Basketball Passing Skills for Improving Your Team Game

Kareen Abdul-Jabbar

One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.


The Importance of Keeping Things Simple

Passing is a critical component of a basketball game that requires agility, speed and a deep seated awareness of the ball, your teammates and opponents. Moreover, passing is multi-dimensional in nature, and is only as effective to the extent that it is utilized correctly on the basketball court at any given moment in time. Consequently, simplicity is usually the best strategy to use, however simplicity requires patience and practice, and passing only becomes effective when utilized at exactly the right moment at the right time on the basketball court.

This IQ Matrix map will focus on the fundamental aspects of passing the basketball under specific scenarios and circumstances that could eventuate on the basketball court.

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


Passing Off the Dribble

The 1st Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map focuses on passing techniques you can utilize off the dribble. We specifically break down 4 common passes that are utilized off the dribble during a typical basketball game.

Air Pass

To throw an off the dribble Air Pass, begin by dribbling the ball with one hand while moving forward on the basketball court. Next, pick up the ball with your dribble hand and quickly pass to a teammate in one motion.

When to Use the Air Pass

Utilize the Air Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When running on the Fast Break.
  • Getting the ball to an open shooter in quick succession.
  • When a Defender attacks your drive.
  • When spotting your Teammate down court after taken a dribble.

Bounce Pass

To throw an off the dribble Bounce Pass, begin by dribbling the ball with one hand while moving forward on the basketball court. Next, pick the ball up with your dribble hand and quickly pass to a Teammate in one motion. Make sure that the ball bounces once at about two thirds distance between you and your Teammate.

When to Use the Bounce Pass

Utilize the Bounce Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When running on the Fast Break.
  • For long distance passing.
  • When Defender’s hands are up.

Hook Pass / Reverse Pivot

To throw an off the dribble Hook Pass, simply rotate your arm around the basketball and wrap it around the Defender in a “follow-through” motion.

When to Use the Hook Pass

Utilize the Hook Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • When the 2nd Defender arrives on the scene to try and double team you.
  • When a Defender is cutting off the angle of a direct pass to a teammate.
  • When you are using your off-hand as an arm-bar.

Discus Pass

To throw an off the dribble Discus Pass, begin by dribbling down the court. As soon as the ball rises, cut the ball back immediately at waist level with your dribbling hand, and throw it with an underarm sideways motion. Make sure that your passing hand finishes with a follow-through motion and ends up above your opposite shoulder.

When to Use the Discus Pass

Utilize the Discus Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When transitioning down court on the Fast Break.
  • Out of bounds passing scenarios.
  • For quick speed passing over half or three quarter court.
  • Whenever you need to cover a long distance with your pass.
  • Whenever you are on the move running with the ball.

Basketball Passes off the Dribble


One-Handed Passing Techniques

The 2nd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map focuses on the fundamentals of one-handed passing techniques you can utilize during a basketball game.

Air Flick Pass

To throw an Air Flick Pass, begin by bending your wrist down as though you are about to shoot the basketball, and throw the ball by flicking it with your wrist. Make sure to use a follow-through wrist motion that points in the direction of your pass.

When to Use the Air Flick Pass

Utilize the Air Flick Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • Against tall or short Defenders.
  • Against high or low arm position.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When your teammates are cutting towards the basket.
  • When your teammates are getting open from screens.
  • When passing from the Perimeter to the Wing with the Defender giving you NO space.
  • When passing to the Wing off a penetration East West dribble.
  • When passing to teammates standing in front of their Defender.

Standard Bounce Pass

To throw a Standard Bounce Pass, begin by getting low to the ground. Next, throw the pass with one hand allowing the ball to bounce two-thirds distance between you and your teammate. Make sure to also follow-through with your hand and point your fingers in the direction of the pass.

When to Use the Standard Bounce Pass

Utilize the Standard Bounce Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing and Perimeter.
  • Against tall Defenders.
  • Against high arm position.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • When there is No defensive pressure.
  • During “one pass away” scenarios.
  • When passing to the low post.
  • When you are on the Wing making a backdoor pass.
  • When your teammate is in front of their Defender.
  • During perimeter Pick & Roll scenarios.

Hook Bounce Pass

To throw a Hook Bounce Pass, begin by bringing your arm around and outward with a slight bend in the elbow. Next, hook your extended arm over the top of the ball and pass around the side of your Defender.

When to Use the Hook Bounce Pass

Utilize the Hook Bounce Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing and Perimeter.
  • Passing into a Post Player.
  • Passing from a Post position on the court.
  • Against tall Defenders.
  • Against high arm position.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When passing into a Cutter.
  • During Perimeter Pick & Roll scenarios.

Drop Bounce Pass

To throw a Drop Bounce Pass, begin with your back towards your Defender. From this position Drop a pass with one hand by the Defender’s side.

When to Use the Drop Bounce Pass

Utilize the Drop Bounce Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing from the Post.
  • Against tall Defenders.
  • When a Teammate is cutting towards the basket.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.

Wrap Around Pass

To throw a Wrap Around Pass, simply wrap the ball under your Defender’s arms with one hand.

When to Use the Wrap Around Pass

Utilize the Wrap Around Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off dribble penetration.
  • Against tall Defenders.
  • Against high arm position.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • When you have little space to give off a pass.
  • When the Shot Blocker is body-to-body with you.
  • When the Defender is on your inside shoulder.
  • When your Defender plays the passing angles perfectly.

Around the Back Pass

To throw an Around the Back Pass, begin by aligning your shoulders in the direction of the pass, then wrapping the pass around your back to your Teammate.

When to Use the Around the Back Pass

Utilize the Around the Back Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • Against short Defenders.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • When defense is too close for a simple chest or bounce pass.
  • When your Defender plays the passing angle perfectly.
  • When driving the lane and you are body-to-body against the Shot Blocker.

Sky Hook Pass

To throw a Sky Hook Pass, begin by jumping off one leg while lifting the ball high into the air, and following through with your wrist as though shooting at the basket.

When to Use the Sky Hook Pass

Utilize the Sky Hook Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing or Perimeter.
  • When passing into a Post Player.
  • When passing from the Post position.
  • Against low arm position.
  • When caught in a double-team or trap.
  • When penetrating along the baseline.

Lob Pass

To throw a Lob Pass, begin by initiating the pass high above your head, and following through with your hand. It is important to support the ball as though you are taking a shot at the basket.

When to Use the Lob Pass

Utilize the Lob Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing or Perimeter.
  • When passing into a Post Player.
  • Against short Defenders.
  • Against low arm position.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When leading a Teammate towards the basket above the rim.
  • When no Defender’s are behind the Post Player.
  • When your Post Player is fronted by the Defender.

Down Up Wrist Flick Pass

To throw a Down Up Wrist Flick Pass, begin by faking a bounce pass low past your Defender. Next, immediately lift the ball and flick it up quickly high past your Defender’s ear. Keep in mind that this pass can also be reversed by faking up and passing a bounce pass low.

When to Use the Down Up Wrist Flick Pass

Utilize the Down Up Wrist Flick Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing and Perimeter.
  • When passing into a Post Player.
  • When passing from an “out of bounds” position.
  • Against tall and short Defenders.
  • Against high arm position (the pass forces defender’s hand to come down).
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • Whenever you want to fake your Defender and get them to commit in one direction.

Bowling Pass

To throw a Bowling Pass, begin holding the basketball in an underarm position. Throw the ball to a teammate with topspin and in a follow-through motion. Make sure to finish off pointing in the direction of your pass.

When to Use the Bowling Pass

Utilize the Bowling Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • During full court transition and Fast Break scenarios.
  • From an out of bounds passing position.
  • When passing full length of the court.
  • When no Defender is standing in front of you.
  • When you need to get off a super quick pass.

Baseball Pass

To throw a Baseball Pass, begin by taking the ball in the air with one hand while leaning forward with your elbow. Throw the pass and follow-through with your arm as it extends forward with your palm facing to the ground.

When to Use the Baseball Pass

Utilize the Baseball Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • During out of bounds passing scenarios.
  • During Fast Break and transition opportunities.
  • When passing long distances over the top of Defenders.
  • When a Defender is standing in front of you.

Dribble Pitch Pass

To throw a Dribble Pitch Pass, begin by taking one dribble, then immediately moving your hand and elbow behind the ball and throwing the pass to a teammate.

When to Use the Dribble Pitch Pass

Utilize the Dribble Pitch Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off dribble penetration.
  • During Fast Break and transition scenarios.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When moving the ball up court quickly.

Basketball One Hand Passing


Two-Handed Passing Techniques

The 3rd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map focuses on the fundamentals of two-handed passing techniques you can utilize during a basketball game.

Bounce Pass

To throw a Bounce Pass, begin by placing both your hands on the side of the ball with fingers spread evenly and the ball positioned on your chest area. Now, follow-through with your pass making sure that your fingers point in the direction of where the ball is headed. At the same time your thumbs should be pointing out and the ball must bounce about two-thirds distance between you and your teammate.

When to Use the Bounce Pass

Utilize the Bounce Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off dribble Penetration.
  • During Out of Bounds passing scenarios.
  • During Fast Break and transition opportunities.
  • Against tall Defenders.
  • Against high arm position.
  • Against tight and loose defensive pressure.
  • As a Cutter is moving towards the basket.
  • When passing to smaller Teammates.

Chest Pass

To throw a Chest Pass, begin by placing both your hands on the side of the ball with fingers spread evenly and the ball positioned on your chest area. Now, follow-through with your pass making sure that your fingers point in the direction of where the ball is headed. At the same time your thumbs should be pointing out and the ball should hit your Teammate’s chest without hitting the ground.

When to Use the Chest Pass

Utilize the Chest Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing or Perimeter.
  • When passing from the Post position.
  • During Out of Bounds passing scenarios.
  • During Fast Break and transition opportunities.
  • Against low arm position.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When moving the ball to a Teammate who is One pass away.
  • When penetrating through heavy defensive traffic.

Overhead Pass

To throw an Overhead Pass, begin by bringing the ball above your head. Now, from this position immediately snap the ball with your palms throwing the pass to a teammate. Make sure that your palms finish behind the ball facing your target.

When to Use the Overhead Pass

Utilize the Overhead Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing on the Wing or Perimeter.
  • When passing into a Post Player.
  • When passing out from the Post position.
  • During Out of Bounds passing scenarios.
  • During a Fast Break or transition opportunity.
  • Against short Defenders.
  • Against low arm position.
  • Passing across the Key area.

Dribble Pitch Pass

To throw a Dribble Pitch Pass, begin by picking the ball up with both hands making sure that your palms are evenly spaced on the side of the basketball. From here, step forward and release the pass making sure to time the release of the ball with your last step leaving the ground. The pass must be released on your last upward step. This will enable you to give the pass a little extra kick. The Dribble Pitch Pass is essentially just like the two-handed Chest Pass, however the Chest Pass is thrown from a standing position, while the Dribble Pitch Pass is thrown on the upward step.

When to Use the Dribble Pitch Pass

Utilize the Dribble Pitch Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off dribble penetration.
  • During Fast Break and transition opportunities.
  • Against loose defensive pressure.
  • When a Cutter comes off a screen.
  • When quick ball movement is required.

Against Grain Pass

To throw an Against the Grain Pass, begin by stepping off your dribble, jumping and rotating in the air. As you rotate in the air, throw an Above the Head Pass in the opposite direction of your movement or against the direction of your drive to an open Teammate.

When to Use the Against Grain Pass

Utilize the Against the Grain Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off a penetration into the Key area.
  • Against low arm position.
  • When throwing the ball back to the Screener.
  • When needing to change direction and pass off the dribble.
  • When being double teamed.

Basketball Two Hand Passing

Across Face Skip Pass

To throw an Across the Face Skip Pass, begin by moving forward off your dribble. On your last step jump into the air and throw an Overhead Pass at the peak of your jump. The ball must leave your hands as your feet leave the ground. Make sure to follow-through with your hands pointing in the direction of your target. Keep in mind that the ball and your arms must cross your face as you throw this pass to a teammate.

When to Use the Across Face Skip Pass

Utilize the Across the Face Skip Pass under the following conditions during a basketball game:

  • When passing off dribble Penetration opportunities.
  • When passing from the Post position.
  • Against short Defenders.
  • Against low arm position.
  • Against tight defensive pressure.
  • Against double team situations.
  • When passing across the Key area.

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Final Thoughts

Passing is an absolutely critical and essential component to the game of basketball. It naturally encourages communication, movement and teamwork that are in themselves essential components to the formation of a successful team dynamic on the basketball court. Moreover, passing is utilized as a means to create scoring opportunities for your teammates, to effectively and quickly move the ball up the court, and to open up holes in defensive formations. By utilizing these effective passing strategies throughout the game at the precise and specific moments discussed above, will not only help you to grow with your team, but will also breed unselfish qualities that will propel your team forward to even greater achievements. 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 Passing 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.