After last week’s game, I focused more on individual defense. From an offensive perspective, I prefer to play 2v2 or 3v3 because it incorporates a more realistic situation, as the pass is an option, and the player must account for potential help defense. However, in my inclination to play more 2v2 and 3v3, our individual defense may have been sacrificed.
In our instruction for perimeter on-ball defense, I re-emphasized three things: (1) ball pressure: shadowing the ball with a hand; (2) closing the stance; and (3) jumping back on the first move rather than stepping. These are things that I taught early in the season, but I got away from emphasizing them. They represent changes for some players, and earlier in the season, I backed off on my instruction because I wanted the players to think less. After watching some of our defense, however, we have to change some things even if we start thinking too much.
To demonstrate the stance, I set out cones when we played 1v1. The cones represented the openness of their stance. Too often, players will defend with an open stance in order to take away a strong-side drive, and leave open a straight line drive to the weak-hand side. We emphasized closing the stance to take away the straight-line drive.
Along with the closed stance, I teach players to jump back on an offensive player’s first move rather than taking a big step, as is commonly taught. The jump back creates space rather than a lateral step. After creating space, the defender has a better chance to contain the dribble. However, this requires breaking habits that players have developed over years of playing. The only player who naturally jumps back is my quickest player, although he mixes up his footwork based on the situation because of his quickness. This is a hard skill for players to learn.
My defensive philosophy is to force mid-range shots. When guarding the ball, the goal is to make the player dribble to a shot, but to cut off the penetration before the paint. If the offensive player stops off the dribble and shoots a pull-up jump shot, that’s a good play for our defense because there is a small chance for a foul and our defensive shape hasn’t been disorganized, so we should get the rebound. I believe strongly that 2-point shots are not enough to win the game if we can limit teams to one 2-point shot per possession. I believe that you need three-pointers, free throws, and second shots to win, and forcing mid-range jump shots, even when open, is the best way to prevent 3s, FTs, and offensive rebounds. It is not a perfect defense, but I have never seen a team prevent shots on every possession. Because the other team is likely to take a shot on most possessions, I prefer to dictate those shots, and preventing shots that lead to free throws and offensive rebounds are my first priority, and 3s are my second priority, depending on opponent.
We worked on mixing up our defenses in our scrimmages. We have several different defenses, but I tend to be conservative and stick with our base defense. This is partially my fault, but also because we are not aggressive enough when we switch to more aggressive defenses. We probably have the personnel to be a less aggressive, contain defense because of our lack of size on the wings, and lack of mobility at center. However, we struggle offensively sometimes with more aggressive, bigger defenses, so part of the focus on improving our aggressive defenses is to prepare our offense for the more aggressive defenses that we will see in our final two games of the season.
Not much else changed. I focused on defense, and we scrimmaged with games where teams could score only on defense with defensive stops. I also emphasized transition offense/defense a little more, and encouraged turing stops into baskets because I thought that we could run on our opponent this week.
We finally pulled out another road win, 77-64 over one of the teams that will not make the play-offs. We are down to 2 games remaining (currently 12-8), and we still could finish anywhere from 3rd (unlikely) to 7th.
By Brian McCormick, PhD
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League