How to Efficiently Score in Traffic

How to Efficiently Score in Traffic
Patrik Giardino

Particularly for smaller players, it can be difficult to score in the paint. Especially as you get older, the interior players become bigger and stronger. As a result, unless you have significant height, it can be difficult to take advantage of these shorter shots. However, this doesn’t mean you should take the entire paint out of your game-plan. Rather, it is important to develop certain moves that allow you to take advantage of your versatility to score against bigger defenders.

Absorb Contact

Basketball is a physical sport. There’s no questioning the fact that you may get hit or feel some contact as you approach the basket. Sometimes this can result in a trip to the free throw line. However, other times the defender will be in the correct position and you’ll be the one that has to learn how to absorb the contact. Failure to do so will lead to countless blocked shots. One of the most important things to remember in learning is to always keep your head up. As you attack the basket, it is easy to get distracted by the defending big man. However, you need to keep in mind where the basket is. This should be your first priority. With this consistent awareness, it is now time to worry about the contact. In practice, work on bouncing off contact and holding on to the ball longer. This may take some additional upper body strength, but that is just about the only way around the interior contact.

In the end, you’ll need the ability to shoot off the dribble. Former NBA assistant coach Hal Wissel has a course on CoachTube that provides key fundamentals to finishing close to the rim from all directions. These skills are vital to master before adding in a potential opposing defender!

Keep the Ball Hidden

Going hand-in-hand with the absorption of contact is the concept of protecting the ball.

When opposing defenders know where the ball is at, it becomes easier for them to time their jumps as they attempt to block your shot. Further, you need to keep the ball hidden to prevent perimeter defenders from reaching in and knocking the ball loose. In order to do this all effectively, you need to leap at the defender with your off-shoulder while keeping the ball as far away as possible. This takes practice, but it will allow you to dictate the contact point and when the actual shot will go up.

Reverse Lay-Up

As the initial sections of this article discussed some general elements, now I’ll start breaking down individual moves to be used while attempting to score in traffic. The reverse lay-up should be used as you’re driving in down the baseline. As the big comes out to impede your progress, you’ll want to take an extra step to maneuver over to the other side of the basket. After this extra step, you will scoop the ball off the backboard. The reason why this can truly be an effective move is because it prevents the big from blocking your shot and forces them into a situation where they can’t efficiently turn and still contest the shot.


A floater is another shot that prevents a shot blocker from taking advantage of their size.

As you drive into the paint, the big will start coming towards you. While this occurs, you’ll simplify the attempt with a floater. This involves you jumping and letting the ball go at the peak of your leap with one hand. It takes some time getting used to, but the key is to utilize your teammates to work on floaters during practice time. Make sure the timing is correct. One too many steps can put you right in the blocking territory of defenders.


The next potential move, the euro-step, has been perfected by players like James Harden and Manu Ginobili. Essentially, it is used when you have a 1-on-1 situation. You’re driving the ball towards the basket and one player stands in the way. As you approach that defender, you’ll fake the 1st step either inside or outside, then step around the defender in the opposite direction and finish with a lay-up.

The critical element here is deception. When you fake in one direction, the defender will commit and set up a situation where you can step around. However, if you fail to create this illusion, you’ll likely force yourself into a potential offensive foul turnover.


Taking a jump-stop allows the offensive player to control themselves before attacking the basket. The attacking player will jump and then land on both feet before collecting themselves and making a move. Like many plays, this depends on the defender’s positioning and has its own pros and cons. The primary con is the fact that it gives the defender an opportunity to get into position to make a play. Conversely, it also allows the attacker time to gather themselves and avoid a rushed attempt. One move that can be utilized after the jump-stop is an up-and-under. This comes after the defender pops out to attempt a block, you’ll use your quickness to fake the floater and scoop it in all in one motion.

Pump Fake

The final move I’ll discuss is a pump fake. Everyone loves a good pump fake, right? Anyways, the important thing to remember is to avoid over-using the pump. It shouldn’t be used on every possession, because then the defender can guess when it’s coming. However, when used sparingly, it can be immensely valuable. As I mentioned with the jump step, you can follow that up with a pump, thus setting up an open floater. Likewise, you can do it closer to the basket to get the big up in the air. Then, once they leave their feet, jump into them and generate the foul.

Going along with all of this, you can also initiate the fake concept when faking a pass to the perimeter. This might give you the available time to get a shot off!

Keep Attacking

Too often, I see guards get their shot blocked early in the game and then they are afraid to even touch the paint. You can’t let this be the case or else the opposing defense will adjust their strategy to play you tight on the outside. The key is to keep trying new moves. If the floater isn’t working, try a jump stop or pump. There are plenty of possibilities, which should put you in a position where you’re making the defense question themselves rather than the other way around.