#Developing: Small Forwards

The Small Forward is very similar to a shooting guard as far as the skills that need to be developed. Usually the small forward is bigger than the shooting guard, which will open up more opportunities on both ends of the floor. Small forwards tend to handle the ball more in the offense than shooting guards do unless their team starts a combo guard or multiple point guards in the rotation.

Most of your routine that you develop for a small forward workout should be similar than the drills used form the shooting guard workout. Where the workouts differ is the amount of screen and roll and offense off of the dribble should be increased in the small forward workout. Also, if the small forward that you are working with is bigger say 6’5 or taller at the high school/ college level or 6’6 or taller at the pro level a lot of post work should be incorporated in the routine.

Small Forwards To Look For On Youtube: LeBron James,Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Tayshaun Prince, Andre Iguodala.


Developing a small forward is like developing a point guard, shooting guard, and post player all in one. A small forward needs to know how to clear their defender so when you start working on off the dribble offense emphasize going somewhere with the dribble. Repetitions just like any position is very important with their mid and deep ranged jumpers.

A player’s physical traits (size,athletic ability, and skill) has a big impact on the workout that you put them through. Don’t cookie cut your small forward workout for all small forwards. If they are smaller then don’t add much on the post up front or if they don’t handle the ball very well then do less with off the dribble offense in isolations.

Ball Handling

The ability to handle the ball is one of the major skill sets that separates the shooting guard and small forward. While shooting guards usually get their shots int he offense spotting up or coming off screens, the small forward tends to isolate, handle the ball in transition, and has the ball in pick and roll situations.

Just like every other position develop their ball handling skills in a lot of stationary drill work, as well as full court work. This will enhance their ability to be efficient creating opportunities off of the dribble. It’s important to build their hand, wrist, and forearm strength. This will build a great base in becoming a good ball handler.

If you watch some of the better small forwards like Paul Pierce,Luol Deng, and LeBron James they can all use their dribble to put their teams in position to win. Being able to handle the ball adds another level to a wing’s game in becoming a scoring threat for their team. It is important to spend a good amount of time at least 10-12 minutes spread out in an hour to hour and fifteen minute workout.


In your workouts with your small forward get them plenty of repetitions shooting jump shots from 15-17 feet from both corners,elbows, and free throw line area. Don’t worry about the three point line at first. Work on the foundation of their shooting and spend time with shooting close to the basket at first. Form shooting is always good to start your workout with.

Communicate the importance of a good follow through and keeping their elbow as high as possible on their release. As far as game shots work on their spot ups from 15-17 , shooting off pin downs, and 1-2 dribble pull-ups starting from the three point line going in both directions. Not every successful small forward can consistently make shots, but developing them to be serviceable from 15-17 feet will put them ahead of the curve for their position.

Repetitions are the key to developing your player’s offensive game. Make sure in these repetitions you are correcting them on their shooting form, elbow height, and balance. Put a lot of time into developing their mid range shooting and when they begin being consistent then you can spend more time with the mid range + and three point line.


In some instances the small forward is a team’s secondary ball handler to the point guard. Since they will find themselves with the ball an awful lot being able to pass the ball is very important. Weak handed passing is one of the most important passing skills that you can teach them.

Spend a great deal of time teaching them to drive hard and force defenders to rotate to them and make the pass out of the rotations. Set up situations where they have to think and make plays for others on their drives. Make help defenders rotate up not only from the wing, but also the post as well. Have them make chest, bounce, and over the head passes.

In your pick and roll work make sure you add pocket passes to the screener rolling and popping. Accuracy is very important when working on passing. Stationary passing is great to develop form, but also making passes in game situations is such an important skill to teach.

Passing is a very under taught skill that needs to be worked on especially at the young levels.

Creating Space

There are three types of scorers. There are the types of players that can score when their defender is behind them (transition), the player that can score when their defender is on their side(driving and getting them on their hip), and the player that can score when their defender is in front of them (1/2 court defender in stance and in position.). The first two are easy if you are bigger,faster, and stronger than your defender. The third type is the toughest as when a defender is in good position and on balance then it becomes a chess game.

Teaching a wing player to create is a slow process for a coach. There are no short cuts or “super unstoppable move” that you can teach a wing player over night. Repetitions are the key to teaching your player to get their own shot. Start with the most important thing and that is patience.

Young players at every position want to play the game too fast. Teach them patience and to see not only where their defender is playing, but also where the other 4 defenders are positioned. The Jab step is the most popular way to create space. The key to a good jab step is not to catch and jab right away. Catch the ball and size your defender up first. You do this because when you catch the ball and your defender is playing off 5 feet there is no reason to jab.

When your player catches have them be in good triple threat position have them seize their defender up for a second or two and then make their jab. Work on having them catch, jab, and shoot with no dribble from 15 feet. Once they are consistent move them out past the three point line from the wings and top of the key and now jab,fake, and take a dribble right/left for a jumper.

Biggest point of emphasis is to make them stay low on everything (jab,fake, and dribble) the only time they should be coming up is when they shoot.Being able to catch the ball on the wing and move their defender to create space for their drives or jumper is so important for a wing. These skill sets are a great start for any wing player.

Post Up Game

Bigger wing players should all have some type of a post game. The flex offense is increasing in popularity at all levels. It is important to have all young players learn a couple of post moves to at least be comfortable on both blocks.

Be basic when teaching post moves to younger wing players. Have them post up from the mid post area so they have room to face up and shoot as well as drive to the basket. Every young player should be able to shoot a jump shot over both shoulders. Coaches aren’t a big fan of fade aways, well unless they go in. I don’t care if they are straight up or fading away on their jump shot.

As long as they put the work in with their repetitions practicing the fade away, I am not against them shooting the shot. A counter to the turn over shoulder jumper is to turn/fake and put the ball on the floor for a jumper/hook. You can even add a step-back to that move as well. Besides turning over their shoulder for a jumper with no dribble they can also shoot the hook over both shoulders with no dribble.

The last two moves that are effective for a wing player is to catch take a dribble middle and shoot a jump hook. Add an up and under to that move and they will have a pretty good arsenal of post moves to go to.

Keep heir post game simple and effective. Don’t get caught up in teaching moves with 4 pivots and multiple spins. Remember there are 8 other players, a shot clock, and 3 second calls to consider.


You should develop all of your wing players to be defensive stoppers. Of course not all players can be stoppers, but developing good footwork with their defensive footwork is a must. Just like on the offensive end stress to them staying low and being aggressive.

Active hands are so important. Even if they aren’t very quick having active hands to get deflections can be the difference between your team winning or losing. Having active hands while having good fundamentals with their defensive footwork can make a world of difference with their individual defense.

Besides being an on the ball defender knowing how to rotate from the weak side is equally important. Have them rotate off their man to the help position on the court. Make then see the ball and be in a position to help on their drive or to help another help defender on their defensive rotation. If you have the man power try to put them in game situations to develop their on and off the ball defense.

Another defensive skill to teach is how to fight through screens off the ball (pin downs) and on the ball (screen and roll). Very important to have them stay connected and get skinny pushing their backs in to get through screens. Getting through screens isn’t something they can just do but will need practice and corrections from their coaches.

Some small forwards such as Andre Iguodala, Tayshaun Prince, and Shane Battier are all very good on the ball and team defenders. Take a look at them on Youtube and pay attention to how they move their feet and use their hands. Defense is something that needs to be encouraged in workouts.

Pick & Roll Defense

Pick & Roll offense is such an important part of team offense on all levels. I think every perimeter position needs to be able to initiate screen and roll offense. Have them understand the basics of it. You can have them initiate pick and roll using the dribble or popping out to the wing and sending a screener to them.

Cover the following pick and roll shots.

1.) Advancing the ball 2 dribbles to the elbow and shoot a 15-17 foot jumper

2.) Advance the ball and split the screeners man for a finish or mod range jump shot.

3.) Shoot the 3 point shot behind the screener when their defender goes under the screen

4.) Reject the screen and take 2 dribbles baseline and pull-up 12-15 feet.

If you work on your mid range shooting with them and off the dribble offense then screen and roll shots won’t be hard to perfect. Getting a good number of repetitions in their workout on 15 foot shots from all over the court early in the workout will inadvertently help them on their pick and roll offense.

Make sure on their drives that they are changing speeds and driving hard to their spot forcing their defenders to shift the weight on their heels so that the offensive player can raise up straight for their jumper. Screen & Roll is something that they will eventually see and should be worked on regularly in workouts.

Dribble Moves

Be basic when teaching moves to your players. If they know how to crossover, go between their legs, hesitate, and go in and out they will be prepared to create offense off of the dribble.

The biggest thing to concentrate on is changing speeds. Changing speeds is critical in being able to penetrate the defense and to get the ball in the paint. Don’t get too carried away on all of these “moves from hell” 4 counter dribble moves that people state that NBA Players make. What these trainers don’t share with you is that the only NBA players that make these moves are NBA players in video games.

Keep dribble moves basic as all you are looking for them to do is to shift a defenders weight and to get them out of their stances. Stay low and change speeds are the two things to harp on with your players.


Wing players I don’t care how big or athletic need to understand the importance of finishing. I remember teaching a 6’9 athletic wing player floaters. A coach stopped me and asked what the hell I was doing. They said that the player I was working with should be able to finish everything at the rim. Now it is easy to think that but every wing player should understand how to shoot a high arcing floater in the lane as dunking or finishing at the rim isn’t always the option.

For your wing players have them shoot layups with both hands on the right side as well as the left. Incorporate floaters from the left, right, and middle of the floor. I always teach every wing player that I work with the running hook across the lane. Players should always have multiple shots to finish with. Assuming that players can always finish at the rim is a recipe for disaster.

Setting Screens

Screening well at any position is so important. For bigger wings you should spend a lot of time working on them setting pin downs and ball screens. the 1/3 pick and roll is something that many teams are taking advantage of these days. The goal with it is to force a switch where a smaller point guard defender is forced to guard the bigger wing.

Teach your wings to set ball screens to force a switch and roll their man to the elbow or mid post area. Making contact with the defender on the screen is such an important part of the game at any position. Setting proper pin down screens on smaller guards or back screens on bigger and slower post players can force a mismatch for them on the wing as well.

More coaches should work on this skill to create multiple mismatches on the court.


Take your physical attributes of your player to build around your skill development program that you build for them. Three quarters of your workout should be the same routine of mid range shots, ball handling, passing, etc. Leave the last 1/4 of your workout to work on new skills from time to time.

Build your players first into serviceable players at their position. Don’t get caught up into developing advanced skills that are over your player’s head. Work on skill sets that players of their size, athletic ability, and skill level can maximize to be successful.

The three point shot, even if your player isn’t consistent with that it should be practiced in every workout. Make sure that they are comfortable shooting the shot as in time they will become more consistent with it. I think the three point shot is a powerful tool, but one that is hurting out game as well because players want to drift out to it and not be consistent with their mid range game.

Stress rebounding with your small forwards. A good number to average is a rebound every 6 minutes for a wing player. Meaning if you play 30 minutes a good number to average per game is a minimum of 5. Wing players can’t just be scorers they need to rebound, get to the free throw line 5 times a game/min, get steals/deflections, and even block shots.

Good luck with your players and if you are interested in purchasing an individual workout or any of our other services email us at info@hoopconsultants.com

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