Your basketball IQ is one of the most tangible things you can possess. And one of the things that can help you greatly succeed as a basketball player. But what exactly is it? In short, basketball IQ is how well you understand the game, and just like other skills, there are ways to improve it.

In its simplest form, it’s understanding when you have a mismatch and knowing you can score against that person; if James Harden switched on to Kevin Durant, Durant would know he can get off a clean look because he has at least five inches on his defender. Another more complicated situation can come out when running the pick and roll.

Chris Paul gets a screen from either DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin. Because he’s so proficient running that play, he’ll draw two defenders and, instead of looking for DJ or Blake at the rim, he’ll skip it over to Redick in the opposite corner. Not only is he reading the defense, but once he sees that the man in the corner helps on the screener, CP3 knows he has an open man.

They make it look remarkably easy, but how? I’m going to give you two (plus a bonus) readily applicable tips to help you become a higher IQ basketball player.

Become A Student Of The Game

Regardless of whether you like school or not, you probably love hooping. I agree, it’s a great sport but to see improvement, you need to study as much of it as you can. A majority of this will come from watching film. It doesn’t need to be your film all the time, but breaking down your performances will the most helpful.

YouTube is a great resource, and you can surf through the highlights of any great player and see how they react and make plays. As I regress back to my PnR example, if you watch enough videos of Chris Paul creating off a screen, you’ll know how to react almost subconsciously. It’s irrelevant that he’s in the NBA, and you’re in high school or at a pickup game; the PnR is defended almost the same — intensity is what varies.

Watching the tape from games that you play in is where you’ll get the most feedback because you’ll be able to look at the contest in its entirety — the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you get beat on a backdoor cut, you can see that you were focused too much on the ball handler and forgot about your man. If you explode for 30 or 35, you can rewatch the tape and see how the defense was playing which led to you getting those points.

If you’re going to analyze film, don’t be selfish. Invite your teammates over so you guys build a bond and grow as a team.

Make Mistakes

Not purposely, but play without hesitation so that there are blemishes for you to correct after your film session.

An example of something easily missable comes out of the fastbreak. Although the game is changing, some players can still play in the post. If your team gets the rebound, and your big is flying down the court to get post position, and you miss him, that’s a mistake that you’ll see on camera. Next time you’re more aware and notice when he gets a deep position with his numbers facing you.

Entry pass, post move, score.

Don’t Think & Stay Calm

The purpose for the two things above is so that you can begin to make plays subconsciously. Being able to play the game without thinking is something that Tim Grover believes makes players utterly unstoppable; he speaks more in-depth in his book, Relentless

Being easily rattled or emotional are things that need to be eliminated for your basketball IQ to rise. Here’s why: because emotions cloud your mind and impede your judgment and decision making. A simple way to tell if a player’s emotions have an impact is after a turnover or missed shot. If the player who committed the turnover jogs back with his head up and looks ready to play defense, he’s a mentally strong player; if he slowly walks with his head down, he’s the opposite. Then you’ll notice if he’s afraid to take another shot or make another pass.

Turnovers and missed shots are a part of the game, get comfortable with them happening.