Basketball Offensive Skills for Outwitting Your Opponent

Michael Jordan

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.


The Importance of Being an Offensive Threat

Scoring the basketball is the primary purpose of the game. However, there is far more to scoring than simply shooting the ball through the hoop. Cultivating the ability to score effectively and creatively is required as opponents become more resilient and efficient on the defensive end of the floor. Moreover, great offensive skills will allow you to open up easier avenues to get to the basket, which will enable you to dictate the state of affairs on the basketball court no matter what strategy the defense uses against you.

This IQ Matrix map will specifically focus on essential offensive skills that will add flexibility, creativity and a dash of intelligence to your basketball game.

This article post is part of a Basketball Success Series of IQ Matrix maps. Topics within this series include:

Part 1: Basketball Shooting Skills
Part 2: Basketball Defensive Skills
Part 3: Basketball Dribbling Skills
Part 4: Basketball Passing Skills
Part 5: Basketball Offensive Skills
Part 6: Basketball Rebounding Skills
Part 7: Basketball Movement Tactics
Part 8: Basketball Post Play Skills
Part 9: Basketball Mindset Strategies


The Fundamentals of Triple Threat

The 1st Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map breaks down the fundamentals and mechanics of the Triple Threat attack positioning strategy. We specifically discuss how to position your body and mechanics of the Triple Threat positioning strategy.

Triple Threat Offensive Positioning

The Triple Threat offensive position is an aggressive stance that allows a player 3 attacking options; the dribble, the shot or the pass. It is an explosive, aggressive and controlled stance the readies the player for an attacking assault on the basket. It is in fact a fundamental aspect of basketball that every player must learn and master till it becomes an integrated part of their game.

The following discussion presents you with a list of guidelines you must cultivate in order to integrate the basic fundamentals of the Triple Threat offensive positioning into your game:

Knees Are Bent Slightly

The Triple Threat stance is an aggressive and attacking body formation that requires speed and precision. Because of the sudden power that is required to explode out of this stance at a moment’s notice, it is important to bend your knees slightly in order to improve your quickness and agility off the mark.

Feet Are Shoulder Width Apart

Good balance is a requirement of the Triple Threat stance. To ensure that you are balanced accordingly, make sure that both of your feet are standing about shoulder width apart in a slightly “staggered stance” (one foot being slightly ahead of the other).

Back is Straight

A straight back will provide you with better balance, stability and power when it comes time to shoot, pass or dribble to the basket.

Bottom is Sticking Out

When your Bum is sticking out, this will assist you to pull more power and force from your legs when it’s time to move quickly and with precision off your Triple Threat attacking position.

Vertical Alignment of Body

In order to further improve your balance make sure that your feet, knees and head are vertically aligned as you stand in Triple Threat.

Hands in Shooting Position

Your hands must be positioned on the basketball in a shooting position. This is important, because the moment your Opponent lets their guard down, this will enable you to shoot quickly with precision.

Another important reason to have your hand in shooting position on the ball, is that you will be able to transition to either a dribble or a pass without really needing to adjust the movement of your palm or fingers.

Ball is in Shot Pocket

Finally, you must hold the ball in your Shot Pocket. The Shot Pocket is the area between the top of your hips and the bottom of your ribcage. This is the most threatening position to hold the basketball. As it is this position that will enable you to shoot quickly, pass with precision, or drive explosively towards the basket.

The Fundamentals of Triple Threat Position in Basketball

Location of Triple Threat Positioning

When you receive the basketball you should establish yourself in Triple Threat position anywhere on the perimeter (outside of Key area) or within your personal scoring range. The scoring range will obviously vary from player-to-player, however the Triple Threat stance should stay consistent throughout.

Attacking off Triple Threat

Once you have established Triple Threat positioning, you are now ready to attack off a pass, a shot or dribble. However, in order to do this effectively it may be worthwhile to learn a few fundamentals about utilizing a “Fake” in order to maneuver your Defender out of position, and therefore open up opportunities to attack the basket.

Shot/Ball Fake Guidelines

The following are a set of guidelines you should stick to when faking your shot:

Make your fake slow enough in order to allow your defender’s eyes to recognize and react to it.

Stop the ball short of your nose when going up for the fake.

Lower your bottom as you fake the shot.

Maintain Triple Threat body positioning at all times in order to leave your options open and to remain explosive.

Once your opponent commits and reacts to the fake, immediately take the opportunity to quickly penetrate towards the basket.

Types of Shot Fakes

We already discussed the Ball Fake above. There are however three other “Shot Fakes” you can utilize off of Triple Threat to great effect that will help you maneuver your Opponent out of position and allow you great space and freedom to dribble, pass or shoot the basketball.

Head and Shoulder Fake

The Head & Shoulder Fake involves faking your opponent by simply raising your head and shoulders towards the sky making it seem as though you are about to shoot the basketball. This movement should be quick and deadly. As soon as your Opponent takes the bait, you must immediately attack the basket.

Pass Fake

The Pass Fake simply involves the process of pretending to pass the ball to your Teammate. To do this, begin by lifting the ball from your Shot Pocket and pushing it towards a Teammate as you extend your arms without letting go of the ball. Make sure also to look in your Teammates direction in order to make the fake look more realistic. Once your Opponent leans over to try and deny the ball, quickly pull it back in, and attack their weak foot (the foot that they are not leaning on) off the dribble.

You may need to experiment with the speed of your Pass Fake against different players. If for instance you Fake your Pass and then pull the ball back into your Shot Pocket too quickly, than your Opponent may not even have a chance to move. Conversely, if you do it too slowly, than you will simply be giving your Opponent a chance to get back into good defensive positioning, or worse, they may be quick enough to knock the ball out of your hands.

Drive Fake

The following are a set of guidelines you should stick to when utilizing a drive fake:

1. Square Up to your defender.

2. Instigate a short JAB step towards the opposite side of your penetration.

3. While JAB stepping, move the basketball into your shot-pocket while swinging your head forward.

4. Once your defender moves to deny your penetration, simply pivot in the opposite direction and explode to the basket.

The Mechanics of Your Movement

Once you have faked with a drive, pass, head & shoulder or ball fake, you must immediately attack your defender who at this stage will very likely be out of position and committed towards the direction of your fake.

The following are a set of guidelines for your arms and feet that will help you to move by your defender more efficiently once you have setup your fake:

Arm Movement

In order to get by your defender efficiently it is recommended that you sweep the ball low under their hands in a tight “C” motion before attacking the basket in either a curved or straight line. The lower you are able to sweep the ball, the less likely your defender will be able to get their hands to it.

Footwork Mechanics

Once you have Faked, you now have an option of either taking a Cross-Step or Open-Step by your defender.

The Cross-Step simply involves stepping one foot in front and across the other as you penetrate towards the basket. Conversely the Open-Step involves stepping outwards – opening up your legs – as you penetrate towards the basket. No matter which Step you choose to take, you must ensure that you utilize the front leg to protect the very first bounce of the ball on your way towards the basket.

It is also important to time your 1st Dribble and 1st Step together after your Fake, making sure they hit the ground at the same time. This will effectively minimize travel violations that could be called against you if you do not get the timing right.

Once you have taken your first dribble and first step by your Defender, you must decide whether to attack the basket in a straight or curved penetrating line. This will all depend on the positioning of your Opponents, and on the reaction and speed of the Defender that is guarding you. If in doubt, a straight line to the basket is usually the best way to penetrate. Otherwise just pull the ball up and reset you offense.


Beating Defensive Pressure

The 2nd Branch of this IQ Mind Map delves into some simple yet effective strategies on how to beat defensive pressure throughout the game. We specifically discuss how to handle shot-pocket pressure in scenarios when you have little or no space to move.

Scenario 1: Given Little Space to Move

In this scenario you have the ball in your hands in Triple Threat position, and you are given very LITTLE space to move by your defender.

What can you do?

Solution 1: Reverse Pivot and attack with your outside foot while sweeping the ball low under your defender’s hands.  First sweep the ball in one direction to get the defender leaning and committed. Once your defender is off balance, immediately follow this up by sweeping quickly in the opposite direction and attacking the basket off your dribble.

Solution 2: Square up to your defender, and place the ball on your back knee. This will usually have a tendency to draw your defender forward. Once they go for the bait, quickly Front Pivot and attack the defender’s “Back” while sweeping the ball low under their hands. Once you have moved through with your first step, reach past your defender with your inside arm (your non-dribbling hand) in order to protect the ball and to ensure that your defender remains removed from good defensive positioning. All this time, make sure to stay low and not give away any ground to your defender.

Scenario 2: Given No Space to Move

In this scenario you have the ball in your hands in Triple Threat position, and you are given absolutely NO space to move by your defender.

What can you do?

Solution: Begin by Reverse Pivoting on your inside foot. Follow this up by spinning and sealing your defender behind you and immediately make your way towards the basket.

Scenario 3: Dealing with Shot Pocket Pressure

In this scenario you have the ball in your hands, and your defender is putting a lot of pressure on your shot-pocket area making it very difficult for you to maintain your Triple Threat positioning.

What can you do?

Solution: To begin with you must do whatever it takes to maintain your Triple Threat positioning in order to remain quick and explosive. Now, quickly circle the ball under your defender’s hands, and immediately attack their “Back” off the dribble.

Beating Defensive Pressure in Basketball


Attacking the Basket

The 3rd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map provides a number of effective techniques and strategies that a player can implement when attacking the basket. We specifically break down how to read your defender’s positioning strategy and react accordingly in order to get to the basket.

Countering Your Defender’s Moves

No matter how great of an offensive player you are, there will be times when you will come across a super quality defender who will be able to read you like a book and will therefore be able to react to your fakes and the penetration attempts you make towards the basket. In instances such as these you must develop a repertoire of “counter moves” that will knock your defender off balance, and will therefore open up avenues for you to attack the basket off your dribble.

The following presents you with a combination of 3 progressive offensive movement strategies that will help throw your defender off balance and allow you to create space for yourself to penetrate towards the basket. Keep in mind that this progression isn’t complete. I have left it up to you to decide which Offensive Move you will finish off with.

Move 1: This move is very slow. Begin by drawing back your dribble in order to pull your Defender closer to you.

Move 2: This move is fast. Once you see that your Defender is committed to reach for the ball, then immediately attack your Defender’s “Back” off your dribble.

Move 3: If the first two moves haven’t enabled you to beat your Defender off the dribble, then you would simply experiment with dribble combinations that will unbalance your defender and open up new avenues towards the basket. Have a read of the Dribbling Skills Mind Map for further clarification and ideas.

Reading Your Defender’s Positioning

Here we briefly discuss a number of things you must observe in respect to your defender’s positioning on the basketball court in relation to you. Here are the offensive options you should consider:

Shoot the Basketball whenever you are open, when your Defender backs down, or when your Defender’s hands are not in your shot-pocket.

Drive and Attack the Basket when your Defender is in close proximity to you. Remember to attack your Defender’s “Back”. This will put them on the back-foot and their reaction speed will by somewhat slower than if you attack the direction their “Chest” is facing.

Apply the “Fake” whenever your Defender is about at mid-distance from you. In this position you cannot shoot and you are a little too far away from your Defender to be able to penetrate towards the basket. Fake your shot, bring the Defender closer to you and then attack the basket.

Attacking the Basket

Finishing Your Shot

You have made all the effort to get to the basket. Now what?

Now you must finish your shot and get a score for your team. Here are a number of things you must avoid doing when it comes to finishing your shot at the basket:

Avoid the Charge

You must be very careful to avoid being called for the charge. To do this, make sure that you stay balanced and light-footed as you penetrate towards the basket. Keep in mind that it is easier to change direction off both feet than it is off one foot.

Avoid Being Stripped

Avoid being stripped of the basketball as you make your way towards the basket. To do this make sure to hide the ball on the outside of your hip and away from your defender. Turning your back towards your defender and leaning into them as you penetrate towards the basket can also work quite effectively in your favor.

Finally, to avoid the strip, make sure to use your outside hand (the hand furthest away from your defender) when shooting the basketball. This will enable you greater freedom and ability to finish off your shot successfully.


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Final Thoughts

Learning the fundamentals and dynamics of the offensive game is possibly the most difficult aspect of basketball to master. It takes patience, discipline, confidence and courage to step outside of your comfort zone and experiment with a creative repertoire of moves that will keep defender’s second guessing you each and every time you step out onto the basketball court. However, even though the difficulty may be great, the rewards are certainly worth the effort and time to help you instill the qualities and skills of a talented and offensively creative basketball player.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any further queries or questions, or would like to share your experiences about this topic, than please do so in the comments section below.


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Basketball Offensive Skills

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.