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.