I’m just going to say it right now. For the shorter players out there (and quite frankly even the tall ones) the hesitation move in pick-up basketball is one of the most dangerous open court moves, bar none. As it stands you’d most likely have an incredibly hard time thinking of a move that’s equal parts more effective, controllable and reliable. So why do I think it’s the most dangerous? The answer literally comes down to one word.
Unless you’re facing former college players (or even former pros) or super athletes who train for basketball all the time, chances are you can beat your opponent using timing. The hesitation takes it one step further and allows for you to control your timing as well as your defenders. This effectively allows for you to move with ease.
The “hesi” (hesitation) is also a move that can lead into nearly every other major basketball move out there. In turn you’re able string together combos easier and faster. A prime example is Bradley Beal below. After his crossover you can clearly see him hesitate off the screen. In doing that he causes Marc Gasol to bite giving him a lane to the basket.
But I get it, many will claim that certain other moves are more effective and better, but are they really?
Hesitation vs Speed Dribble
Perhaps the toughest argument against the hesitation would be the Speed Dribble. With the speed dribble you are effectively playing soccer with your hands by throwing the ball out in front of you and closing the distance by running after it. If you’re a former track or soccer player, naturally fast or happen to be the fittest guy on the court then you may find that this works even better for you than the hesitation at times. But I wouldn’t go so far as to rank it ahead of the hesitation for a few reasons.
First, unless you’re Russell Westbrook or John Wall, you’ll probably find yourself incredibly tired after doing it a few times. Court size won’t matter much, because regardless, a number of shorter athletes tend to run at full speed to avoid chase down blocks. Even worse, on a smaller court, you may find yourself getting to the hoop much faster than you think. Once there you’re suddenly forced to throw up a layup (or stop short which is really bad for the knees and ankles).
Second in a lot of pickup games guys like to cherry pick meaning that even if you get out ahead of the pack you still won’t have a free path to the hoop, especially if someone is already there. This in turn makes it hard to try to string together another move while already moving that fast. That’s the reason why the speed dribble isn’t really a good setup move for anything outside of the euro-step. (You could argue spins, but if you don’t have complete body control, generally you’ll spin wide).
Hesitation vs the Crossover
The crossover has always been deadly but can be rendered instantly ineffective in pick-up if
A: The defender is faster.
B: You don’t have good control with your off hand.
C: The defender actually is a real defender and knows how to stop the crossover.
D: If you’re a slow shifter (meaning the defender can tell you’re about to try the crossover)
The hesitation is on par, speed wise, with the crossover. It helps that with a hesitation you essentially feign a crossover without doing one. If done well enough, can trick your defender give you space. If the defense doesn’t bite, it’s still ok because you’re in the same position moving forward. A crossover, if done wrong or if predicted can put you in a worse position since you’re effectively shifting your balance.
Hesitation vs Spin Moves
The spin move is everything to some. Shoot, it’s everything to me. I’m am not above mentioning how it’s my favorite move. But as deadly as the spin move can be, its effectiveness only pertains to certain situations, like a one on one. Without those situations the spin move can easily become a liability, regardless of skill level. It’s easy to recognize who the constant spinners are too, just play a game or two with them. Chances are they’ll attempt to do one multiple times throughout the game. While I mentioned that the speed dribble is the toughest argument, to those who know how to properly spin, this may be the toughest and quite frankly it’s easy to see why. The spin move pros are hard to deny. You essentially can;
- Create instant space from you defender.
- Move out of the way of a defender.
- Force your defender into a screen (with a correctly set pick).
- Give yourself an extra split second for a better shot attempt.
- Allow yourself to see the entire court.
- Split an impending double team (the most impressive way to do so as well).
I mean the list goes on. But again, while theoretically you can devastate people with a great spin move, the cons that come with it are just as long as the pros.
- Without proper speed and body control spins are easy to read.
- Without proper speed and body control spins will force you wide rather than tight.
- Spins can effectively force you into a bad shot or worse a block.
- Spinning too fast can take you out of the play.
- Spins can force you into your own teammates or worse, the opposition
- Spin moves without good handling abilities create easy steal opportunities.
Use What Works
Unfortunately the hesitation isn’t the “be all end all”. It won’t magically get you an open lane every time or give you enough space for a clean look. But its overall effectiveness and ease of use make it suitable for more situations than any other move.
That being said if something else works for you and you can exploit it, do so. For shorter players, any advantage is necessary. While my main argument is in favor of hesitations, it’s only speaking from a general sense. If you have a defender who keeps biting on spins, well, keep spinning. Someone can’t time your crossover? Keep crossing them over. Never be afraid or ashamed to exploit your defender.
Shorter players already have enough going against them when facing taller competition. The hesitation levels it out a little bit, forcing taller defenders to stay honest. If someone can name a move that’s overall more effective, I will sing their praises (and ultimately go on to use that move myself). But until then, add the “hesi” to your repertoire. You won’t regret it.