Brian McCormick writes:
To expand upon the way that we teach the game (link) with regards to the triple threat and ball movement, as trainers and individual workouts have replaced open gyms and pickup games, ballhandling moves have been emphasized more and more. Players spend hours working on isolated moves and complicated drills to develop their handles. How often do players use these moves in games?
There are two situations when a player should use more than two dribbles (if our goal is for players and teams to be more Spurs-like): (1) advancing the ball into the front court, and (2) on a pick and roll. The other possibility, call it 2b, is against a mismatch, such as when Manu Ginobili gets a switch and retreats two or three dribbles to attack the post defender at full speed. These mismatches often are created by the pick-and-roll.
This is the fundamental change in mentality that we need to emphasize to develop players who emulate the Spurs. We train players as individuals and hope that they fit their individual games into a team. We move from the individual to the team – we train players to make individual moves to create a shot for oneself or one’s teammates. The Spurs play from the team to the individual – they use a team skill (hand-off, screens, on-ball screen) to break down the defense, and individual skill to exploit the advantage and finish the play. We spend ample time practicing individual offensive moves, but ignore the basic ways to disorganize the defense with tactical skills. Tactics are taught as plays, not as general skills to be developed in the same way and with the same emphasis as individual ballhandling skills.
Ballhandling skills are important, and arguably more important at youth levels because of the prevalence of backcourt pressure. However, the emphasis on individual moves is incongruent for our Spurs-inspired goals, similar to emphasizing the triple threat and the jab-step series. Players need to develop these skills because the learning enhances confidence and gives the players more tools to use when presented with different situations. However, the emphasis within skill development should be on the team skills and collective decision making, not just isolated moves, if we want better 5v5 players.