. Adjust according to athleticism of the athletes.

  • Players will start on the baseline in line with the lane. On the coaches call (Go) player 2 will dribble up the lane to the inside of the top cone, player 4 will run up the lane and outside the top cone. Player 2 will flip the ball to player 4, and they will play 1v1 to the basket. Player 2 must get around the cone on the elbow and then return to defence.

  • Possible CONSTRAINTS: must finish with your weak hand, must finish on one bounce, must finish off two feet.


Blind Baseline Drift

  • Set Up: Coach on the wing, player with the ball in the corner. Weak side wing, defender on weak side block facing the ball.

  • Player 2 will throw it to the coach, chase it and rip it out of his hands simulating a baseline drive. Player will 4 move on the penetration anywhere on the weak side of the floor, player 3 will face the ball and attempt to steal the pass. Player 2 will find player 4 with a pass which he must catch and shoot, player 3 will try and contest.

  • Possible CONSTRAINTS: player 4 must catch and shoot, player 2 only has 2 dribbles to get to the charge circle, must throw his pass off one hand.

  • Coaching ideas: encourage the no look pass, coach your defence to contest without fouling, offence think if the ball has eyes can it see me?


2v1 Shooting



  • Set up: same as blind baseline drift, except with 2 players on the weakside.

  • Pass or shoot decision, player 2 can pass to whoever is open (1 or 4). Player must shoot or make the extra pass.

  • Progression = 2v1+1. (Seen in video, another player will start next to player 2). He will run up, give the coach a high 5 and then be back in on defence.

2v2 Mid Pick and Roll (Credit: Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence)



Set Up: players behind one another, middle player with a ball and defender at the back. 2nd defender on the free throw line.

  • Player 2 can go left or right, simulating a middle or pick and roll. His partner player 5 will roll opposite. x5 the defender will attempt to momentarily guard both, while x2 will fight to get back in front or veer back and switch.

  • Possible CONSTRAINTS: no switching, must fight to get back in front, lay ups only, the offence cannot go outside the elbows.

  • Coaching ideas: encourage passes outside the strike zone, therefore the pocket pass or the lob/hook pass.

3v3 Mid Pick and Roll (Credit: Peter Lonergan)



  • Set Up: coach with the ball on the wing, 1 will pop to get open. On the time of pass 5 will sprint to middle pick and roll, x5 the defender must touch the baseline then he is back in the drill. 1 will read whether he has as shot for himself, a roll pass or a throwback if x2 has pulled in to tag the roll.

  • Possible CONSTRAINTS: no switching, no going under screens, must take two dribbles minimum off the pick and roll, must switch.

Please note: none of these drills are mine, they are all stolen or tweaked. Use your constraints wisely to preach great habits on both sides of the ball.

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