When we consider the basic fundamentals of basketball we always think of shooting, dribbling, and passing but we often forget about another very important skill - pivoting.
There are six main reasons why it is important to be able to pivot correctly:
1. Pivoting can help you get open at the wing, in the high post, and in the low post.
2. Pivoting allows you to square up and put yourself in a triple threat position while constantly protecting the ball from your defender.
3. Pivoting combined with effective head and ball fakes can make you a dominant low post scorer. (Kevin McHale)
4. Pivoting is a tool that is necessary to avoid pressure and prevent turnovers.
5. Pivoting correctly requires body awareness and the ability to use both feet which helps improve footwork in every other aspect of the game as well.
6. Pivoting quickly and effectively is also a defensive requirement, especially when defending ball handlers.
Maintain a low center of gravity and always strive to stay on balance. Boston Celtics assistant coach and individual workout specialist Kevin Eastman has always taught that basketball is a game that should be played "low to high" and not "high to low." Getting and then staying as low as possible when pivoting will make it more difficult for defenders to knock you off balance and will allow you to make your move to the basket quicker when you have finished pivoting.
It is a big mistake to try and pivot when you are not completely on balance. Players who do this are often knocked back on their heels by their defender. When this happens they come out of their stance, stand up and often put the ball above and behind their heads. Since the offensive player is no longer in an effective, triple threat position the result is often a travelling violation or a weak, awkward pass.
Always establish or maintain a low center of gravity and proper balance before attempting to pivot in any direction.
Work to master all four of the basic pivots. The four basic pivots are a front pivot on your right foot, a front pivot on your left foot, a reverse pivot on your right foot and a reverse pivot on your left foot. Many players can only execute one type of pivot and that is a front pivot on their "off" foot. (For example, a right handed player front pivoting on his left foot and vice versa) While this is certainly better than nothing, these players will never be as effective as those players who have mastered all four pivots. Not only will you be more skilled after mastering all four pivots but you will also see an increase in self-confidence as you realize no one can take the ball away from you.
If you are a player who likes to score inside either off of post ups, dribble penetrations, or offensive rebounds, you will also want to master the cross over pivot. Picture yourself entering the paint on the left side, pivoting on your left foot and giving your defender a good shot fake. As the defender leaves his feet to block your shot, you keep your left foot on the ground but then pivot again by crossing your right foot over in front of your left and scoring the basket. This is one of the best finishing moves in the game!
One simple drill can help you develop and perfect these skills. First, start on the baseline, dribble to the free throw line and jump stop. Once you arrive, lower your center of gravity and establish proper balance. (Knees bent and shoulder width, back straight, weight evenly distributed.) Then execute one of the four basic pivots while concentrating on maintaining your balance and keeping your head on the same level plane. (Don't rise up out of your stance.)
Once you've executed the proper pivot dribble back to the baseline and repeat. Do 10 repetitions for each pivot, for a total of 40. Once you get comfortable with the drill, dribble to the free throw line five times with your right hand and then five times with your left hand when executing each of the pivots. After just a few practice sessions you should see a drastic improvement in your ability to pivot.