Basketball Shot Selection within a Conceptual Offense

Teams of all levels spend many hours working on their offense, but often without having shot selection clearly defined. Defining basketball shot selection within a conceptual offense can help improve offensive efficiency. Learn how to better define basketball shot selection using easy-to-apply concepts. In fact, one of the simplest and quickest ways to help your individual players improve and your team succeed is to ensure the players understand what a good shot is.

A good shot is one that is within a team’s range of desired shots. In other words, it should be a shot that everyone on the team is happy taking! The most basic analytics shows us that that not all shots are created equal. Points per possession (PPP) is an incredibly simple factor that should extend to all youth teams and not just professional teams. By looking at the PPP values for different types of shots, it naturally shows us what the most efficient types of shot are.

This means that the highest value shots we want to consistently take begins with the goal of getting as many free-throws as possible (the highest value shot). To get to the line, this obviously requires getting to the rim in order to draw fouls. Secondly, we value rim finishes in the form of close lay-ups and dunks, followed by spot-up catch and shoot threes (note that at younger ages such as 14 and under, the range for these players will likely not always extend out to 3PT, meaning that there is no problem with open mid-range shots), and then wide open mid-range pulls. 

The acronym of a “ROB Shot” can help players understand individual shot selection. This stands for Range, Open, Balanced. Players should consistently look for ROB shots. A big issue occurs when players settle for heavily contested, off-balance shots early in the shot clock. There is far more time to find a more efficient solution. This can be implemented within 5 minutes at a practice by simply only scoring baskets that are ROB shots. This means that any heavily contested or off-balance shots do not count. This scoring system can be applied to many different types of small-sided games (e.g. 1-on-1, 2-on-1, 2-on-2 etc.) as well as 5-on-5 scrimmages. 

The most important premise is that shot selection is far more important than your offensive concepts, set plays and coverage solutions. It is the foundation of your whole offensive system which connects everything together. This means, a team discussion on shot selection needs to happen before any work is done on-the-court installing offensive patterns and set plays. This also means that coaches should prioritize using concepts that get high value shots. For instance, creating a set play that results in a floater or contested mid-range is not likely going to give your team a chance to have an efficient offensive rating.

The Cracked iPhone Analogy

So how do you get your team to understand the shot hierarchy and place an emphasis on individual and team shot selection? The iPhone store analogy from New Zealand Coach Zico Coronel can help players understand the shots that a team wants to prioritize taking. This analogy can be done as a fun group activity before your first practice. With Alessandro Nocera’s U15 Italy time, there was limited preparation time and with five days to prepare for national team games, having a clear shot selection greatly helped the team to compete against Spain, France and Greece. Zico’s analogy goes as follows:

“Imagine you walk into the Apple store in Milano, and you will be in the store for a total of 24 seconds. Every few seconds, the Apple employees will give you a different type of iPhone. The iPhone models range from a cracked iPhone 5 to the brand new latest iPhone Pro Max model. When you receive an iPhone, you can choose to return it and see what else you get, or leave the store immediately. What types of iPhones would you want?!”  

This naturally leads to a conversations about defining what your latest model iPhone shots are. For instance, iPhone Pro Max shots are free-throws, iPhone 13 shots are open lay-ups and dunks, iPhone 12 are spot-up corner threes, iPhone 11 contested rim finishes. These iPhones go all the way down to the lower value shots: for instance a fade-away will be an iPhone 6 and a heavily contested floater or fade-away, an iPhone 5 with a cracked screen.

This activity immediately builds your team’s shot hierarchy.  By doing this activity with your players, it gives you a complete understanding of what shots you want to take offensively, as well as what shots you want to encourage the other team to take when playing defense. This should then shape the way you design your offense and build your defensive principles. 

Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal Shots

Another analogy which can be used is the gold, silver, bronze medal idea. Gold medal shots are fouls and rim finishes. Silver medal shots are off the catch threes, and bronze medal shots off the dribble threes and mid-range pulls. The goal is to get the gold medal every time, but at the same time, we don’t want to end a possession without a medal. Especially with eight seconds or less on the clock, a bronze medal is preferred to a turnover or not even getting a shot off. 

basketball shot selection

How can you get your players to understand shot spectrum on an individual basis? Using video showing all the field-goal attempts a player takes in games and practices can be a very effective tool to develop this self-awareness. Players can reflect on shot selection using the ROB Shot acronym and iPhone analogy. This conversation should be player-led, with the coach asking questions to help the player lead the conversation. 

Learn more about defining shot selection for your team:

Basketball Shot Selection and the Use of Questions

The Use of Video

Video can also easily be used by showing players from other teams (using top professional players for youth players to aspire to can be an effective strategy), showing the types of shot you want to take and the types of shot you want to try and avoid taking. Shot selection can be an area of sensitivity, especially for professional teams.  Another Immersion podcast guest, Coach Will Weaver, uses reverse psychology in these cases, showing bad process, good result (i.e. a low value shot taken but one that ends in a make) to start building awareness of shot spectrum while maintaining a deep understanding of the complexity and sensitivity surrounding the subject.

Another important concept which is particularly complex, is using the basketball shot selection matrix in a way that aids the development of elite prospects within a youth program. For instance, a youth club may have a player who is particularly skilled and demonstrates serious potential to become a high level professional player. In order for this player to succeed and play at higher levels, their version of an R-O-B shot is likely going to be very different to what is open at the U16 level due to the other players being so much bigger and more athletic. Therefore, this player will need to be able to get their shot off when it’s contested, when they’re not completely on balance (e.g. coming off a screen-away at speed), or maybe even being able to shoot from deeper range (e.g. an NBA 3PT). 

For players who demonstrate this potential, the challenge for the coach becomes the delicate act of balancing the team’s shot spectrum with the development needs of particular players who demonstrate serious potential.  For instance, one player may need to start taking some contested shots in order to be prepared for what comes next.  

The Constraints-Led Approach and Shot Selection

Within the Constraints-Led Approach to coaching, basketball shot selection is seen as a task constraint in itself which affects the movement solutions players use. Shot selection can be therefore be manipulated to shape different skills emerging within different players. For instance, there may be one player who is a sharpshooter, but relies so heavily on their shooting that they rarely look to drive to the rim, and therefore their finishing solutions are very limited. In both practices and competitive games, this player could be encouraged to pursue more rim finishes, which means turning down some opportunities to shoot threes. This could be encouraged in practice through creating small-sided games with scoring systems that incentivize the player to act on these opportunities (affordances). 

At the same time, the number of shots the best long-term youth prospects take during each game is of the utmost importance. Especially at the younger age groups, early-maturing athletes are the ones who typically dominate in basketball as they use their strength and size advantage to bully younger players and get into easier scoring positions. However, when these players become older, and they don’t have the same physical advantages, they have not developed a repertoire of skilled movement solutions to convert shots against an opposition who now have the same physical characteristics. This is equally dangerous because at the same time, this takes away numerous opportunities for better long-term prospects to receive valuable offensive experiences. This situation often negatively effects the “tall-talls”, who take a while to get comfortable with their body and are therefore often neglected within youth offenses, but are typically the players who have the best long-term potential in basketball. It is therefore absolutely critical to involve such prospects in the offense, ensuring they find ways to get at least 3 or 4 shot attempts every quarter. Coaches may wish to involve these players through targeted triggers and effective usage of ATOs and game interventions. 

By Alessandro Nocera

Alessandro Nocera joins us as a guest writer in this week’s Immersion blog. Nocera is the Coordinator of Player Development for the senior and youth teams at the EuroLeague club, Baskonia (Spain). He is also Head Coach of the Italian U15 National Team. Coach Nocera has had several years’ international experience working within the youth sectors of Mens Sana Siena, Stella Azzurra, Trieste Basket, AS Monaco, Italian National Teams as well as coaching at the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic Camps and serving as Head Coach of the Jr. NBA Global Championships Europe Boys’ Team.

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