How to defend Jared Sullinger
In the last post, we saw how Ohio State uses Jared Sullinger in their offense and a few ways he works to get open in the post. I argued that Sullinger’s post moves were not very advanced but I still think teams should focus on keeping him out of the post. This post will focus on strategies to keep Sullinger, or any big man, from getting good position in the post.
Bump him before the block
The first step in keeping Sullinger off the block is to meet him while he is moving toward the block and bump him. This will hopefully throw off his timing and the timing of the play. Look at this first play against Illinois. OSU tries to run a variation of a play we saw in the first post, with Sullinger setting a ball screen before rubbing off Dallas Lauderdale to flash to the opposite block.
However, in this play, Sullinger’s defender gets in his path right after he sets the second screen. This little bump slows down Sullinger enough that he cannot rub his defender off Lauderdale. His defender stays close to him the whole time, giving him no room to get to the block.
This allows the defender to stay in front of Sullinger as he flashes to the left block and he is able to take away any entry pass. It wasn’t too much contact to draw the attention of the referees, but it was just enough to throw off the timing of the play and allow the defender to stay in front of Sullinger.
Here are a few more examples of the defense bumping Sullinger and knocking him off his path to the block. By being physical and meeting him before he gets to the block, they have a better chance of not allowing an entry pass.
Force him high
To make Sullinger work even harder to get good looks in the post, the defense needs to force him to catch the ball off the block. We already saw the trouble he had finishing in the last post, and making him attempt to score from farther off the block will likely make him less effective.
It takes a strong defender to force Sullinger to post up off the block. Look where Josh Harrellson forced him to catch the ball on this set, which turned into a turnover.
This allows William Buford to curl off the screen right to the rim. This shows the dangers of playing chest to chest with Sullinger all the time, as he will be able to set more effective screens for his teammates.
These strategies could work against many big men, I just used Sullinger as an example, as OSU loves to run the set we see illustrated in the first play here. However, we see how this can backfire, as the defender playing so close to Sullinger is unable to help his defender on screens. It shows why Sullinger is such a tough matchup.