It's one of the most mysterious terms in basketball, a pithy phrase regularly seen in scouting reports, supposedly to sum up a player's knowledge of the game.
Defining it isn't so easy.
"It's a feel for the game," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Some guys have it. Some guys don't. You don't necessarily need to have it to be successful. But when you have it you understand the game. You can pick up things quickly. You have a great sense of the team concepts and what the team is trying to do."
Nearly half the Thunder's roster at one point has been tagged with the term. You couldn't find a scouting report on rookie James Harden that didn't possess the phrase in the weeks leading up to the June draft. Shaun Livingston, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Ollie, Nick Collison and Jeff Green are among Harden's teammates who also have had the label attached to their names.
"We have a good IQ team," Brooks said. "I'm happy with our guys. Their level of IQ is pretty good."
But the term is widely overused, Brooks said.
"Absolutely. It's like 'Guys work hard,' or 'This guy's a winner,'" Brooks said. "I've been on teams where guys don't work hard but they're known as hard workers.
"No one wants to tell the truth because it'll hurt people's feelings."
Players and coaches say those who really have it contain a court savvy that goes beyond the coach's X's and O's. It's instinctive ability that a player has, knowing when to shoot and when to make the extra pass. Knowing how to set a screen on one possession and play off it on the next. Knowing when to employ subtle defensive schemes such as "pulling out the chair" in the post.
"There's no game that demands as many decisions as basketball," said Sacramento coach Paul Westphal. "In baseball, when it's your time to bat you try to get a hit. If they hit it to you then you catch it and throw it to the right base. If you throw it to the wrong base you're not a smart player. In basketball, every time you have the ball you can dribble it, you can pass it, you can shoot it...There's a lot of decisions."
Most say basketball IQ is something that players have a hard time gaining.
"You can to an extent but usually guys come in and just have it," said Houston coach Rick Adelman. "Some guys never get it. They just don't see certain things and take advantage."