A Guide to: Anticipation in Basketball
March 24, 2019
Thinking one or two moves ahead
One of the original tenets in basketball is that the offensive player always has the advantage, as the defensive player can only react to his or her moves. If you look at the top defensive players in the game however, you will find that this is not always true. These players are usually able to force the offensive player into taking a less desirable option through anticipation.
On defense, the simplest way to anticipate is to be more aggressive on defense. If you force a right-handed player towards the left for instance, it will be more difficult for the player to pull up with their weak hand, making it likely that they will attempt to switch the ball back to their dominant hand with a crossover move. By anticipating this, you can cut off the move and force them to retreat with a defensive move. You can even anticipate this countermove, which would force them off-balance or to pick up the ball and attempt a difficult pass.
Of course, this anticipation can similarly be utilized on offense. If a defensive player is overplaying you to your weak hand for instance, a simple jab and crossover or an in-and-out dribble move can shift the defense off-balance, as they drop back to cut off the anticipated drive. If you are able to anticipate the defensive reaction, you can often employ misdirection to create a shot. For instance, if you are a smaller-sized guard driving to the rack, you can be sure that the help defense will try to block your shot. By faking the lay-up, you can get the second defender to over-commit before you dish off to your big man for the easy finish.
By combining anticipation on offense and defense, you can learn to make intelligent reads and play the game at your own pace, instead of depending on athleticism. However, you will make the wrong reads from time to time and may get exposed if you anticipate wrongly. Instead of getting discouraged, you should take this as a learning experience and hone your instincts. After all, you only get better at anticipation with every read!