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How to: Manage the Shot Clock


NBA

Using the shot clock to your advantage


Shot clock management is an aspect of the game that is emphasized by coaches but often neglected by players. Every coach appreciates cerebral players who are able to utilize something as mundane as the shot clock to maximize the number and types of shots for their teams, while minimizing the quality of their opponents’ possessions. What are some common ways in which this is done?


Two-for-one: The most common example of shot clock management is in two-for-one situations. This refers to teams taking early shots with 40 to 50 seconds left on the shot clock, to ensure that they will have another possession after their opponents get the back and take a shot. Over the course of four quarters, this can earn crucial extra possessions for your team, particularly late in the game where you can make sure that your team takes the last shot. Of course, your team has to be on the same page to ensure that a quality shot is taken.


Early offense: In today’s fast-paced offenses, transition opportunities are routinely used for shots early in the shot clock. Although this used to be considered an ill-advised option, this has become a popular tactic as it increases pressure on the defense, which is at times unable to set up in time. For high-scoring teams, this can be advantageous in optimizing the number of possessions in each game, which will increase their chances of winning. This early offense option also requires teamwork, from prior assignments of role (e.g. which player will inbound the ball and who will leak out early) such that minimal time is taken off the clock.


Timely timeouts: At the end of shot clocks, players need to have a good understanding of when to take time-outs. Time-outs allow your team to advance the ball up the court without taking time off the clock, but they also allow the defense to get prepared. Understanding of your team’s strengths and weaknesses is essential here. For instance, you have to know whether your teammates have the ball-handling ability to get up the court and how much time they need to advance the ball. By calling time-outs at the right time, you can prevent your team from taking bad late-game shots such as half-court heaves.