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Forcing shooters out of position

By American Sport Education Program (ASEP)

Acquiring the Appropriate Knowledge
To help ensure your team’s success in forcing shooters out of position, you and your players must know about the following:

You and your players need to know several main rules related to forcing shooters out of position:

  • An offensive player who has the ball may not dribble or hold the ball for longer than five seconds when being closely guarded. This may come into play if the defense can successfully prohibit the shooter from getting the shot in the desired location and the shooter is forced to hold the ball for longer than the allowed five seconds.
  • When denying shots, defenders must be careful not to get too close to the shooter and foul the shooter on the shot. This could result in free throws for the offense. Defenders must also try to avoid fouling the shooter when using double teams to deny the shot.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Opponents
You and your players must account for the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses to know how to force shooters out of position properly. Consider the following about your opponents:

  • Do the opponent’s players shoot well off of screens? If the offensive team likes to set screens for their shots, communication between defenders is a must. Defensive players must be prepared to defend the shooter as he or she tries to come off the screen in a good position to shoot the ball. The defense can use options such as switches, double teams, or fighting over the top of screens when working to force a shooter out of position. These options can be effective for distracting the shooter and causing the shooter to take a shot out of his or her normal rhythm.
  • What is the shooting range of the offensive player? The farther out a shot is taken, the lower the chance of the shot being successful. When guarding a strong shooter with a range of 15 feet or more, the defender will need to work hard to force the shooter to catch the ball out of this range. If the offense has a player who is a strong shooter in the post, the defense must work to deny passes to this player in the post area by playing in front of the player.
  • Which offensive player is the first option in the offense? This will determine which defenders should provide help and which defenders should stay with their offensive player. When guarding the player who is the offensive team’s first option for a score, the defender will need to stay with that player. When guarding an offensive player who is not the first option, the defender can be in a position to provide help, knowing that his or her player is not the offensive team’s first look for a score.
  • Does the offensive player have a strong jump shot? When guarding an offensive player who has a strong jump shot, the defender must learn this early and must make sure to guard the player closely long before he or she gets the ball. This will help the defender keep the offensive player away from areas of the floor where the player’s shot is strongest.

Besides being aware of your opponent’s abilities, you and your players need to know about your own team’s strengths and weaknesses. Teach your players to be aware of the following when forcing shooters out of position:

  • Are your players physically stronger than the offensive players they are guarding? If so, this is an advantage because the defenders will have the ability to stop the offensive players from making cuts to areas of the court where they would like to receive passes.
  • Are your players quicker than the offensive players they are guarding? With a quickness advantage, defenders can take the pass away from the offense by getting in the passing lane quickly to deny the pass. This will force the offensive players to go out farther on the court than they would like in order to catch the ball for the shot, thus reducing their opportunities to score.
  • Are your players taller than the offensive players they are guarding? If the defenders have a size advantage, this will help them in taking away the shot if their player gets the ball. Defenders should keep the hands up to discourage the shot.
  • Does your team have good weak-side defense? If a team has a strong weak-side defense, the defenders should force the offensive player to put the ball on the floor in areas where help is strong. Defenders can do this by making the offensive player go in the direction of the help defenders, using the lead foot to force the player in that direction (the lead foot is the foot positioned higher than the offensive player’s foot).
  • How well can your team guard offensive players as they come off screens? Defenders need to effectively guard the offensive player for whom the screen is set and prevent the player from coming off the screen in position to catch the ball and take a shot. This requires communication among the defenders, but they must also look to use switching or fighting over the top of screens.

Decision-Making Guidelines
When deciding how to gain the best advantage when forcing shooters out of position, you and your players should consider the previous information as well as the following guidelines:

  • When shooters are going to their strong side, defenders must be aware that the shooter will first need to pivot to get the shooting foot around and in a good position for the shot. The defender should not let this pivot take place easily. This is a longer pivot because the shooting foot needs to be in front for a good shot. For example, a right-handed player going to the right must pick up the dribble and pivot on the left foot to bring the right foot into shooting position. The defender can take away this pivot by getting in close to the player off the dribble (as the player tries to turn).
  • Shooters may attempt to go to their weak side on the shot (for example, a right-handed shooter will go to his or her left). This is a quicker shot because the shooting foot will already be in front when the player stops, allowing the player to be in good balance to shoot. For a right-handed shooter, then, the defender should stay on the shooter’s right shoulder, forcing the shooter to take the shot over the outstretched hands of the defender.
  • When an offensive player comes off a screen using the dribble, the defenders should force the player back in the direction the player came from. The defender must play the offensive player close as the player comes off the screen on the dribble (if a switch occurs, the switching defender will play the offensive player close) so that the offensive player must go back in the direction he or she came from in order to shoot the ball. This makes the shot tougher because the player cannot shoot the ball where he or she originally wanted to.
  • If the shooter likes to put the ball on the floor and dribble before taking a shot, the defender must recognize this and be ready to slide the feet in the direction the offensive player is dribbling. In this way, the defender can prevent the shooter from dribbling into the area where the shooter wants to shoot.

This is an excerpt from Coaching Basketball Technical and Tactical Skills.

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