open look in basketball
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What Is An Open Look In Basketball?: The Basic Knowledge

In basketball, an open look occurs when the defender is nowhere near the offensive player and is all alone for a good shot attempt. This open look doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be devastating for the defense. In this article, we will define what an open look is, different instances as to why and how open looks occur. And finally, review how offensive and defensive teams deal with open looks.

What Does it Mean to be Open in Basketball?

More specifically, an open look in basketball generally means having unhindered access to scoring the basketball. In basketball, open is used when a player ho has no defender between them and the basket because they are not marked or within arm’s reach of their defender. Being open gives the offensive player an advantage over other defenders on the floor.

open look in basketball

Creating an Open Look

Creating an open look situation in basketball means the offense must execute plays most of the time by setting screens or moving without the ball. On some cases where the offense don’t need to do much, it’s the poor defense which leaves their man unobstructed from anywhere in the court. These are usually because of a defensive miscommunication 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 when they catch a basketball without any defender near them. These usually happen when they come from screens or other movement on the floor. After setting a screen for someone else, it is important for players coming off of screens to keep moving and stay moving as this makes defenders to constantly move around which makes open shots more available. On some occasions, it just happens because a teammate was being double teamed on defense.

It is also essential for cutters not only to make backdoor cuts from the wings or corners 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 and have enough court awareness on 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. It will always depend on how close the offensive player gets into space without having another defender within arm’s reach near them. This movement 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 passing the basketball out of penetration. This term is usually called “drive and kick.” Constant movement is key on this play as it would make defenders think much more and react where to go when most of the offense are also moving. 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.

open look in basketball

How do Open Looks in Basketball Occur?

A shorter distance between the defender and the shooter means a lesser open look. 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 producing enough space around the perimeter on pick and rolls, etc., which allows them to set up their man without help defense coming over.
  • The defense has to make mistakes by not being fully aware in defense; Coaches usually call them “caught sleeping” when 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 their defense don’t 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.

Making open shots doesn’t always mean the offense masterfully executed a great play; 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 doing 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 aware 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 recognize your opponents strengths. By staying in front and cutting off lanes for drives/picks, some opposing players would love to beat you off the dribble better than settling for a jumpshot.
  • 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.

NOT ALL ‘OPEN LOOKS’ are the same

Every team, every player, have a different definition of an “open look.” An open look is mostly dependent on the skill level and the ability of the player holding the ball.

One example is when a superstar player is a threat on all areas of the floor such as when the ball handler are the likes of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, who are high caliber and long range shooters. It means even just giving 3 feet of air space in front of them is an ‘Open Look.’ Even an arms length is too much space and they can just shoot over you.

If you compare it to some non-shooters or bigman, such as Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Simmons, Rudy Gobert etc. even giving them all the space from outside may not be a good ‘Open Look’ because it is their weakness.

However, being a lob-threat is their strength so the roles of the previous examples may be their reversed. These bigmen diving the lane and rolling to the rim are their strength so it’s an “open look” for them since it would be easy for them to catch a lob and dunk or lay the ball in.

On the other hand, the previous smaller players like Curry and Lillard don’t have the same “open look” in the lane compared to the bigmen. Therefore, ‘Open Looks’ in basketball, in one way or another, may also vary depending on the situation and ability of the offensive player.

summary list on ‘open looks’

OFFENSE (how to get open looks)DEFENSE (how to “counter” it)
Screen the handler (Pick and Roll)‘Fight over’ or ‘Blitz’ the screen
Off-ball screen on the shooterSwitch defense or Fight over
Backdoor CutsGood help side defense
Spread the floor with shootersPlay man ton man and not zone
Let the best player create shotsSend the best 1 on 1 defender
List of the common offensive strategies to get open look and how the defense may counter it


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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