Why Playing without ball is an underated skill in basketball?


Getting open off the ball is one of the hardest skills to learn in basketball.

It is also one of the most important for quality players. Today we are going to answer some of this questions and more..

How can you get open and, where do you go when you don´t have the ball?

In the game of basketball knowing where to be and when to be there is a HUGE skill!

Offensively speaking it’ll help you get open shots, it will help teammates have more space to operate, it will give teammates better lanes for passing, and it will help the overall flow of the offense.

One of the simplest movements that a player can improve on is a corner drift.

All a corner drift means is that a player starts up out of the corner, near the sideline but away from the baseline and close to the free throw line, and drifts down to the corner. A player can either run towards the corner or glide/slide to the corner. 

This is a movement that will allow more spacing and the footwork isn’t too hard to a point that players can shoot this shot at the same percentage that they catch and shoot shots.  

Why should I move without the ball?

Now if you’re asking “why”, that’s a valid thought. 

“Wouldn’t it just be easier/better to just stay in the corner and wait for the pass to get there?”

These are valid thoughts and these are even some ideas that good coaches have in their efficient offenses. However, there are some flaws to this way of thinking and we are going to be going over a few. 

First, If you are the player on the empty side (meaning there is only one player on that side of the court), it´s important to make it as hard as possible for your defender to defend both you and the help side. 

Second, you are by yourself and you stay in the corner it allows for the defender to get as deep into the help as they can be, and still be able to get out to you and make it a difficult shot. 

Also, moving away from the ball is perfect for confusing help side defenders.

If someone is to guard me on the low wing and they begin looking to help on the ball, and during this time I move to the corner, when they begin to give less help, or close out to me, they think I am in the same place as I was to start the possession.

Helping me get a more open shot, and helping the ball handler have a better passing lane to give me a good pass!

Keys To Being Good At It

There are a few different keys to being good at corner drift shots:


This is so Important!

Timing executed perfectly will lead to the most open shot! Timing that is poorly executed will lead to turnovers where the ball handler seemingly throws it into the stands. 

How does one understand “perfect” timing. Perfect timing can only come through understanding and practice. We can help with the understanding and what you can do by yourself, but we cannot help you with the practice you and your teammates put in.

“Perfect” timing is executed when the off-ball player begins his/her movement when the ball handler is about to get into the pass. As they are in the motion of passing, the soon-to-be shooter should be closing in on his final destination (the corner). 

So this means that when the pass is on its way, the shooter and the ball should both meet in the corner. Leading to an open 3 pointer that should give you the best chances of a make. 


Just as important as the timing of your movement is the spacing of where you are and where you are going. 

There is spacing in terms of where you are on the court (having spatial awareness), and spacing in terms of the space between you and your teammates. Both of these are equally important. 

Assuming you are by yourself on one side of the floor, spacing is important because you want your defender to have to cover as much space as possible. Because the defender’s job is to guard you and help guard the ball handler, you want them to have to cover as much space as you can. 

So, it´s important to start in a space near the free throw line extended (so still outside the three point line but 15 feet from the baseline). And it´s just as important that when you relocate to the corner you get as close to the corner as possible where it is still possible/likely to make the shot. 

It’s important to stay outside the 3 point line in this scenario at all cost. Even if you are someone that can’t shoot threes, the spacing of this movement is the same. It keeps the help defender honest. 

The spacing is also important in terms of spatial awareness because once you begin playing in college the space between the 3 point line in the corner and the sideline is minimal.

If you don’t know where you are you will likely either shoot a really long 2 point jump shot, or step out of bounds.  Both of these aren’t great but one is far worse than the other (stepping out of bounds leads to a turnover, long 2’s still put points on the board). 


Lastly, we have the technique.

Technique is important because of the last point we made when talking about spacing! There is little space between the 3 point line and the sideline so your technique needs to be good. 

You need to be able to get to the spot quickly, get your feet set (inbounds), and also have good enough balance that your movement doesn’t cause you to fade away, or lean, on your jumpshot. 

We are here to tell you that how you get to your spot isn’t as important as what happens when you get there. If you run to your spot it does help with getting there quickly but it hurts in terms of reestablishing your balance. However, when you glide/slide it helps with your balance but you can’t get there as quickly. 

Both of these movements are viable and it comes to preference. There is something that each player NEEDS to get used to in these scenarios. Players need to be able to go from “stepping in”(in a forward motion) to their shot, to stepping in (in a lateral motion) or hopping into their shot. 

This keeps them on one plane in between the 3 point line and the sideline. It’s also needed because it is important for players to have tension in their legs.

You don’t want them to just stand there and then catch and shoot without moving. It leads to a bunch of shots that will miss short. Having tension in your legs from those 2 movements will allow players to have good bounce in their legs and allow them to have a better chance at making the shot!

How to practice moving without the ball?

Now we’ve posted some videos on our social media of drills that you can do to practice these scenarios. And we plan on putting some on Youtube and a bunch of them on our App. 


But in word form, I will do my best to explain to you how you can do drills by yourself and with a teammate. 

First, we’ll go through what you can do with a teammate or two.


If you only have one teammate, friend, or family member available they will be the passer. It’s probably best if they pass from the baseline because that will make it easier to also get the rebound. It also isn’t a big deal where they pass from because this is a movement that the player should do when teammates drive baseline or from the top. So the pass would work either way. 

Now, no matter where the person is starting, the shooter will start in the area between the free throw line and halfway between the free throw line and the baseline.

It’s good to get a mixture of different distances on the baseline drift because in a game you won’t always be in the same area. But it is important that you are at least half the way up because if you only have to take a step or two it won’t do anything productive for your footwork, or it simply won’t challenge you. 

Now that you’ve got the placement and spacing down. Have the person slap the ball to signal you to move, and have them pass the ball to you on the move. You and the ball should be arriving in the corner at roughly the same time. You should take, or make if you want the drill to be longer, 10 of these shots on both sides of the floor. 

By yourself

Now if you don’t have a teammate and you are by yourself that makes the drill slightly harder to do and also a little more tiring. 

You’ll have to start in the same spot as if you had teammates but now you will start with the ball in your hands. You’ll have to spin it back to yourself but at an angle so when the ball bounces it bounces towards the corner. 

This makes the drill more difficult because now you’re relying on your own ability to throw an awkward pass to mimic a teammate throwing you a pass. However, the drill will have the same benefits if done properly. 

It will still help your footwork and it will still help you with shooting on the move and staying balanced all the way through your shot so that you are not fading. 


Corner Drifts are a great movement that players of all ages and skill levels can work on. It’s a movement that you will see your entire career of playing basketball, so it´s something that is relative to your game. 

It’s good for players of all positions as long as they are someone that shoots 3’s or plays on the perimeter at all. 

It gives the ball handler more space to operate and better passing angles. It will lead to more open shots and higher percentages as long as you are consistent with working on these shots. 

Let us know what you think of the corner drift, and if you have any other moves or movements that you would like us to break down or talk about!