What is a Floater in Basketball?

There are many ways to shoot a basketball, but how players put up a shot depends on the game time situation, where they are on the court, as well as their height or playstyle. Sometimes they hit a long jumper, sometimes they dunk, and sometimes they get creative.

The following guide looks at one of the more unique basketball moves by studying the floater. Analyzing the shot and its various uses will reveal more about basketball as a whole and break down the different ways shorter players are able to score near the hoop.

A Long (and High) Shot

Floaters are an alternative way for players to shoot a layup. Rather than underhanding the ball up to the basket and bouncing it off the backboard, a player shoots the ball with one hand in a large arc. The shots are used on drives to the hoop and are almost always done in the key.

To shoot an effective floater, a player drives into the top of the key then, keeping their body aimed at the basket, they jump up into the air and transfer the ball to their shooting hand before letting it go in a high-arcing motion.

Though floaters are always guided by one hand, they can be shot in two different ways. Players can either jump off one foot or two. One foot floaters are much more difficult, and require a lot of body control, but they are also more effective at moving through a defense.

Two foot floaters are typically only useful if a player has a lot of space or if they are at a tricky angle and want a bit more control. Typically, most shooters opt for a one footer.

Going Above, and Beyond

Floaters are not incredibly common shots, but they are still useful when performed in the right way. They don’t just look cool, they also allow smaller players to get into the key and score points on much bigger players.

Most guards, even ones in the NBA, have problems when driving at forwards and centers. They might be able to sneak a quick layup by a big man, but more often than not their shot will be blocked or they will be forced to put up their attempt at an awkward or weird angle.

A floater fixes those issues in a few ways. First, the high arc created by the floater puts the ball into such an elevated position that not even the tallest defenders can get to it. 

In addition, the quick, far away release means the ball leaves the shooter’s hand long before the defender can ever get out and properly contest the shot. Those come together to create a fast, high arcing shot that nobody is able to affect.

Strong, but Not Invincible

While it has many upsides, the floater is far from perfect. The shot has a lot of pros, but it’s much harder to make than a traditional jumper. That’s because, not only is it conducted while running full speed at the basket, but it’s one-handed as well. There’s a lot of control involved.

The best way to put up a floater is to loft it as high as possible with the right amount of touch. Shooting it too softly causes it to fall short of the hoop, which leads to a miss. On the other hand, putting too much force behind it will cause it to deflect hard off the backboard or rim.

It’s about finding that middle ground, which is something that takes a lot of practice.

That’s then made even harder because floaters are not something players think about ahead of time. That is to say, unlike a jumper where a guard will try to look for a set up or look for a set play, floaters are shot on the fly during a drive or when the opportunity presents itself.

That most commonly occurs when a big man steps into the key, or when the driving lane suddenly gets filled up. In such scenarios, the guard will pull up and go into a floater. That split decision-making adds an extra layer to the move and creates even more issues.

Despite all of that, it’s an important shot for all players to have in their repertoire. It only comes up a few times a game, especially at lower levels where defenders aren’t as quick, but it still comes in handy a few times a contest. That’s more than enough.

Final Words

Floaters are one of the most difficult shots in basketball, but they are also one of the most useful. There are several ways guards and wings can score over big men, but few shots are as effective at making up that difference. Nothing does as well as going up and over.

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