5 Common Qualities Of Elite Playmakers -- Which Ones Do You have?

If you want to become an elite playmaker like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving, you must develop the qualities below.

After reading the article, we'd also like to hear your thoughts about other qualities that you think are vital for elite guards. Just leave a comment below.

1. Great Ball Handlers - Not Great Dribblers

You might be thinking, DUH! But the truth is that I don't think that many players and even some coaches understand the difference between dribbling and ball handling. I know that I didn't at first.

You can be a great dribbler, but a terrible ball handler. You can also be a great ball handler and a good dribbler.

For example, you might always catch and dribble. You overdribble the ball and the offense stagnates. It takes you 7 dribbles and 4 moves for you to get to the basket from the 3-point line. These are examples of somebody who may be a great dribbler, but a very poor ball handler.

Great ball handling encompasses the skill of dribbling, passing, and the ability to make good decisions on the court. Things like...

  • Dribbling when necessary. Not just catching and pounding the ball.
  • Dribbling effectively. Getting to the basket from anywhere in the half court in 1 to 2 dribbles.
  • Making great decisions in game-like situations such as the fast break, off of ball screens, finding the open man, passing out of traps, etc.

Don't be a great dribbler. Be a great ball handler.

2. Good Shooters That Affect The Game Without Even Shooting

If you want to be a threat on the floor, you absolutely need to work on your shot. Being a good shooter will open driving lanes, passing lanes, and so much more for your team.

If you can shoot the ball and the defense does not close out on you fast enough, you hit the jumper. If they take away the shot, it's time to take it to the hoop, create havoc on the defense, finish at the basket, and create easy scoring opportunities for your teammates.

Now if you don't shoot the ball well, you will have difficulty getting to the basket because the defense doesn't have to rush out on you. You go from multi-threat to a no threat.

Players that can shoot and handle the ball are the best in the business.

3. Play With Composure

Great playmakers have the same mentality when they're down by 20, up by 20, have 4 defenders blitzing them, or playing against sagging zone defense. For these players, it's just time to stay composed, execute, and go to work.

If you get too high or too low, this can affect your play and decision-making. By staying composed and alert, this will dramatically improve your decisions and lead to better team play.

4. Great Finishers

Elite playmakers develop great finishing moves to finish over taller, more athletic players. Each level that you go up in the game of basketball, your goal is to get the ball to the backboard or the rim as quickly as possible as athletic defenders rotating from the weakside make a living blocking the shots off of "dipsy-do" finishers.

You want to develop finishing moves like the quick lay in, the floater, the side step, the quick stop, and the spin fake.

Pick a couple of moves and become great at them. Personally, I like my players to quick stop to change pace and direction to keep the defense off balance and then I'll add one of the moves above based on strengths. Once you become great at those two moves, you can look to add more moves that complement your strengths.

5. Communicate Effectively

There is a difference between communicating and communicating effectively. Being able to communicate your message in a clear, concise manner to your teammates and coaches is critical. Going on a 30 second rant isn't feasible and effective during games.

Say things like…

  • Get your butt down on the box out.
  • Seal him on the backside.
  • Sprint back on D.
  • Finish through the defense.
  • Kick it out when they collapse.

Also being able to communicate in a positive way that your teammates respect you is crucial. If you're going to correct a teammate when they do something wrong, you better be the first one there when they do something right.

While there are certainly other things that elite playmakers do well, we hope this helps you in your process into becoming a great playmaker.

Breakthrough Basketball Camps

At our Breakthrough Basketball Camps, you learn all of these things and more. And we have specific camps to fit every need and age level. You can view camps by state.

Our Complete Player Youth Skills Camps are great for any youth and middle school player. We teach the foundational skills and teach them how to play the game in a team setting.

If you need some extra work on shooting, we have our Shooting Camps and our Shooting & Ball Handling Camps.

If you're serious about the game, we have our Elite Guard Camps, Attack & Counter Camps, and BDT Camps. Each camp has a slightly different style and approach. However, we believe every player can pick up specific things from each camp that makes them a better player.

We also have a Next Level Camp for high school and college players.

Our Breakthough directors have worked with McDonald's All Americans, players that have attended elite college programs such as Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, and many more programs. They have even worked with NBA all stars.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

11/13/2017 at 11:56:30 AM

I put ball handler, mid range, ISO, 3pt on my SG is that good


Emma says:
11/28/2016 at 10:18:11 PM

My basketball season just started, and we have all new coaches this year. I'm a starter, but the coach has me in at shooting guard constantly. I've played point all of my life and i'd like to continue doing so. What should I work on to stand out as a great point guard?


coach ches says:
6/1/2014 at 10:06:05 PM

Its given already that a good point guard should be great in ball handling and a good passer but for me he/she must be a great defender because most of the time point guards are the one who handle the ball.


basketballhq.com says:
4/22/2014 at 2:08:29 PM

Great points. Another one that I would put in there is understanding game flow. Meaning, they know when to push to attack and when to slow down the game, execute, and get a quality shot. Point guards should be an extension of the basketball coach on the floor.


smithwillsens says:
4/2/2014 at 6:40:45 AM

Nice Article thaks for sharing This is wonderful. appreciate Keep it up

  1 reply  

jonty ashdown says:
10/15/2020 at 9:19:44 PM

hey guys just wanted to ley you know this did not help at all terrible advice still on the bench i hope ur website gets shutdown because you guys are gay


Ken Sartini says:
3/31/2014 at 9:06:26 AM

Austin -

As I look at both of these, seem to me that they can be corrected with a a little work.... or maybe a lot of work LOL

Work on some ball handling and dribbling drills with your left hand only... practice, practice, and some more practice. Might seem boring at first, but IF you want to get better, thats what you will need to do.
Heisitation - crossover - behind the back, between the legs etc.

As for your follow through... stand by a wall first - work on your form and especially your follow through. Hold the follow through until you picture the ball going through the hoop (hitting the wall_ 100s of shots. Then go by the rim... 3-4 feet and do the same thing... keep your eye on the target and hold your follow through. 100s of shots.

Be patient, it takes time to break habits and develop new ones.


Austin Richardson says:
3/31/2014 at 12:03:46 AM

I'm a good ball handler but I struggle with my left hand

I have a pretty good jumper but need help on my follow through


Ken Sartini says:
3/28/2014 at 11:34:53 AM

Without being fundamentally sound, its pretty hard to be a good player regardless of the position. I agree, nice to be able to beat your man off the ball... but I had a few point guards that could not do that... but they could get the offense started without turning the ball over. In fact , one wasn't even a threat to score except from the FT line.... could never figure out why they would foul him.

He was the smartest kid in his class, so that made up for all the other stuff.

IF I had my choice... I would want a point guard that could handle the ball, get it to our best shooters, start the offense without turning it over, be able to take the ball to the basket.... have a good mid range jump shot and be able to shoot the 3 ball.... along with having ice water in his veins from the FT line, not to mention play great D on their point guard.

Did I miss anything?


Lynn says:
3/28/2014 at 10:16:15 AM

Great points. I believe without fundamental ball skills it is nearly impossible to be good point guard. If you don't have the threat of beating your man off the ball he can crowd passing lanes and shooting opportunities.


Jonathan McCaskill says:
3/26/2014 at 9:01:46 AM

I feel any point guard also has to be able to play solid on ball defense. Also, they should be able to be a great team defender as well, help defense is just as important as staying on your man. they must also understand that defense doesn't end until your team secure is the ball. therefore it is important by way of communication that they encourage their teammates to go after the rebound and go after the boards whenever they can..


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