Why Do Basketball Players Let The Ball Roll?

Have you ever watched a basketball game where a player will not pick up the ball but just let it roll?

It looks strange, but it works! But why exactly do they do this?

Basketball players will let the ball roll on the floor after inbound to save or waste time. According to basketball rules, the shot clock will not start unless a player touches the ball after inbounds.

Now that it’s clear why they do this, what are the pros and cons? Plus, are there other high-IQ tactics you can use? Let’s dive right in.

Why do NBA Players Let the Ball Roll?

If you watch a close NBA game, there’s a chance that you might see a player letting the ball roll after the inbound.

They would not pick the ball up until they let it roll for at least a few seconds or the opponent pressured them.

But why exactly do players do this? There are only two answers; here are they:

1. To Save Time

Usually, letting the ball roll is only used at the end of quarters, especially the fourth. So, the team down in points will do this to save some precious time.

During the last minutes of a quarter, the clock stops and will only continue once a player touches the ball after an inbound.

So, to save time, the inbounder will not pass the ball to his teammates but just let the ball roll slowly on the floor. This way, the clock will not start until the player picks it up.

2. To Waste Time

If a team is leading, they can also use this strategy. At the end of a close game, the leading team will do all they can to waste time.

They won’t take any shot unless their shot clock is expiring. So, another way to waste time is to allow the ball to roll.

Although their shot clock will not start counting, the game clock will continue.

Is this Allowed in Basketball?

Letting the ball roll is allowed in basketball, including the NBA. No rule states that a player must immediately touch the ball after inbound.

This is just another tactic that players take advantage of during close games.

You might see this tactic used often if you watch any NBA games.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rolling the Ball

Letting the ball roll is a great way to save or waste time. But there are also risks to doing it, which is the same with every other strategy.  

So, here are the pros and cons of it:


  • Save time
  • Waste time
  • Lets the player rest for a few seconds
  • Allows the team to strategize for a few seconds


  • It can easily be stolen
  • It can result in a turnover if not careful

We can see that the pros outweigh the cons based on these pros and cons. That said, it’s easy for the ball to get stolen or for this to result in a turnover.

There was that one time when LeBron James did this, and the ball went out of bounds.

He lost focus and let the ball roll too long, allowing the enemy to go for the steal.

Other Strange but High IQ Tactics in Basketball

In basketball, especially in the NBA, players love to use many weird but wise strategies.

Other than players letting the ball rolling, here are they:

1. Strategize when something is going on

A great way to maximize your time is to strategize whenever there’s confusion.

For instance, a player might be called for a technical, but he’s challenging it and talking to the officials.

Meanwhile, you and your team can come up for a quick huddle and strategize while the refs and the enemy team sort the problem out.

2. Inbounding the ball on a player’s back

Another high IQ tactic that’s been used many times is inbounding the ball using the player’s back.

This will only work if the defender has his back on the inbounder. This works because the inbounder will just let the ball touch the defender and catch it immediately to score.

So, instead of passing to a teammate, this is a high-risk, high-reward move that can work for players in certain circumstances.

3. Calling for a delay of game

Another tactic that players like Chris Paul have utilized is informing the ref about violations.

For instance, in a game, Chris Paul told the referee that a player was coming in with an untucked jersey. According to the rules, this is considered a delay of the game.

Players can also snitch out other things that players do, such as tying their shoe mid-game or excessive flopping.

4. Throwing the ball to an out-of-bounds player

Many players would give up the ball when it’s about to be out. But if you’re smart, you can throw it to a player out of bounds.

As long as the person who touched the ball last is the one who’s out; this is legal according to NBA rules.

That’s because even if a player is out of bounds, he’s still considered part of the game and not off the bench. So, logically, he touched the ball last, and he’s out of bounds.

5. Hiding during inbounds for a steal

Jose Alvarado popularized an intelligent tactic: hiding his presence before the opposing team inbounds. Then, he sneaks behind their back for an easy steal and a layup.

This works especially if you’re a master of hiding your presence in the court or on the bench.

Final Thoughts

Players letting the ball roll off the floor is just one of the many tactics they use to save or waste time.

But there are also other crazy but effective strategies they use to get ahead of their opponents!

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