14 Areas to Focus on When Scouting a Basketball Player by Kyle Ohman of BasketballHQ.com

As a part of a recent communication between us and basketballhq.com we bring you a special piece by the one and only Kyle Ohman the co-creator of the site.

Aside from Kyle being a top creator he also is a former Pro basketball player and has also been heavily coaching since he has moved on from his playing days. We value his perspective highly and hope that it brings added flavor to our followers.


As a basketball coach or general manager, you know how important it can be to find the right player(s) for your team and organization. The difference between Player A and Player B could be the difference between winning and looking for a new job. This allows for a lot of pressure and due-diligence when it comes to scouting potential players.

But where do you start, and how do you determine the difference between Player A and Player B? If you have been doing this for any amount of time, I am sure that you already have a pretty good system for yourself when it comes to scouting basketball players. Still, you can never stop learning – one of these fourteen areas to focus on when scouting might be the determining factor for you.

This list of fourteen areas to focus on when scouting a basketball player was put together with the help of G-League Head Coach Ryan Pannone. Along with coaching the Erie Bayhawks in the G-League, he has also coached on professional teams in Israel, Germany, China, and Slovakia.

How Many Positions Can They Play

In today’s game of basketball, positions are becoming more and more fluid. This places a premium on players that can seamlessly transition from one position to the other. When evaluating a player, watch how many different positions they can play on both offense and defense. If you can find a player that could play two or three different positions within your system, they are going to be that much more valuable to you.

List of Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the best ways to get a complete picture of a player is to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. It will take watching a number of their games (you need a larger sample size), but it will give you a full picture of what that player is able to bring to the table. Treat it as a scouting report for an opposing team and list everything they do well versus the areas that they struggle in. Depending on the makeup of your team, their strengths could be highlighted, and the weaknesses minimized, or vice versa, so it is crucial to figure out exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Coachability

No one wants to try and coach a player that isn’t going to listen and wants to do their own thing. So make sure that along with evaluating stats and physical abilities, that you are also evaluating their coachability. Are they engaged in the huddle, do they look the coach in the eyes, is their body language positive, are they executing the offense that is called. All of these will give you insight into their coachability. Also, ask around and see if they are coachable. Talk to their current coaches and any coach that has worked with them in the past. Just make sure you are doing your own research as well.

Ball Handling

This area will some variation as far as position and what type of player you are looking for. Obviously, a point guard is going to need to be able to handle the ball at a much higher level than a post player, but in today’s game, everyone needs to be able to handle it to some degree. This will also depend on the type of offense you are looking to run. So based on what you need, evaluate whether that player can deliver the ball handling that you need.

Ability to Shoot the 3

Players that can space the floor and knock down threes can change the entire dynamic of a team. This isn’t just wing players anymore, either. If you have a five-man that can step out and make the defense pay, or open up the floor for penetration, you will be able to change the dynamic of your offense. On the flip side, if you have a player that is not a three-point shooter, they could slow down your entire offense. So make sure that you are evaluating where they fall on that spectrum, and what they can offer if they aren’t a three-point shooting threat.

Rebounding

This needs to be evaluated by position, but being able to finish out defensive stands and create extra possessions can add a lot of value to your team. So you must be evaluating what a player is doing on the glass. It isn’t just enough to look at their stats either because they could be skewed one way or the other. It is critical to evaluate their rebounding abilities and also their desire to get on the boards.

Watch Their Worst Game

It is easy to watch a player’s highlight video and think that they are the perfect player for your team. It is easy because it highlights all of the good moments that they have had. As a coach, though, this isn’t enough. You need to see what the player looks like when they are struggling as well. A great way to do that is by watching their worst game. This will allow you to see who the player is when things aren’t going well. Are they still interacting on the bench and with teammates? Do they still bring good energy? What is their body language like? There are going to be times in a season where things don’t go well, and it will be essential for you to have high-character players to help you get through these times.

Communicate on Defense

Communication in basketball is a must if you want to have a chance to be successful. You need to have a team that has great communicators, and this is especially true on defense. It must be all five players, though. Even having one player that isn’t communicating can throw off the whole defense. This means that you need to be evaluating how the player you are scouting communicates. Are they one of the defensive leaders and communicating on every play, or are they adding to the problem?

Body Language Throughout the Game

The body language of a player can provide valuable insight into what the player is really like. So as you are watching them play, look to see if they celebrate with teammates, acknowledge them on a good pass, and so on. The more they reveal positive body language, the more it shows that they are invested in the team’s success.

Do They Remember Plays

You can have the best basketball plays in the world, but they only work if the players on the floor can execute them, and that first means remembering them. This means that you need to evaluate whether a player can remember and run plays correctly. If they seem lost or confused on multiple plays, it may be hard for them to remember plays. Or, if they are helping to call and organize plays, you may have found yourself a player that is great with learning, remembering, and then executing plays.

Basketball IQ

Don’t get caught up in only evaluating height, wingspan, vertical, etc. Make sure that you are spending time evaluating their basketball IQ as well. You need to make sure that you are bringing in players that understand the game, and that can think and adjust as different situations arise. Also, if you run a more complicated system, you need to be able to bring in players that will be able to handle that system.

Read Pick and Roll

Pick and rolls are a huge part of the game of basketball, both offensively and defensively. The player(s) you are evaluating must be able to handle and read the different pick and roll situations that they will come across. A player that can take advantage of the pick and roll will create a ton of scoring opportunities for your team. A player that is not able to will lead to turnovers and stalling the offense.

How Well Do They Play Off of the Ball

The best teams are filled with players that play well without always having to have the ball in their hands. They are filled with players that are screening, cutting, etc. This means that you need to evaluate how well a player can play off the ball. If they are only able to score or add value with the ball in their hand, you may be asking for a stagnant offense. As a basketball trainer in Tampa, Florida, I have worked with a number of players on this because that is where the majority of their scoring is going to come from. Players that buy into scoring within the offense will be able to score more points on fewer attempts, and that is what it is about as a coach.

Running the Floor in Transition

Being great at early offense is an excellent way to get easy baskets. This only happens, though, if you have players that are willing to get up the floor and sprint in transition. This is not always instinctive for a player, though. So if you can find a player that is willing to sprint the floor, regardless of whether they get the ball or not, they will add a ton of value to your team.

14 Areas to Focus on When Scouting a Basketball Player Conclusion

When it comes to evaluating a player, there are a lot of different factors that go into it, as you can see. And while there isn’t a foolproof plan, there are factors that will help you improve your chances of landing the right player for you. Hopefully, these different keys will help you better create your scouting report for recruiting players. Because at the end of the day, it is up to you to find the right evaluation that works for you.

There are also a number of other excellent basketball resources online that are available to coaches as well. So while this is a great start, continue to improve scouting knowledge, as well as your overall basketball knowledge.


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