As players learn to finish around the basket, many practice primarily the desired shots, the perfect-angle lay-ups with the outside hand jumping off the inside foot. However, these are the shots that are rarely available in a game, unless a team gets a steal near half-court for a breakaway.
Instead, most finishes occur around or over a defender, shots that go unpracticed. The best finishers, like Steve Nash or Tony Parker, use creativity to finish, surprising defenders before the taller or longer defenders can time the shot block.
Houston’s Aaron Brooks is another crafty finisher who uses his footwork to keep defenders off-balance.
“When you’re going to the basket, if you go one-two, one-two, you have to stagger your steps, but if you can go off either leg, you don’t have to slow down,” Brooks said. “You can just go to the rim and finish. If you go one-two, a guy can come in and time it. I think it messes the defense up if you can go off either leg.
“It happens so fast, I don’t even realize what leg I’m going off most of the time. My emphasis is not getting blocked. If I can avoid somebody and get somewhere near the basket, I can find some way to spin the ball in.”
There are times when jumping off two-feet is the right decision or taking a one-two finish. However, many players practice one lay-up so often that they have to take the same approach to make the shot, even if it means giving the defender and extra step to recover.
“I think his footwork is more impressive,” Rockets vice president Sam Hinkie said. “He does what very few players in the NBA do, which is play off the wrong foot. The average player chops his steps. In our league, 90 to 95 percent of the players do that. The ones that don’t have a huge advantage. That is what Steve Nash does.”
Nash shoots such a high percentage without Brooks’ speed or jumping ability because his footwork enables him to get those shots without needing those attributes. Brooks believes his similar footwork could eventually lead to similar results.
I work on inside-hand lay-ups because I want smaller players to be able to take-off one step earlier, creating the element of surprise, rather than relying on the inside-foot, outside-hand lay-up. Players need to be creative in the moment, and the creativity comes from developing different shots with different footwork during practice so they have an array of shots to use.