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A Guide to: On-court Intelligence


How to become an intelligent player


Despite the abundance of hyper-athletic physical specimens in the NBA, some players have managed to survive and thrive off their basketball IQ. Although they may not possess top-flight athleticism, players like Kyle Anderson, Fred VanVleet, Derrick White and Georges Niang make up for it with their understanding of the game. What can we take away from these players?


Patience: Young players are often pressured into making quick decisions, but the truth is that you can take your time on the ball to make reads and to probe the defense into making mistakes with solid footwork and ball fakes. By being patient and slowing down to let the play develop, you are less likely to commit turnovers. The team that makes fewer mistakes usually wins the game, and players who do not turn the ball over are more likely to earn playing time.


Versatility: You may not be blessed with a singular talent in any aspect of the game, but teams will always value a player who can do all the little things. By defending hard, boxing out for rebounds, screening or cutting at the right moments and finding the open man, you can contribute to a team in multiple ways. This way, you are also less likely to be affected by an off-night in any domain.


Know yourself: Most players dream of being the star, but you do not have to be particularly gifted to play the game well. Instead, simply understanding your capabilities and your limitations can go a long way, as you maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. If you do not have a go-to finish in the paint, it is fruitless to spend half your time in the post.


Understand your role: Beyond your abilities, you also need to understand your role within a team. You may feel that you are able to contribute in a different way, but this is not always what the team requires. If every player understands and fulfills their role within the team, their squad becomes a cohesive and multifaceted unit that is able to function in a variety of ways.


Confidence: You will notice that most smart players are also confident. This confidence comes from an understanding of their abilities and their roles, rather than superlative talent. Smart players will not second-guess themselves, as any hesitation can result in lost opportunities with the fast-paced nature of basketball. Instead, they trust their instincts in making the right plays and decisions, and simply chalk it up as a learning experience if they make a mistake.