Ball handling is the single most important skill in basketball. Players who have mastered this skill are able to create great scoring opportunities for themselves and more importantly their teammates by using the bounce. Penetration is one of the most important keys to breaking down defenses. The pass is another important aspect of ball handling. Great passers are able to create high quality scoring opportunities for their teammates whether on the perimeter or in the post. Without great outside shooting or great post play you can still generate quality shots when attacking the basket, but your team must have great ball handlers to do so.
Great ball handling will lead to lower turnovers, which puts teams in a better position to win games. A lower amount of turnovers provides more possessions for teams, more scoring opportunities for teams, and less transition scoring opportunities for opponents. A high number of turnovers puts pressure on being great in transition D. By limiting turnovers teams can expect an improvement in their transition defense.
Teams at every level of basketball will face some sort of defensive pressure from their opponent, whether in the front court or back court. Great ball handlers will perform confidently under that pressure. They will be able to execute the preferred press release with the dribble or pass. Most importantly, confident ball handlers make better decisions under pressure and make their teammates more confident by doing so.
The American game of basketball has become guard oriented because of all these reasons. Teams will struggle to play at a high level without a great ball handler. Players will struggle to compete at a high level without great ball handling skills. If teams and individual players want to truly be great then they need to become masters at both dribbling and passing. They need to become great ball handlers.