I believe that player development is not about drills. It’s about teaching players how to play the game and developing their skillset so that they can become a more effective player.
There are different ways to do that, but the key is that everything has to translate. For me it’s not just about doing a drill, it’s about doing something that they will do in their system and their program.
The Difference Between Drilling and Teaching
For example, a player’s coach may tell me he or she is going to run a lot of weak side opportunities for this player with a lot of pin-downs. The coach wants the player to understand how to read his defender and how to read the screeners’ defender.
So instead of just doing drills, there is some teaching involved because you are teaching them to read their defender and then the next level is to read the screener’s defender.
If you just put a chair on the floor and have the player come off of a pin-down, you aren’t really teaching them, you are just telling them to make a move. You want to try to get to a place in your workout where you’re explaining to players why they are doing certain things. You want to be able to work with a player and tell him or her to curl off a screen because their defender is playing behind and trailing and the player setting a screen isn’t getting a body on them so you should curl for a shot.
So you have to be able to teach the player the reads to make. Don’t just tell them to fade or flair if a defender cheats up the middle, show them. What does it mean? How do you backpedal? How do they get their feet ready to attack the ball? Where do their hands go? There’s so many fine little details there that the good skills coaches are going to focus on.
Teaching Skills, Not Drills
I think a lot of coaches make mistakes that we spend a lot of time teaching drills. Dribble twice, catch a ball, then do this. No.
I want my workouts to be things a player will do in a game, things that will translate, and teaching and developing those skills. I am not teaching them how to do a drill, I am teaching them how to succeed in a game situation.
We’re always going to get our ball-handling and passing skill work in to get warmed up and loose.
For one workout our emphasis might be:
Finishing at the Rim
Different ways to Finish
Different Foot Paths
Different Releases over and under
The next workout might be:
Using a High Ball Screen
Different Reads off of the Screen
The third workout:
Working on Catch and Shoot
Three Different Ways to get into your Shot
Run into a Shot
Backpedal into a Shot
Drift into a Shot
And then working on the Different Foot Patterns to get into those Shots
I don’t want to say that’s boring or vanilla, but that’s the game. Go watch an NBA player warm-up before a game. What they’re going to do is pass to a coach, sprint the floor, and run into a catch and shoot. And they’ll get 50 of those. After they do that, they’re going to pass and backpedal into a shot. Then they’ll work on penetrating and lifting, baseline drives, and baseline drifts.
This all may sound like a small difference, but it makes a huge difference in the end result.