The most crucial aspect of help D is positioning
We have talked at length about defense and there is one more general topic (at least) I want to touch on in the offseason. While last week we talked about seeing ball-you- man, this week we will touch on positioning and how it is important in help defense (ball-you-man means little if you don’t have proper positioning, as you will see). Like I said in an earlier post, too many college players (freshmen especially) don’t have the basketball knowledge they need since they relied on their athleticism to get them through high school and in college.
Many players in college have the same athleticism, so playing smart be more powerful than just being athletic. Playing proper help defense is one of those times. It’s inevitable that at some point, a defender will get beat off the dribble and the wing defenders (or baseline defenders) need to be in proper position to cut off the drive.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: someone with the ball is more dangerous than someone without the ball. Let’s see how this relates to the clip. Without mentioning the below average defense Tyler Hansborough played on the pick and roll, watch what Brandon Wright does in his help position.
When the ball handler is first starting his move, Wright is in pretty good position. Ideally, he would have one foot in the paint. This gives him the option to slide over and cut off the dribble action (and contest a shot or take and charge) while still being able to closeout properly.
When Jessie Sapp (#21) turns the corner and gets past Hansborough, Wright should have been there for the help. Instead, he had shuffled two steps toward his man and out of position. He broke the cardinal rule of worrying more about someone without the ball than someone with the ball.
If he stays in the painted area in his original position, he is in the perfect place to cut off the drive. He can then close out if the ball gets passed to his man (as described in an earlier post, here). With Wright’s athleticism and long arms, I have no doubt he could have challenged the three point attempt by his man.
Instead, he played poor help defense and watched Sapp drive right by him to the basket for an open layup. He saw ball-you-man but was a step or two out of position and could not help whena teammate was beat. He could have rectified this situation by properly positioning himself in the lane. I believe that proper position is the most important part of help defense. By learning and applying proper position, a less athletic player can become a better defender, while an uber-athletic player can have trouble on defense if they don’t have proper position.
This above clip showed how a top flite athlete in Brandon Wright was beat since he was not in proper position. Next time you watch (or play) keep an eye on the help defender. He can often be the deciding player in a defensive possession and his positioning is often the determining factor in how the possession will end.