How to Pass a Basketball 

Teaching players how to pass a basketball with good timing, speed, and accuracy is an important key to running an effective offense. Being able to deliver a perfect pass to an open teammate is one of the secrets behind high-scoring offenses.

how to pass a basketball

Successful teams work the ball around the court, doing their best to involve every player. They know that five players working together are able to open up a lot more scoring opportunities than individual players working alone. 

Basketball is a fast paced game. The ball changes hands a lot and, in a typical 32-40 minute game, players don't get much time with the ball in their hands.

So, when a player does get it, it's crucial she knows what to do with it.

There are basically 3 offensive options: shoot, dribble, or pass. 

If a ball handler has a wide open shot within range or an open drive to the bucket, by all means try to score.

But, before trying to force a shot or a drive that isn't there, passing to an open teammate is a great way to open things up.

Below, you'll find some simple, effective coaching tips guaranteed to improve your team's passing.

In addition, check out the following articles packed with information that'll help improve your players' passing and catching skills.

20 Basketball Passing Tips

How to Pass a Basketball
1. Square up to the basket

Before ball handlers can decide whether to pass, shoot, or dribble, they have to be in a position to see what's happening on the floor. Squaring up to the basket allows players to see the entire court and find openings.

2. Keep the head up and see the rim

Just facing the basket isn't enough. Keeping the head and eyes up is a must. By looking at the basket, players can see the middle of the floor and use their peripheral vision to see everyone on the perimeter.

How to Pass a Basketball
3. Think "pass, shot, drive"

Look for an open teammate first, an open shot next, or an open dribble last.

4. Passing is quicker than dribbling

Passing is the quickest way to move the ball up the floor. Passing forward to an open teammate is a lot better than trying to dribble it up court.

Try it for yourself and see. Time how long it takes to dribble from one end to the other. Then see how long it takes by passing it.

How to Pass a Basketball
5. Make a decision in 2-3 seconds

Players shouldn't hold the ball for more than a couple seconds while deciding whether to pass, shoot, or dribble. This is long enough to make a good decision.

Quick passes keep the offense moving and any openings typically close in a few seconds.

6. Make sure the receiver is ready

Don't assume a player is ready for the ball. Unless a passer can see the receiver, her target hand, and feel confident she is expecting the ball, don't pass it.

How to Pass a Basketball
7. Keep passes out of the middle in transition

When passing the ball up the floor in transition, keep passes out of the center of the court. Since most of the traffic is running down the middle lane of the court, it's really hard to make a good basketball pass without it being deflected or mishandled.

8. If in doubt, don't throw it

Players should trust their instincts. If they're not confident the pass will get there, don't take a chance. Any hesitation usually indicates it's not a good idea. It's better to be safe than sorry.

How to Pass a Basketball
9. Don't telegraph the pass

Don't look directly at the intended receiver. "Telegraphing" the pass alerts the defenders the ball is coming. Instead, look away to deceive the defense while using peripheral vision to see the receiver.

10. Use ball fakes

In addition to looking away, ball fakes help deceive the defense. Pretending to throw the ball in one direction causes the defender to jump in the direction of the fake, opening up a passing lane in another direction.

How to Pass a Basketball
11. Aim for the target hand

A teammate who is ready to receive a pass should be holding up one or two hands to indicate where she wants the ball. Try to get it there.

12. Pass away from the defender

If the receiver is being guarded on one side, throw the pass to the other side out of the defender's reach. If it's a bad basketball pass, most of the time it's the passer's fault. The passer is the one who can best see if a teammate is open, and it's her responsibility to deliver the ball where it needs to go. 

How to Pass a Basketball
13. Save the dribble

Beginners have a bad habit of putting the ball on the floor as soon as they touch it and then panicking when they can't get rid of it. Dribbling should be the last option.

14. Pivot away from pressure

basketball pass

Pivot away from pressure while protecting the ball close to the body. Pivoting not only relieves pressure, it allows the passer to see other areas of the floor and find open teammates.

15. Don't panic

The ball isn't a hot potato. Assure passers they don't have to get rid of it as soon as they touch it. Relax and take a few seconds to see all the options.

Players have a maximum of 5 seconds to do something with the ball. That's plenty of time to make a good decision.

16. Know teammates' abilities

Before passing the ball to a teammate, understand her abilities. Can she handle a hard pass, a bounce pass, or one she will have to reach for?

Is he confident receiving the pass in traffic? Avoid leading a teammate into trouble by passing him the ball when he's not in a position to do anything with it.

How to Pass a Basketball
17. Pass and move

Never pass and stand still. Lack of movement stagnates the offense. Motion is what creates opportunities. Pass and move to a new location and create the opportunity to get the ball back.

18. Make passes sharp and accurate

Slow, soft passes won't reach their destination most of the time. Unless they're crisp and on target, chances are good they'll be intercepted or mishandled. 

How to Pass a Basketball
19. Adjust the force of the pass

Recognize how far away the receiver is standing. Throwing a baseball pass or chest pass down court requires a lot more force than passing to a player 10 feet away. Make adjustments to throw a sharp pass to a receiver close by without knocking her head off.

20. Attack the defender

Take it to the defense. If the ball handler's defender is sagging off within shooting range, take the shot. Beyond shooting range, put the ball on the floor and take it to the defender.

Make the defender do something. If he stops the dribble, a passing lane could open up. If not, take it to the hole. 

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