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DHO Defined: What Does ‘DHO’ Mean in Basketball Terms?


So you’re a wannabe basketball nerd? You must be because you’re here trying to find out what DHO stands for. Calling you a nerd isn’t the best way to keep you reading, but if you’ve gotten this far, know that “nerd” is said in a complimentary way. Stay with me here. There are millions of basketball fans around the world and only a small percentage of them are interested in knowing basketball terminology at this level. That small percentage includes you.

Let’s get the technical definition out of the way. D.H.O. is an acronym that is shorthand for “dribble handoff.” The dribble handoff, or DHO, is basketball tactic used by players on the offensive end where a player who has the ball will dribble directly at a teammate and handoff the ball to them. The DHO not only passes the ball to the other player, but also helps the offensive player receiving the ball to shed their defender.

Take a look at the main image of this page where Nikola Jokic does a dribble handoff to Gary Harris. Not only does Jokic protect the ball in the DHO, but he also sets a screen at the same time allowing Harris to get a step on his defender.

The DHO differs from all of the traditional means of passing the ball to include the overhead, bounce, and chest passes. We’ll go into some more detail on the DHO and why it is a skill that basketball players of all ages should learn.

The Differences Between a DHO and Regular Passes?

The primary difference between the DHO and more traditional passes like the bounce pass, checks, overhead pass and chest pass is that when executed correctly, the DHO has almost no spacing between the passer and player receiving the ball.

The other types of passes involve spacing of variety lengths. So, for example, when someone goes to through a chest pass to a teammate, they will typically be around 10-15 feet apart from each other. This is significantly different than the DHO where the players will be right beside each other. The DHO is one of the few times that it benefits the team on offense to have two players close to each other without a focus on spacing.

Is the DHO an Effective Tactic?

The dribble handoff has been effective over the years in helping free up pressure of the defender on the player receiving the handoff. It also helps those who are good shooters get open for a jump shot. Great defenders will stay as close to  great shooters like Reggie Miller, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson, so these players spend the majority of their offensive sets on the move. So to get them open a dribble handoff is a very effective way to get shooters the space they need to get their shot off. Take a look at several DHO run by the Golden State Warriors to free up Steph Curry.

Not only does the DHO give Curry space to shoot, take a couple dribbles, or make a move to the basket, it is often used as a trigger point for the Warriors offense. If Curry gets into the lane after the DHO and is met by another defender, that means another player is open, so there’s a lot of movement that’s happening as secondary and tertiary measures.

As long as the play is executed correctly and you have right personnel, the DHO increases the likelihood of a good shot at the rim. During the 2021-22 season, the Philadelphia 76ers had the highest field goal percentage when a dribble handoff was involved. For other basketball odds and stats, you can check in at Neds.

How do You Defend against the DHO?

Conceptually the dribble handoff is like an on-ball screen. That is very similar to how the two-player action occurs when the player receiving the ball. As a result, if a team knows that their opponent uses DHO, they can use various ball screening  defensive strategies.

These include the defensive switch, hedging, or going under. A switch is where the player guarding the dribbler, would shift to guarding the player receiving the ball. Similarly, the defensive player guarding the receiving player would shift to the dribbler. On the hedge, the player guarding the dribbler would shift to stand in the path to the intended recipient of the DHO to allow that defender time to recover. If committing further as an overplay to deny the path to the hand off to the receiving player, that is considered overplaying.

How do You Counter Against Dribble Handoff Defensive Schemes?

It seems like basketball becomes more and more like a chess match as you move up in skill levels to the NBA and FIBA. Some of the counters by teams who use the DHO against dribble handoff defenses include re-screen action, a fake handoff, and backdoor cuts. Typically, the offensive team will have scouted their opponent to see what tactics will be most effective.

Heat DHO

The re-screen is best used against a team who prefers the go under and is often used when a post player is doing the handoff to a guard or wing. In the re-screen, the player dribbling will act normally; however, when he hands it off, the defender will go under him. When that occurs, the player handing the ball off will pivot turn and screen the defender for the player who received the initial DHO. Then, the offensive player can take a jump shot, drive to the hoop, or pass to another teammate.

The backdoor cut is best used against a defender overplaying the DHO. In this scenario, when the defender overplays the DHO, the intended recipient of the pass will backdoor cut to the basket to get a dunk or layup. Teams will use the fake handoff against the switch or overplay. In this tactic, the player dribbling will slow down as if they are handing off, and then instead of doing so, will go into overdrive and head to the basket.

When Should Players Learn the DHO?

This really depends on the skill level of the team or players. Generally speaking, most coaches will focus on the classic passes when players are first starting out. As they gain skills and learn the game of basketball, the techniques increase in difficulty.

For most players who start playing when they are younger, when they start getting closer to Middle School in the United States, or between the ages of 12 and 14 is the best time to start teaching the DHO and related offensive and defensive schemes. If the players have been playing until these ages, then a little later once they have gotten down the classic passes, dribbling, shooting, and defense is best.

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