Streetball Offense: Cutting

How you ever had that game whereby your team mates are just standing around, waiting for the ball to come to them?  It’s between attacking the basket yourself once again (and bear the label of ‘ballhog’), or trying to force a difficult pass that will probably be picked off. Either way, things are not looking good for you…

Offensive movements in Basketball serve to break the positional advantage of the defense, trying to adjust them such that you have a gap to attack. When you successfully crossover someone, the immediate space in front of you becomes unobstructed and you can advance freely to occupy that space. This applies to all sorts of offensive movement and footwork, including cutting.

“Cutting”, or off-ball movement, primarily serves two purpose:

  1. Improving the point-of-attack
  2. Improving  the area-for-attack

Improving the point-of-attack: The closer you are to the basket, the easier it is to score. Catching the ball near the hoop gives defenders less time to recover from any moves, and turning you into a serious threat of scoring. (the reason why good Centers become near unstoppable if they catch it close to the rim)

Improving the area-for-attack: If you’re getting the ball in a congested area with 2 or 3 help defenders swarming around, it won’t be an easy shot. Cut to draw your defender away from your team mates, and give them more room to work with


Fundamentals of Cutting

Purpose: Always cut with a purpose; running around mindlessly will not just tire you out, it will also screw with your team mates’ spacing and focus.

Awareness: If your team mate is driving towards the basket,  cutting in front of them isn’t the best idea. Always look out for your team mates and see if they are in a situation whereby they can make a good pass to you.

Set-up: Disguise your initial cut by slowly walking your defender away from your intended catch, or jabbing hard in the opposite direction, before sealing him (make contact) and cutting away hard.

Communication: Have Eye Contact with your passer. Use your hands to communicate your intention for the cut; holding a hand forward or up can let your team mates know you’re open to receive the pass. Conversely, if you don’t want to receive the ball, make a “cross” in front of your chest.

There is a huge variety of ‘cut routes’ available in Basketball, but I’ll just condense them into the more common ones. Essentially, those specific ‘cut routes’ play essential roles in organized basketball offense; when run perfectly, they are one of the greatest beauties to behold in the game. However, for our casual street game, it is more simple and ‘general ideas’ that are easier to remember and ingrain.

Although not some hard-and-fast rules, here are some ideas for cutting:

1) Cut after making a pass. It could be a front cut (towards the basket) or a weave cut (curling behind the ballhandler); the purpose is to give another option to the ball handler. A ‘triple threat’ is more of a ‘dual threat’ unless the pass option can also lead to a score. If the cutter doesn’t get the pass, he’ll continue cutting to the basket, and stop at the weak side corner/wing.

2) Fill the vacancy. After a cut is made, the player closets to that vacancy should move along the 3-point line to fill it (does not apply to ball handler). Another player will then fill the vacancy of the previous ‘filler’. If the ball handler choose to dribble to a position, other players should cut (front/weave) and fill the vacancies. At the end of the day, the 3 perimeter players should be constantly moving to ensure that both wings and the top of the key is occupied

3) When a Ball Handler attacks (Sink, Pitch or Dive)

  • ‘Sink’ means to ‘run down alongside’ the ball handler (imagine a line parallel to the baseline, connecting the both of you), allowing for a easy kick out for a catch-and-shoot. 
  • ‘Pitch’ means to fill out the vacancy that the ball handler left, and act as a safety net for the ball handler to pass to if he’s in trouble.
  • ‘Dive’ means to do a hard basket cut as the ball handler picks up his dribble, or retreats from his drive.

4) When the Offense is Stagnant

  • As the Ball Handler: If no one is moving and the pass in unavailable, dribble towards your team mate to initiate a dribble hand off.
  • As the non-Ball Handler: Initiate a Ball Cut, or a Weave Cut to the Ball Handler. Or even set a screen for him.
  •  The whole idea is to create movement; a few dribble hand offs, a few pass-and-cuts, just shift the defense around.

If no one in your team is moving, be THAT guy who constantly is!. These are the kind of offensive intangibles that will make your team better (whether they know it or not), and those who understand the game will definitely come to appreciate you a lot more.




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