How to Avoid Basketball Turnovers

Turnovers are a paramount piece of any basketball game. Avoiding turnovers can help you get playing time and stay on the court. 

On the other hand, turning the ball over consistently can lead some coaches to prefer another player and pull you from the game. 

If you can take care of the ball your chances to help your team will greatly increase. 

Here are 7 tips to avoid turnovers in basketball. 

1. Hit the weight room…

Watching playoff basketball at any level it is usually clear who the physically stronger team is. 

This team often imposes their will throughout the game, at times ripping the ball away from the other team, forcing turnovers, and scoring easy points in transition. 

Hitting the weight room will help prevent the following: 

  • Having the ball ripped away from you easily. 
  • Having the ball poked away from you while driving to the hoop. 
  • Having rebounds stolen from you. 
  • Having weak passes go off target or get picked off. 

When lifting weights, be sure to work with a good coach or trainer who has your best interest in mind. LIfting weights consistently can help prevent injury and lead to good health for years to come. It is about more than basketball. Lift weights to help both your short-term and long-term goals as an athlete and person. 

2. Work on your passing…

As coaches we tell players to get lots of shots up on their own in the off-season. 

One thing you also should be doing is grabbing a buddy or family member and working on your passing. After all, good passes lead to good shots and one bad pass often leads to a second bad pass or a turnover. 

To work on your passing do the following: 

  • Take advantage of any passing drills you have done before or are listed here
  • Work on a variety of passes such as post entry passes, passes out of the post, passing in transition, bounce passes, overhead passes, no-look passes and so on. 
  • Pay great attention to detail- Your passes should always be crisp and be thrown to the shooting side shoulder of your teammate. 

Great players are often great passers. They have value on their team because they can create opportunities for teammates. Be a great teammate by becoming a great passer. 

3. Improve your footwork…

A lot of turnovers happen because of poor footwork and pivoting. The unfortunate thing is these turnovers are often completely preventable!

To improve your footwork do the following: 

  • Work on jump-stops consistently. Doing this will help to prevent easy turnovers. 
  • Spend time drilling your footwork consistently. This will help slow down the game for you and lead to fewer unforced errors. 
  • Work on your post moves too, even if you are a guard. Post moves include a lot of good footwork, plus you get the added benefit of working on your finishing as well. 

Even if your footwork is good, you should be working on it consistently. This will help prevent sloppiness. 

4. Improve your ball-handling…

Unlike working on passing, you can do this without having another person to work out with. 

  • Use one or more of the following drills and work on your ball-handling on a daily basis. Even if you are not a guard, opposing coaches are terrified of big guys who can handle the ball, stretch the court, and create mismatches. 
  • Work your ball-handling while conditioning to get used to game speed. 
  • I’m also a firm believer in two ball dribbling. I’ve heard the comments before that basketball is only played with one ball. But if you can handle two balls at once, then one ball is going to feel a lot easier and the game will feel natural. 

5. Watch film…

Find out when common turnovers occur for you. 

For example, are you turning the ball over due to poor footwork, in transition, while trying to beat zones, or maybe even dribbling into double teams?

Identifying the reasoning for the turnovers will help you know what to work on. 

If the problem is passing then work on your passing and hit the weight room. If your problem is ball handling then work on ball handling. Don’t be afraid of some constructive criticism. We can all improve at something. 

6. Improve decision-making… 

A lot of turnovers are made due to poor decisions. Ill-advised passes are made or double teams are dribbled into. To improve your decision-making do the following: 

  • Identify what poor decisions are being made. Talking to your coach and watching your own game film can go a long way towards improving this. 
  • Watch other basketball games and pay close attention to decision making. You’ll find that some of the best players are also good decision makers. You’ll also start to identify their progressions and what risks they are and are not willing to take. 

7. Some turnovers are mental…

No player wants to turn the ball over, when you struggle with turnovers, however, you may try to focus on not turning the ball over and might even play scared. 

  • Playing scared won’t help. You will become a less effective offensive player and your opponents will notice this and take advantage of it. 
  • Continue to work on fundamentals and improve your game. If you are still playing scared then talk with your coach about this. They will appreciate your honesty and willingness to improve. 
  • These strategies may go a long way to helping the mental part of your game. 

Tips for For Coaches: 

If you’re a coach working with a team, here are a few additional tips for you…

  • Utilize certain ball-handling, passing, and footwork drills daily in practice. A couple I like include Nate Sanderson’s Sorcery and Partner Pass and Pivot.
  • Don’t allow lazy passes in any drill. Even basic shooting drills are a chance to work on passing.
  • Add in an extra defender or two occasionally on defense. This works especially well in learning to break the press and breaking good trapping zones.
  • Have your players hit the weight room year round. A good strength and conditioning coach will work with you and make sure players aren’t worn down come playoff time, in fact they will probably be the physically stronger team if you do this right.

Lastly, we have all sat in a gym before when a player or team turns the ball over a couple times in a row. The coach, understandably frustrated, responds by yelling at the player to not turn the ball over.

Obviously the player knew they weren’t supposed to turn the ball over, telling them this won’t help. Be positive and know in the middle of the game some issues won’t be solved. Instead, utilize practice to keep working the skills necessary to improve the play during games.

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