Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mismatch Defense - Basic Ideas

Last week I received an e-mail from a coach asking me about mismatch defense (big against small in the perimeter) We exchanged our thoughts (and we are still doing it) and I was willing to find some examples of mismatch situations to show my ideas. And yesterday we saw a nice one involving Vassilis Spanoulis and Nemanja Bjelica

There are many different ways to defend a mismatch, and I'm not going to criticize how Fenerbahçe did it last night, you know it is said that "after the battle everyone is a good general" but this one works well to explain myself.

I said my colleague that the first rule I give my players is to force the ball handler to drive to the basket, to put a lot of pressure on the ball. For different reasons:
  • Many players are capable to shoot nowadays (at least at the high - elite level) and the risk of that shot to be hit, to me, is big enough to decide I want to avoid it. Plus, the risk is bigger because the players more often involved in these situations are the best offensive players.
  • The shotclock is running down. Almost every team end up switching in ball screens with 10"- 8" remaining. The shotclock is on your side.
  • The ball handler, once he can't shoot, needs to beat his defender… and then the defense should be ready to help - rotate to stop the penetration (and the shotclock is running down!)
  • He has to find an open teammate, and give him a good pass. Will they find a good scoring option? (better than the avoided shot?) Maybe… but maybe not (and the shotclock, you know, is running down)
In the video, Bjelica (huge wingspan) is ready to contest the shot (or he thinks he is) but you will notice how the other four defenders are also focused on Spanoulis. If he tries to drive, he won't be able to finish at the basket, and as you see, when he really starts being aggressive there are nine seconds remaining on the shotclock

Let's take a look at the video:

Update: Coach Ali Kamalian told me about this article: mismatch in the NBA, with a different focus. The tendency there (just like in other situations) appears to be to allow the mid range shots instead of "forcing" to drive.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Real Quick: Shot Creation - Kyle Hines

Kyle Hines is becoming a regular around here... Today I want to show you how a big guy can be really good at shot creation. We don't call a PF / C a "playmaker" very often, but CSKA's player is a really good one.

Hines is known for his energetic style on the court. He should be recognized, too, for his game knowledge and space awareness

Here you can see how, in the last quarter of the CSKA - F.C. Barcelona game, he rolls after setting a ball screen, to receive the pass and find the wide open teammate. It is said that the "x" marks the spot. And there goes Hines again and again. Even in the second clip when the defender touches the ball and is close to steal it, he keeps calm and delivers the pass for the easy three.

Of course, let's not forget about the great spacing shown by the Russian team, which makes much harder for the defense to stop the offense.

Here is the video:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Defensive Efforts

"Don't tell me you want to play Defense, show me!Does it sound familiar? 

I believe you can get better at playing defense through the "defensive fundamentals" improvement. Using the right technique, practicing your defensive skills and learning how to read the offense… 

Very often we, coaches, "forget" about this, and use the players lack of desire to justify a bad performance (sometimes it happens, but not as often as we hear or read) It's not 90% will and 10% skills, that's poetic, but not true. In any case, if we want to talk about percentages, let's go with 100% will and 100% practice, in order to play the best defense you can.

This week I saw some nice examples of good defensive efforts, understanding them as will + practice. Here are three of those: two big guys, Ratko Varda from Mega Vizura and Serhiy Lishchuk from Valencia Basket, and one small, Sergi Llull from Real Madrid.

Varda stops a penetration and then, with quick footwork and realizing about his position on the court, slides and gets the position right outside of the semi - circle to force an offensive foul.

Lishchuk jumps to stop the ball defending a pick and roll situation and sprints to recover his man (blocking his shot, with very good timing)

Llull sees how his teammate loses his man and rotates to stop the penetration and the one on one. Slide, sprint, balance.

Let's take a look at the video:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Playing Against Double Team: Weak Side Cut

When switching on ball screen defense, one of the most frequently used moves once the offense finds the big - small mismatch, is to double team. We saw plenty of it last weekend in the game between Obradoiro and F.C. Barcelona. The home team did a great job to stop Barcelona's offense and played hard and smart on both ends of the court to win a tough game.

Today I want to show you one possible way to beat a double team situation. Barcelona is one of the best teams when we talk about strategy and game preparation, and here they find a nice answer to score. 

Side screen, the defenders switch. The offense finds the pass inside. Mismatch.

Help side is ready to double team. "X3" will play "goalkeeper" against the two players on his side. Avoiding easy skip passes, and ready to rotate if the offense swings the ball.

But then, "3" - Papanikolaou, cuts to the rim forcing the defender to follow him or else he can easily receive and finish without opposition. Here comes the ball reversal and the easy shot for Nachbar.

Let's check it on the video:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Real Quick: Big's Fundamentals Self-Pick

One of the secrets for the big players to excel in our sport is to use their body properly. Beyond size or strength (both help, of course) if they learn how to use the contact to their advantage they will be a defender's nightmare.

Let's see real quick how one of Europe's tallest centers use his body to create an easy pass from the outside

Boban Marjanovic from Belgrade Red Star, sets a baseline screen for his teammate and immediately goes against his own defender looking for the contact, not allowing him to get the proper defensive position and creating the space for the easy lob pass.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Staggered Screens Defense: Offense Reaction

Staggered screens are one of the most used situations in basketball. Well executed, they will create many options for the offense, specially when there is a good shooter to run them for.

There are different ways to play defense against staggered screens (and single off ball screens too) one of those is switching. We saw some months ago how F.C. Barcelona did it against Jaycee Carroll - Real Madrid.

Today I bring you another example, but we will focus in the offense's reaction. The game is Obradoiro - Manresa in the ACB league, and Manresa (in red) is switching against Obradoiro's shooter Alberto Corbacho.

Offense's reaction is great. This is, in my opinion, one of the best teams at reading the defense all over Europe. We will see a misdirection pass, a baseline screen to focus the defense on ball side, and another quick pass to the opposite side to get an easy bucket right under the rim.

Let's go step by step:

Staggered screens for Corbacho ("2")

"X4" and "X2" switch

Misdirection pass and baseline screen: "5" screens for "4", who is now being guarded by "X2"… "X4" and "X2" switch, which is the right thing to do, understanding that there will be a big mismatch on ball side if they don't switch ("4" vs "X2")

The offense keep working to use the mismatch, "5" seals "X2" and gets the position under the basket, they were looking for this situation, and they use the advantage.

Now let's take a look at the video:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Real Quick: Ball Screen Defense - Help Side Bump

During last sunday's Real Madrid - Laboral Kutxa we saw an interesting defensive move by Real's captain Felipe Reyes.

The situation is a middle screen set by Ili Diop, who rolls quickly towards the basket while his defender, Salah Mejri, and Sergio Rodríguez are focused in the ball handler, Thomas Heurtel.

Reyes, from the weak side, moves quickly to bump Diop, giving both Mejri and Rodríguez time to recover. At the same time, we can see how Jaycee Carroll places himself in a position that allows him to rotate in case there's a skip pass to San Emeterio.

Let's take a quick look: