3 Basketball Pivot Drills to Improve Footwork & Create Space

When I first started playing competitive basketball, I had trouble with either traveling violations or getting the ball stolen. This happened because I didn’t fully understand how to properly pivot. Thankfully after a couple of years, I was put on an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team with a high-level coach who taught me the right drills to perfect the fine art of pivoting.

Are you or your team newer to the hoops game and wanting to improve pivoting techniques? Use these three drills to learn how to pivot, drive, and complete various dribbling moves for basketball. These drills will help you or your team achieve a higher level of success on the hardwood.

1. Basic Pivot Footwork Drill

This drill is perfect for players who are new to basketball or who aren’t yet comfortable pivoting. Mastering the four basic pivot moves will make any player more fundamentally sound, regardless of size or position. Here’s a quick breakdown of the drill.

  • Split your team up into two to three lines and have each player face the baseline
  • A coach will then pass a ball to each player
  • As soon as each player receives the pass, have them immediately get into the triple threat position. This will get them ready to shoot, dribble, or pass the ball
  • Right Front Pivot: On the coach’s whistle, each player should lift their right foot and do a quarter turn pivot. The toe of the left foot (pivot foot) must stay on the floor at all times. Have the players complete four quarter turns to help them get a good feel for the move
  • Left Front Pivot: This move is the same except instead of the player moving his right foot, he’ll lift his left foot and do a quarter turn. During this move, the toe of the right foot becomes the pivot foot and must stay on the ground
  • Right Reverse Pivot: Once the coach blows the whistle, have each player lift their right foot and pivot backward. Have each player complete four quarter turns until they are facing the front like when they started. Again, the toe of the pivot foot (left foot, in this case) must remain on the floor
  • Left Reverse Pivot: This is the same as the right reverse pivot, except it is done with the left foot. Each player will complete four left reverse pivots to get more comfortable with the move

Do you have a basketball player who is having trouble grasping the pivoting concept? Tell them to imagine that there is a nail in the toe of their pivot foot and that it must not come off the ground. Remind them that it is okay for the heel of the pivot foot to come off the ground. 

This was an illustration that helped me better understand the pivoting concept as a player. Sometimes all it takes is a different explanation from the coach for it to “click” inside a player’s head.

2. Jump Stop, Pivot, and Pass Drill

Here’s an excellent drill for players to work on their jump stop move, their pivot, and their passing technique all at the same time. The jump stop move will help throw the defender off balance and create space for the ball handler to either drive, shoot, or pass. Here’s how the drill works.

  • Have your team form one line at the baseline
  • Have the first player in line sprint to the elbow near the top of the key while dribbling with his right hand
  • Upon reaching the elbow, have the player complete the jump stop move. The jump stop occurs when a player jumps on his last dribble and lands on both feet at the same time
  • After completing the jump stop move, the player will then pivot off of their left foot (again making sure the toe stays on the floor)
  • After pivoting, the player makes a crisp chest pass to the next player in the line
  • Sprint back to the end of the line

After each player has completed this drill, have your team do the mirror version of it. This means that they’ll now dribble with their left hand and pivot off their right foot. This drill can be done as a warmup to promote great footwork and agility.

3. Drop Step Drill

This is a great drill for low post players to help them improve their game as offensive players. The drop step is one of the most powerful moves in basketball because it creates separation from the defender and often leads to an easy layup. Here’s how to get your players to run the drop step drill.

  • Put two players on the low post, one on offense and one on defense (have the rest of the team watch from behind the baseline)
  • A coach passes the ball to the offensive player down in the low post
  • The post player is to catch the pass and simultaneously complete a jump stop
  • After the jump stop, have the offensive player take his right foot and drop step it over the defensive player’s right foot
  • The offensive player should use his right leg to seal off the defender from the basket. This will create the needed separation and leverage
  • Take one dribble and shoot the layup
  • After making the layup, do the same drill but drop step with the left foot instead

Sure, the drop step is primarily for power forwards and centers to master, but have your small forwards and even your guards practice it as well. You never know when your big post players will get into foul trouble, so every player on your team must know how to use the drop step.

You want your entire team to learn all of the fundamentals of basketball. No one can become a great player without mastering the fundamentals. Learning the proper drop step is a powerful weapon in any player’s arsenal.

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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.