Thriving in a contact sport
The recent emergence of Zach Lavine from the Chicago Bulls in a breakout season illustrates the importance of playing through contact in basketball. As a contact sport, physical play is inevitable, and your ability to deal with it is crucial to your on-court success. Lavine previously found it difficult to fully exploit his prodigious athleticism due to a tendency to avoid close defensive contact, but now thrives with tougher drives to the basket.
Initiate contact: On offense, the player with the ball often has the advantage. This applies to physical contact as well, and if you initiate contact, you will be able to anticipate the impact and to adjust accordingly. Conversely, if you avoid contact, your opponents will be able to bump you off-balance in unexpected ways, making it hard to maintain your balance, much less make a shot.
Adjustments: You have to complement your anticipation with the ability to adjust. The best players are able to maintain their dribble and to score with a variety of finishes. These do not come naturally and have to be practiced over and over again, just like any other shot or move.
Body control: Beyond moves, you will need to spend some time in the gym working on your strength, in particular your core strength. This will allow you to absorb impact and to adjust your body, even in mid-air. Without the requisite core strength, you will not be able to get into position to make your move.
Mentality: A large part of playing through contact is simply mental. You need to have no fear in the face of intense physical play. This similarly applies on defense, whereby you have to play tough and up close in order to prevent easy opportunities for your opponents.