Now that we’ve covered on the ball defense, defending the post, shell defense and help and recover in some detail, it’s time to discuss offensive tactics that are designed to attack the guts of the defense and move defenders around to warp the shape of the shell and create weaknesses and openings for scoring opportunities including the pick and roll, cuts and flashes.
Cuts and Flashes
Defending cuts and flashes isn’t easy but those actions are among the least complicated that a defense will see. There are weakside cuts and a ballside cut (the old fashioned “give and go”)- both testing the defense for a layup or shot in the lane. A flash, on the other hand, is really a weakside cut that starts low and goes high instead. In all of these cases, the defense is usually compromised if a player can catch the ball anywhere from the foul line down.
Naked cuts and flashes aren’t as popular today as they once were because of dribble-drive and screen/roll so man defenses don’t see them as much anymore but they can be troublesome.
If I’m the defender on a ballside cut, in the back of my mind, I should know that I have 3 teammates “packed” in the lane to help me if my man “gives and goes”. But on the pass from my man to a wing, I have to drop to the “line of the ball”. At that point after I get to my man’s body, whether I “open out” to the ball or just turn my head and denial arm from outside to inside (“closing”) is a matter of coach’s choice. In either case, I’m denying my man the ball the entire cut. If the players exits on the backside, I just get to my ball-you-man spot with peripheral vision. In the event my player exits to ball side corner, I can stay in my denial position.
Further, if my man makes a weakside cut or a flash cut, I should already be in my ball-you-spot and should be able to time his cut by stepping in his path, either closed or open The goal in either case is to make my man backdoor because he can’t get to the spot he wants. When he backdoors, I open out or close out-keeping some contact. Good pressure on the ball by my teammate is also a strong deterrent to completing a backdoor pass. Good help position is the strongest feature of defending cuts and flashes but the actual technique of denying a cutter the ball and making him backdoor should be broken down into a drill.
Defending the Pick and Roll
Now we’ve advanced to defending two man plays, the pick and roll and/or pop is easily the most common action that a defense will see. I read somewhere recently that a team had 15-20 different ways to defend the pick and roll. I’m not disputing that but if you can hedge the screen/roll just one way most of the time with minimal damage, you’re doing quite a job. Then, if you ever want to switch or double in certain circumstances, you have two more options.
Let’s cover hedging first. A real good hedge first starts with your help side. If the one or two helpside defenders are moving to good help spots off their men as the ball is being dribbled, your defender, who has to hedge, knows his rolling man will be covered until he can recover to his ball-you-man spot after he helps the man on the dribbler get over the screen. My personal preference is to always go over the screen-shooter or not. It takes the “gray” out of the equation.
So, as soon as the screener starts to step out to set his screen, your defender has to first get loud, “Screen Left, Screen Left”; second he has to be “early” showing (if he’s late, nothing else matters-your on ball defender is fried-he’s screened); third-he has to be totally above the screener (big) to make the dribbler go one full man wider than he’d like; fourth, he has to be in his stance (low) so that he can slide as much as he needs to fulfill the hedge/show/help. As soon as he sees his teammate IS GETTING OVER the screen (not when the dribbler’s man is finished getting over) , he immediately hauls tail to the screener if he’s popping or his ball-you-man spot if the screener is rolling. The mantra for the screener’s defender is “Loud, Early, Big and Low”.
The beautiful thing for the on ball defender is that if the hedger does his job, all he has to do is slide and maintain his arms-length bubble on the dribbler. At worst, he should only have to arch his back to help get over the screen. If the screener slips the screen, it is the combination of the helpside defenders and pressure on the ball to buy time until the screener’s defender recovers. The slip is the very same notion as the roll; only it happens earlier than the roll.
If you switch the pick and roll it will be pre-determined and your defender on the ball can leave to cover the pop or roll as early as “Screen left, screen left”. Again, your helpside defense is the key to being aggressive on the ball. If the two defenders out front know the helpside is THERE, they will do a better job out front. In either case, after you’ve helped and recovered and helped the helper, you still should be able to get a tie on the last perimeter catch.
If you double the ball on the screen roll, it is easiest to play the backside like a mini-press with a 3 man anticipatory zone overplaying to some degree the most logical passing lanes.
Read the entire series on Defensive Fundamentals and Teaching Points here