Most Underrated Individual Skills among NBA Players

When analyzing the NBA (particularly when analyzing statistics), most fans and media members focus on the best scorers, rebounders, passers, shot-blockers, etc. But without watching the games, we fans are often deprived of how players score, rebound, pass, etc. 82games.com often tracks some of this handy data for us, and Synergy Sports, when they are feeling nice, has released data to various writers, who in turn enlighten us with all sorts of specific statistics that describe the aforementioned “how.” But here at AGR, we don’t yet have these resources. However, the four AGR contributors combined have watched enough basketball to have picked up on some of the subtle and interesting individual skills that players utilize in their quest to be the best scorers, rebounders, passers, etc. This article is dedicated to identifying and analyzing these various individual skills.

Skill: The no-look, cross-court, pin-point, guaranteed 3-pointer pass
Executor: LeBron James
Significance: Everyone knows LeBron can pass. Everyone knows he draws attention from the defense, freeing his teammates from coverage. LeBron frequently takes advantage of these skills in various dishes and dimes. However, this particular type of pass requires amazing peripheral vision (something LeBron used to not physically possess through his first few years in the league–he entered a new world following laser eye surgery) and amazing strength/quickness. LeBron will frequently have the ball in the post or on the perimeter, and, upon catching a pass from his teammates, he whips the ball to a teammate on the opposite wing or in the opposite corner, all but guaranteeing three points from his team…at least as long as Mo, Boobie, or Delonte is taking the shot. This pass is valuable because it creates wide open three pointers and because it swiftly punishes defenses for over-helping on LeBron. LeBron also utilizes this pass in semi-transition offense, before the defense has covered open shooters along the arc. Because of the obscurity of this pass, we struggled to find video examples, but this one should help illustrate. Observe the following video for an example, starting at 00:14.

Skill: Through the “ball-side leg” crossover
Executor: Dwyane Wade
Signifcance: Dwyane obviously has a wide array of crossovers, and this specific crossover has been performed by other players, but no one does it or uses it like Flash. Ever since I’ve watched Wade at Marquette, he has used this special crossover. Dwyane will make a hard cut toward the hoop, and with his ball-side leg far out and forward, he will pull the back back between his legs. By doing this move, Dwyane has the option to drive to the side to which he has just crossed over OR step back for an easy jumper (the move always naturally steps back to a degree). Here is an example of how Dwyane went to this move in crunch time during the playoffs as a rookie: Dwyane Wade’s rookie playoff game-winner

Skill: Quick, unconventional post moves
Executor: Antawn Jamison
Significance: Antawn Jamison is neither particularly tall, athletic, nor physically strong–three attributes that generally help post players put the ball in the goal. But Jamison does have remarkable coordination and decent quickness, at least in the post, and these advantages are manifested in a variety of goofy and unconventional moves around the hoop–usually after receiving the ball in the low block. Jamison will back his player down and flip up uber-quick runners, floaters, half-hooks, scoop shots, reverse layups, and a million other shots that don’t have names simply because no one else has shot these same shots throughout the course of basketball history. These skills are particularly salient for several reasons: 1) These skills do not regress with age–at least not so far (he turns 34 this June). Jamison may not be quite as quick as he once was, but his coordination is still there, and I have a feeling he will never lose his uncanny ability to put the ball in the hole with his wide variety of wild and wacky moves (alliteration intended). 2) Defenses cannot predict, scout, or prepare for Jamison’s unique game. In practice, other teams cannot replicate Jamison’s style and in games, he is too versatile to shut down (especially when considering his outside shooting ability). Jamison is too unique and unpredictable to defend, and he will be until he hangs ’em up. This picture montage illustrates Jamison’s bizarre style pretty well.

Skill: The body-twisting two-step AKA The European step
Executors: Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker
Significance: I am going to refrain from writing too much here, because this video does most of the explaining for me. Basically, the three aforementioned executors use this move en route to easy layups. This form of movement requires amazing body control and remarkable instinct. This move is particularly useful to create space near the hoop and is also an nifty way of avoiding charges. In fact, as Dwyane points out in the video, this move will avoid a charge call while drawing just enough contact for a shooting foul to be called from the defender trying to take the charge. Take note LeBron James–if you did this more maybe you could shed the nickname LeBulldozer.

Although there are several other great individual skills that stand out in the NBA, these were four that AGR chose to focus on. We encourage our readers to suggest other skills in the comments section–hopefully we will run a second edition of this article if we get enough new skills to highlight. For now, forget the dunks, behind-the-back passes, and the pull-up threes and appreciate some of the subtler skills that NBA stars employ in order help their teams.

What other individual skills can you think of? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.

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15 Responses to Most Underrated Individual Skills among NBA Players

  1. splashtasticmrjay says:

    LeBron’s passing, especially those lightning cross court no-look ones, are just another point of evidence to his superiority over Kobe, who cannot makes passes of that caliber. He makes them look easy and they are sexy to watch…

  2. Yukos says:

    Rondo has a sick behind the back fake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RIhNb-Lezk

    Duncan has a boring but pretty much unstoppable bank shot out of the triple-threat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RP7_o0mBD0&feature=PlayList&p=94408705E8BA00AF&index=26

    Deron Williams might have the crossover in the L but I’m not sure how unique it is, just ridiculously well executed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNKNu4j_y1Q

  3. Daniel says:

    GINOBILI!!!!

    Nuf’ said. Actually… for a Spurs fan who has watched him play 300+ games, he does al least one thing every game that no other NBA player does. From his ridiculous passes between opponents’ legs to threading the needle with halfcourt bounce passes to flying layups, dunks, and saves, he is just about the most fun NBA player to watch. He’s probably the most skilled player in the league.

    • thecornerthree says:

      Ginobli is a pro at the European step–it just so happened that Dwyane’s video perfectly illustrated my point. I agree, Ginobli ranks as one most skilled players in the L. He is also excellent in taking advantage of his lefty-ness

  4. slickmilicic says:

    The Crawford shake and bake!

    Aaand behind the back:

    Also, about the Jamison craftiness: Some years ago Izzy (writer of the post) saw Antawn shopping at Safeway and instead of saying “Go Wiz” or “I’m a big fan” or something normal like that told him “Keep doing those funky post moves”. So it’s a long-standing appreciation.

  5. david says:

    that’s what the european two step is? i’ve been doing that since i was little, i was never taught it
    i’m from australia by the way

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  7. Phil says:

    Kobe’s reverse pivot up and under. I don’t know if there is a catchy name for it, but he is the only player I have ever seen do it and he does it perfectly.

    You can see the best example of it at the 7:52 mark in this video:

    • toughjuicepech0 says:

      Phil, you have 2 great ones. In response to Kobe’s pivoting, here is a great video showing how to do it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtjbISLGbds&feature=related
      This same guy also has the Jamal Crawford shake and bake down pat. I’ve been trying to get my Kobe-pivot game ready for some time, but am not quite there yet.
      As for Steve Nash, Henry Abbott of Truehoop has a pretty nice post summarizing how it came to be. Of course that’s from Chris Ballard’s “The Art of a Beautiful Game” which I will read once Izzy returns to Wizards’ Nation. The thing that surprised me most about that post was that he was dunking as a 10th grader.

  8. Phil says:

    Steve Nash’s layups off the wrong foot are pretty sweet too.

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  10. Donald Shapiro says:

    Lamarcus Aldridge’s passing in general is overlooked, even among Blazer fans, but what’s especially impressive are his deep in the paint bounce passes between moving defenders. Amazing timing.

  11. lesha says:

    @splashtasticmrjay:
    please, think before you post. lebron is very, very skilled, but mamba makes passes like this one:

    just think about it a little bit…

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