Language of Basketball. Assist, steal and block

VTB-League.com presents Part III of our Language of Basketball series, featuring essential basketball terminology. Each phrase comes complete with a detailed explanation and video example.

Today's post covers three new terms: assist, steal and block.

An assist is a key element of the game and the foundation of European basketball. There are plenty of talented one-on-one players in Europe, but teamwork and unselfish play are the keys to success over the course of a long season.

One way to judge teamwork is to look at the number of assists. It's a difficult stat to count and only includes baskets scored immediately after receiving a pass (free throws coming immediately after a pass also count). In addition, the player who receives the pass must already be in position to score. Otherwise, the pass does not count as an assist.

Players who can pass the ball with expert precision are highly valued. Donell Cooper is a good example of the classic point guard. He recently signed with Krasny Oktyabr after playing for Enisey last season. The American guard led the league in assists in Krasnoyarsk, also setting the single-game record with 23 assists against Astana during the regular season.

A steal enables the defense to take over on offense as the team with the ball loses possession. Steals are one indication of a successful defense and also provide defenders an opportunity to transition quickly and score easy fast-break points.

There are two types of steals: breaking up a pass and disrupting the dribble. It's rare for one player to be good at both. Smart defenders are usually skilled at one or the other technique depending on their strengths. Players with good court vision and a feel for the moment are more likely to pick off a pass. More athletic, quicker players tend to steal the ball directly from the person they are defending. For example, last season's steals leader, Donell Cooper (1.97 per game) was excellent at the first strategy, while Randy Culpepper (1.84 per game) tended to get the job done using the second technique. 

Blocks are the most exciting defensive element, requiring a defender to stop his opponent's shot in mid-air after the ball has already been released. The defender, however, cannot touch the ball once it begins downward motion, making the feat even more challenging.

Frontcourt players--power forwards and centers--generally get the most blocks. But shorter players with good coordination and jumping ability can also block shots on occasion. The best shot-blockers, of course, are players with both height and athleticism.

Last season, Lokomotiv-Kuban forward Anthony Randolph led the league in shots blocked per game (1.96), followed by Nizhny Novgorod center Artsiom Parakhouski (1.96) and Avtodor center Kyrylo Fesenko (1.6).