open look in basketball

An open look in basketball is a situation where the defensive player guarding the shooter has been beaten. And cannot recover to contest a shot. This open look doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can be devastating for the defense. In this article, we will go over what an open look is, different scenarios as to why and how they happen. And finally, mention how teams can avoid being in an open look situation.

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What Does it Mean to be Open in Basketball?

More specifically, an open look in basketball generally means having unobstructed access to something. In basketball, open is used about a player who has no defender between them and the basket. Because they are not marked or within arm’s reach of their defender. Being open gives that shooter an advantage over other defenders on the floor. As if they were guarding that open shooter it would take more time for them to close out than for someone already open with space directly behind them.

open look in basketball

Creating an Open Look

Creating an open look situation in basketball requires both offensive executions by setting screens or moving without the ball. As well as poor defense which leaves their man open around the perimeter after initially being beaten off of either screen or drive action. There are different types of open looks:

Open Catch

A player can be open with a catch if they receive an entry pass in space. Without having their defender within arm’s reach to contest the shot. Or after screening away from that spot and then receiving a return pass to shoot. After setting a screen for someone else, it is important for players coming off of screens to keep moving. And stay active as this forces defenders to constantly move around which makes open shots more available. Because their teammates aren’t stationary waiting for passes. But rather making themselves open by cutting through gaps when other team members draw attention onto one another.

It is also beneficial for cutters not only to make cuts out of scoring range (short corner). But also right down the middle of the lane to open up room for other teammates. If cutters don’t make their defenders follow them. They can open up opportunities by screening away from where they would like to receive a return pass. And then cutting back to that spot when it is clear of any immediate pressure (help defense). Cutters should always look at whoever has the ball first before making their cuts. To keep aware of who will realistically be able to get them the ball.

Open Off The Dribble

A player can also create open shots off of dribble penetration into the interior or perimeter spaces on the court. Depending on how close he/she gets into space without having another defender within arm’s reach near them. As this forces help-side defenders out onto someone else and open up open shots. If a defender can get beat off of ball action such as their player (defender) getting caught on an initial screen. Then they must recover immediately to that open shooter or risk giving up an open look from three-point range.

Another way players create open looks is by bypassing the basketball out of penetration. And being quick enough in making decisions about where to receive a pass back for a shot. Which will result in their defenders recovering onto them. This second option works best if the defense switches its coverage so that another player gets put into one-on-one situations against their man directly after screening away from them during dribble penetration moves.

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open look in basketball

How do Open Looks in Basketball Occur?

The closer that defenders get to shooters on drives, cuts, coming off screens, etc., they reduce open looks. However, open shots can occur even with a defender very close to the shooter if that player is screened off from being able to contest the shot.

For an open look in basketball to happen, these things have to take place:

  • Offensive players must be good at getting open and creating open shots through screens or cuts.
  • The offense needs excellent ball movement as well as spacing so they are occupying enough space around the perimeter on pick and rolls, etc., which allows them open set up their man without help defense coming over.
  • The defense has to make mistakes by not recognizing who should guard whom; defenders either do not see somebody cutting/setting screen (or switch late) or watching somebody else open, etc.
  • Offensive players have to be open in the first place; this is open by either quick ball reversal or having a defender go under screens/picks (if they are not disciplined), or if their man gets screened off from being able to close out because of help defense coming over after screening action happens on the other side of the floor.
  • An open look can also happen if a defender is beaten off the dribble or if their man beats them to another open spot on the floor.

How to Avoid Open Looks in Basketball

Teams can avoid open looks in basketball by making sure they are not allowing their defense to get beat early on screens, cuts, etc. This is done by bigs setting good screens. And the guards/wings properly running through or using ball reversal. So that they do not allow defenders to be out of place defensively which would open up somebody else.

Even if open shots happen though it doesn’t always mean skillful execution for open shot shooters; sometimes open shots just go in because of luck/variance.

One of the best ways to avoid open looks is by having an excellent defensive team with great rotations and communication. As well as being disciplined.


When defending against open look situations, teams should try employing a mix of these strategies:

  • Be aware of ball movement, spacing, cutting/setting screens (or how good your players are at beating their man), etc. Which create open shots in basketball.
  • Also, be aware that you can give up open looks if your opponent’s offensive sets are excellent through screening action to open one of their teammates for an uncontested shot around the perimeter.
  • Avoid making mistakes on either side of the court by always being conscious about what is happening within possessions so open looks don’t happen very often!
  • By setting more solid pick-and-rolls as well as helping each other out on defensive rotations even when it means sacrificing personal glory will open up open looks less often.
  • Also when your team does not have the ball. Be aware to make sure you do not open up open shots by staying in front and cutting off lanes for drives/picks (opposing players can beat you off the dribble).
  • Finally, avoid giving open looks through quick ball reversals or having guards go under screens. This allows defenders time to get back into position so they are not screened off from being able to close out on shooters around the perimeter quickly enough. Which gives them an open look at a shot!

There is no set rule of how to defend open looks. Because they happen from so many different scenarios and reading what your opponent does. However, if open shots do go down. Then that means there were mistakes made by both teams which sometimes just happens due to variance. In any case, being able to recognize whether somebody was open when shooting will help you understand why certain things happened during games. Remember: always try watching films with an open mindset!

Offense and Defense

There are also some other things you can do on both offense and defense:

  • On Offense – be aware of who’s open/who’s not open; if you’re usually getting open by coming off screens or drives into wide-open areas. Then set up your man early so they cannot switch late or go under (defenders will want to go under), etc. Which gives them less time for help defenders like weak side wing players to come over after their original defender gets screened off from closing out.
  • On Defense – recognizing quickly when somebody has gotten beaten; don’t get screened off or open the floor with poor positioning; communicate well on help defense and rotations.


In conclusion, open looks in basketball are open shots that you get on offense or defense. They happen because of many different scenarios like screens, cuts, etc., but happen more often (and usually by accident) due to variance and luck – which is what makes them sometimes hard to avoid!

We hope that this blog post has helped you understand open looks in basketball better, and also what to do about them.

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