How To Use A Size Up To Score Like James Harden

The size up is a great way to relax your defender before attacking them. A size up can be defined as a combination of dribble moves in a nonchalant, relaxed way. Its purpose is to make the defender drop focus, put their hands down, and expect you to not attack. 

changes of speed

One of the most important offensive skills a basketball player can acquire is the ability to change speeds. To clarify, this is having multiple different paces. The skill requires being able to switch between them in a stop and go like way.

Take James Harden, for example, a player that is not known for being lightning quick, but is known for being shifty. The word shifty is a play on the word shift. Cars and bikes shift speeds and so can you. Basketball is just like a car, you need to not only be able to change speeds, but time moves to make the shifts effective.

This is where the size up comes to play as important. Let’s bring up James Harden again. His size up is a double under the legs dribble move where he walks up slowly and relaxed. He then proceeds to go from a relaxed position, to a position where he pushes off his right or left foot, depending on which side he wants to attack, and uses that change of speed to beat the defender to the rim. By easing the defender with a size up, you can get the defender to not expect such an explosive move.

Triple Threat makes you a threat

Triple threat is another move you can use to score easier. The triple threat is most effective when you carry the skillset of a three level scorer. This means being elite at the three point line, the midrange, and finishing at the rim. Simple jabs and holding the ball strong can get a defender to back up. If the defender does not come close to be able to contest, then you capitalize and shoot.

On the same scenario, if the defender plays you too close, you can beat him to the rim with a simple attack. You can do this at both the midrange and three point line. 

The counter to how defenders play you

The counter is important if any defender attempts to recover fast and get back in a strong, in front defensive position. Defenders natural instinct is to get in an advantageous defensive position. If they are not in that position, they will try to do so. Utilize that tendency to your advantage.

Moves that quickly stop you, like the snatch back or sudden stop hesitation, are effective transitioning into a jumper with the space you created.

Counters are important and must be applied to specific defender reacting scenarios to really have 1 step ahead of the defender. James Harden in particular likes to utilize a step back to give more space to get his shot off. This is a very tough jumper to master. James Harden needs to use the step back because of the defenders length in the NBA. 

rudy gay pull up

For you, simple triple threat moves and normal step backs work just fine. Try not to overcomplicate scoring. Adapt and react to how your defender is moving and deciding. The more cerebral and elite defenders will require to be complex, but your average defender requires mere simplicity. Strike with precision. 

Size up quick first step

westbrook first step

The first step out of a size up, triple threat, or any other variation is vital. The faster it is the harder you are to guard. The only way to improve your explosiveness and agility in this move is weight and explosive training.

If you find your first step to be slow and lethargic, then losing body fat should be prioritized. To be in prime basketball shape for optimization of basketball moves, I believe you should be 15 percent or less body fat.

For explosive training, prioritize leg and hip exercises and focus on form and mobility. I have many blog posts on how to become more athletic, check them out. 


Speed and acceleration, and controlling those things in basketball are everything. Any dribble move loses its sting if it does not have explosiveness and a threat of getting by the defender to the basket. If the defender feels he can beat the offensive player to a spot without fully committing, no dribble move will not work.

Also, not having a consistent, fast jump shot can contribute to more confidence in recovery by the defender as well. This makes dribble moves like the crossover ineffective in shifting the defender. Bottom line, develop all aspects of your game as they each compliment one another. Strive to be a 3 level scorer. Smart and elite defenders can and will exploit your weakness. It is your job to make sure that you have none. 

Check out my other articles on how to improve your jump shot, and my other article on how to improve your handle for a complete package.

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