Defensive Fundamentals and Teaching Points II: Defending the Post

basketball post defenseIn our last article we discussed the Blocking Out philosophy spectrum. Today we’ll discuss Defending the Post, perhaps the defensive area where thinking and technique has most changed in the last 25 years.

There was a time when coaches would teach their low post defenders either ¾ denial or full frontal denial on the low post man and have a ½ man or full man help either on duty or ready for action on the helpside. Double-teams from the ballside perimeter were also in vogue. Next came post-post double teams from the helpside.
If coaches didn’t actually teach their defenders to be aggressive to the point of fouling before the catch, after the catch and on the shot, many allowed it to happen.
Coaches were heard to say, “I’ve got ten fouls (or fifteen if they had a 3 man rotation) with my defensive post men to stop player X”. Drastic measures were often used even if player X didn’t warrant it.

Even under the best of circumstances, when the defense wasn’t fouling every other play, they were still giving up lobs, and rebounding position-not to mention having to rotate several defenders to cover for the initial decision to over-commit on the post. Open weakside jump shots were another by-product. As coaches, we all love the concept of rotation. We teach it and expect our players to execute it. But, deep down we know how difficult (and sometimes impossible) that really is in the heat of the moment.

But, that type of thinking has changed a lot since then and like a lot of things, it changed slowly, almost imperceptibly and for a lot of reasons. Not surprisingly, developments at the offensive end stimulated these changes in defensive thinking.

As discussed previously here at Hoop Coach, first came the trend for many big men to no longer see themselves as post players. It became fashionable for them to declare they were anything other than a post or power player. Second came the 3pt line. Most players fell in love with it even if they weren’t a good perimeter shooter from inside the arc before that. Then came ESPN and highlights. Highlight shows feature treys, circus dunks, flamboyant ballhandling and creative passing. They never show a player dropstepping and shooting a power layup. The arc and ESPN cemented the big man’s abandonment of the post. Because of that, many coaches stopped coaching inside-out focus and concentrated on dribble-drive and screen-pop offenses.

That brings us to today and how smart money coaches are defending the post in the absence of post men who are really effective at the low block:

1) Make no mistake- the more one can deny the ball into the low post, the better-BUT NOT AT ALL COSTS.
2) Don’t foul before the catch, after the catch or on the shot. (Still. generally the worst play a defense can make.)
3) Instead of ¾ or full front on the low post, try reducing to ½, 3/8, ¼ whenever possible. The less the commit, the better the defensive rebounding position.
4) Avoid doubling, helping and rotating as much as possible. Scrambling is just that-SCRAMBLING. The more one scrambles, the more offensive rebounds and open weakside jump shots are given up.
5) If and when a player does catch the ball in the low post, there should be no panic. The defender has good position because he hasn’t over-committed and he’s on balance. The offensive player still has his back to the basket and he has to make a play and a shot. (Try doing this yourself with a defender on your back.) This isn’t easy. If the post player turns and squares, the defender is in a driving line situation. If the offensive puts it on the floor, THEN the defense can help if it needs or wants to. In this instance, the defense can PRE-DETERMINE its rotation. (The best doubles are against the bounce). If the post player turns and shoots, the defender stays on balance on the floor with two hands up and blocks out. Every one else is also in great shape to block out.
6) Even if the opponent has a very good post player, the rule of thumb defensively is generally the less one has to help, the better and the less one has to double, the better. Only use desperate measures in desperate times.

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Any Thoughts, Coach?