Offensive players use cuts to change direction quickly (while staying in balance) and “lose” their opponents in order to get open for passes or shots. Defenders will find it difficult to keep up if they are unable to respond correctly to the cut.
A player executes a cut by planting one foot on the court at the end of a slightly shortened stride, then pushing off that foot to shift his momentum in another direction. For example, if a player wants to cut to the right, he will first plant the left foot (see figure 4.3a) and then push off of it. Then, he will turn the unplanted foot in the direction he wants to go and will lead with that leg as he bursts in the new direction (see figure 4.3b). When cutting, a player should bend the knees to lower his center of gravity and provide explosiveness from the legs. After cutting, he should always strive to get his lead hand up as a target for a pass. If a player is off balance when making a cut, it is usually because of two things: The player is not low enough, and the player’s head is not over his feet.
Three types of cuts that offensive players use to get open are V-cuts, L-cuts, and backdoor cuts.
A V-cut is used by an offensive player to get open at the wing when the defensive player has a foot and hand in the passing lane and is trying to deny a pass to the offensive player. The ideal place for the offensive player to receive the ball is at the wing position, which is even with the free-throw line halfway between the free-throw lane and the sideline. The V-cut should be the offensive player’s first option in getting to this position because it is the easiest cut to use and the quickest method to get open. To execute a V-cut, the offensive player moves from the wing position and takes her defender to the basket. She then plants the foot closest to the basket and pushes off toward the wing position to receive the ball (see figure 4.4). The offensive player should come out on a different line than the one she used when making her cut to the basket (hence the V-cut).
Coaching Tip Younger players commonly take an arced path when cutting, or they slow down, taking short steps before the cut. You should teach your players that cuts must be hard, sharp, and explosive in order to be most effective and to keep the defense on edge.
An L-cut is also used by an offensive player to get open at the wing when a defender has a foot and hand in the passing lane, trying to deny the pass. Again, the ideal place for the offensive player to receive the ball is at the wing position. The L-cut is used when the V-cut will not get the offensive player open to catch the ball. To execute an L-cut, the offensive player should first be in the ready position. He moves to a spot just outside the free-throw lane (about even with the middle of the lane) and then takes the defensive player slowly to the elbow of the free-throw line. He plants his inside foot and crosses over with the outside foot to move straight out to the wing to receive the ball (see figure 4.5).
A backdoor cut is used by an offensive player when a defender has a foot and hand in the passing lane to deny a pass from the outside into the wing position. This cut is used to reduce the pressure at the wing. Because the defender is denying the pass to the wing, the offensive player must execute a backdoor cut toward the basket to get open. To execute a backdoor cut, the player should move to the outside by taking her defensive player a step above the three-point line. She then plants the foot closest to the half-court line and quickly cuts behind her defender and toward the basket (see figure 4.6).