The Mikan Drill

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How to attack a shot-blocker

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Inevitably, you will play against a great shot blocker or have your favorite team face one during the season. Today’s post will feature tips and strategies for how to effectively attack a shot blocker. You need not be scared of this player and these tips can help you get the last laugh, and a basket.

When I played in high school and we faced a shot blocker, the day before the game, my coach would rummage through the football equipment and find some hitting pads. He would stand under the basket and the drill would be for all players to drive the ball right into the chest of the big man and go up strong. The goal of this was to learn to not be scared of getting your shot blocked (which has advantages I will touch on later). I learned later that this is not necessarily either the best way nor the only way to attack a shot blocker. Let’s look at some possible ways and how they show up in games.

Right at the chest

My HS coach was not completely off base when he made us work on this in practice. Although this is the best way to get your shot blocked into the third row, it is also possible to overpower a big man for a basket or more likely, draw a foul call. Let’s look at the 2009-2010 top shot blockers and the fouls committed per 40 minutes.

– Hassan Whiteside: 5.4 blocks, 3.7 fouls commited

– Jarvis Varnado: 4.8 blocks, 3.1 fouls

– Hamady Ndiaye: 4.5 blocks, 4.1 fouls

– David Foster: 4.0 blocks, 4.5 fouls

– Ekpe Udoh: 3.9 blocks, 2.8 fouls

So, some of the top shot blockers also have a tendency to foul, as well. Now I must admit, these numbers are lower than I hypothesized, but the underlying idea is still relevant. You can draw fouls on the shot blocker by taking it into his chest, which can negate his minutes and impact on the game.

This is a perfect example of this method. In this example, the key is to not slow your momentum once you get around the basket. #5, Jeremy Hunt, goes right at Greg Oden and shows no hesitation in taking the ball right at Oden. He finishes hard at the rim and does not convert the layup but does draw a foul on Oden (Oden did only play 24 minutes in this game, although OSU did win the matchup).

Again, the important aspect is to not slow down and allow the shot blocker to get a better read on what you are planning. Take the ball hard into the paint and challenge the shot blocker. Although you may get blocked, chances are just as good you get blocked out of bounds (retaining possession) or draw a foul and get 2 free throws.

Pump Fake

Now depending on the intelligence and experience of the defender, pump fakes are not always effective. However, they can be useful for two reasons; to get the defender off balance(therefore drawing a foul) or to freeze the defender and get a shot up when they are off guard. A disciplined defender might not fall for this ploy but worse case scenario is that you can just pass out and reset the offense if he does not bite.

In this video, Delvon Roe does an excellent job of pump faking and getting Hasheem Thabeet to leave his feet. The referee is just waiting to call a foul with Thabeet in that position. Roe cannot take advantage in time and Thabeet gets away with his mistake. However, it shows that with a proper ball fake (notice how he showed the ball), you can sometimes get a defender to leave his feet when he is trying to get a block. This gives you the advantage and the options to step through for a layup (which Roe tried to do and failed) and draw a foul.

Pull up for a jumper/Floater

Sometimes the best way to attack a shot blocker is to not give him the opportunity to block a shot. If you, as a guard, have a deadly pull-up jump shot or a floater, that could negate much of the impact of the shot blocker.

Both of these clips are examples of smart shot opportunities, although only one of them drops. The first clip showcases the floater that has become a weapon in the arsenal of nearly every point guard these days. Right before the guard gets to the big man, they float a shot over the reach of the defense that comes down on the rim, giving it a chance to go in.

Bigger guards and forwards can use the floater but they are more likely to showcase a pull up jumper. In the second clip, the offensive player beats their man only to see a paint filled with Georgetown players, including Roy Hibbert. He cleverly pulls up for a nice 12 foot baseline jumper that unfortunately does not fall. Would he have been smart to challenge the defense there and take it into the chest of Hibbert, as described in the first bullet? It’s possible, but you have to pick your battles. A monster block can energize a defense and get the shot blocker going on offense as well, so you don’t want to stupidly challenge them and serve one up on a silver platter. I think this pull up was a smart decision and a shot every shooting guard through power forward should be able to shoot at a reasonable clip.

Pass off to his man

A shot blocker often have the mentality that they are going to block every shot that is taken within the paint. This can be advantageous to smart guards, who can draw the big man and dish off to the man they abandoned in hopes of a crowd awing block. Watch it unfold in the following clip against Thabeet.

As Raymar Morgan drives the lane, Thabeet takes up a step up to challenge the shot. Morgan intelligently recognizes this and dishes off to Thabeet’s abandoned man, who has a wide open dunk. Morgan used Thabeet’s eagerness against him and help create an open dunk for a teammate.

I hoped this help you recognize ways to approach a shot blocker. Now, there is a good chance a shot blocker is still going to get a few blocks a game but you can mitigate his effect by using techniques to exploit the weaknesses many of them possess.


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