Contributed by Brett Ayers. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most glaring defensive deficiencies in the game today, at almost any level, is defending the post. I watch primarily college and high school basketball, and number of times I see posts open simply due to the fact that their defenders have obviously never been taught some form of post defense depending upon where the ball is. This just blows my mind.
I see a lot of post defenders get caught in what is referred to by most coaches as "no-man's land" which is easy to see as the defender gets on the side of the man posting up, splitting himself in half and having his sternum literally lined up with the offensive players shoulder giving him little ability to bang and or maneuver. He does not position himself in one of the three generally accepted positions of post defense on the block. Now, there is defending the low post, then of course defending the high post, which is something completely different depending upon the strengths of the post man who is being defended. And of course there is the last topic of post defense to cover and that is post movement, primarily within the area of the key.
Defending the Low Post:
There are generally, three accepted ways to defend the post. The first one is usually employed when you have a taller player defending a smaller player and what you do is have your taller defender play behind the offensive player. There are, however, some real no-no's to keep in mind when using this defensive scheme on the low post. The first one is to remember just because you play behind the offensive player does not mean you allow him to simply back you down all the way under the hoop then height becomes negated and it also invites reaching over with the arms and fouls as well as taking the defender out of the play once the ball goes up for a shot and giving the offense a man in prime rebounding position.
When playing behind the offensive post man on the low block there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first one is that just because you play behind him does not mean you are to let him do what he wants and get where he wants. You have to battle him, but one of the key things to keep in mind is that you will have to use your lower body, not your arms and hands to do this. To often players think that they can play behind someone and push on them and or put their hand or hands on their back and refs just love to call this one. But, officials most often will not call the use of the lower body by the defender to move the offensive player off the block. Obviously you can not wedge your leg between the post man's legs and ride him off the post without picking up the foul. When playing behind one of the things that often kills defenders is that they tend to think this is a passive mode of defense and thus stand straight up. Defending the post from behind does not mean you stand up, and just like playing perimeter defense you have to keep that good bent knee position so that you can move with your man when he does get the ball and makes a move.
It is often a natural reaction of post defenders playing behind to stand up once their man gets the ball instead of keeping their knees bent and a slight distance between themselves and the offensive player. Once the defender gets the ball, someone like Lonny Baxter and or Carlos Boozer who thrived in the post off of defender contact to feel their way to a move and the basket. In playing behind guys like that you need to give them a bit of room once they catch the ball so they are unable to make that "feel" read and then once they make their move you close the space down, build that defensive wall with arms straight up and use superior height against smaller less athletic guys.
Defending the post; Fronting the post man.
The second method of defending the low post that can be used that I will discuss is fronting the post. This is often done if you feel that the post man from the opposing team either does not post well for and or handle the lob pass well and or you front because you have a taller post man and the perimeter players from the opposing team are not skilled feeders of the post in this situation.
Once again there are a couple of takes on how best to do this. You see some teams that actually have their post man get in front, putting his back to his man facing the perimeter player with his hands up. This leads to two very bad things as I see it. First it tends to make the defending postman stand up straight thinking he needs to be as tall as possible. Second, he is all ready out of rebounding position and has to totally turn around and then find a way to block out a man who is in perfect offensive rebounding position. Another thing I dislike about this method of post defense is that with a player such as Carlos Boozer, you have a player who was very good at sealing for the next pass. Often you would see Carlos, when fronted, point to the high post or even the point guard directing the wing to pass the ball up top because he would have the post defender sealed with his rather large arse creating space for the pass over the top or even a well laced bounce pass down the middle.
If you are going to front a post player I think the best way to do this is to employ the half a body method. In doing this a defender turns his body sideways to the post man, bringing up his inside arm to chest level, or as we call it, "arm bar", and then puts his outside hand up palm facing towards the perimeter. He then of course bends his knees slightly. When the ball is on the wing from the 45 degree angle down towards the baseline the post defender will be in front, slightly off towards the post players baseline shoulder. So on the right side the post defender will be in front, arm bar up, knees bent with his outside arm up palm facing outwards and be shading slightly to the offensive players left shoulder. This takes away any baseline side passes that might be attempted by the wing.
Now, when the ball is between the two 45 degree angles around the top of the key area, the post man will shift over to the other shoulder and switch both arm bar hands and palm up hands. Simple switch from one to the other. But in executing this switch it is important to maintain that contact with the post player. The way I feel is best to do this is by simply pivoting around into the offensive post players opposite shoulder, bringing up the other arm into arm bar position and getting that other hand up in the air, palm out. In this manner a defender can front the post man in the low block no matter where he goes. In using this positioning on the fronting of the offensive post player it also at least has the defender facing the basket so that once the ball is shot he can simply move forward in blocking out his man.
Defending the post the 3/4 fronting method.
This third method of defending the low post is the one I ascribe to as being the best over-all method, is really a slight positional variation on the above outlined frontal method.
Instead of being completely in front of the man, you position yourself, depending upon where the ball is, on either the inside and outside shoulder of the post player. The basic positioning of this method of defense down low is basically to go your inside shoulder to his inside shoulder. So if you are looking down from the wing on the right side of court this is what you will see. The offensive man will be trying to post up around the block area while the defender will have his inside shoulder literally lined up with the offensive players baseline shoulder. The defensive player will have his foot left foot up with his right foot back, a bit below the baseline foot of the offensive player. It almost looks like the position that a perimeter player would take one pass away on the left side of the court, but of course there is not the distance between offensive and defensive player. The defensive player will be down, wide base with a hand up in the passing lane.
Now once again, depending upon where the ball is on the perimeter, the defender will move accordingly. When the ball is on the wing you revert to the 45 degree rule. From 45 degrees down towards the baseline, when the ball is in that area the post defender plays on the low side of the offensive post player taking away the baseline bounce pass and seal, forcing the offensive players to make a pass into the middle if they want to get it to the post where, with the 3/4 front the defender may be able to get a hand on the ball and if not there should be defensive weak side help.
When the ball is between the 45 degree angles around the top of the three point arc, the post defender then executes what is called a chest to chest move, turning his head just momentarily as he then positions himself off of the offensive post players shoulder again but this time he will be on the inside, or high side of the post man forcing the offense to have to feed the post with a high lob pass away from the hoops and towards the baseline. Very difficult for many posts to handle and once they do get it, often they are not in very good offensive position.
In all of these methods, especially playing behind or the 3/4 front, it is important to realize that you utilize them only within four to five feet from the hoop in an arc around the basket then you must release the post player and play regular defense on him. When he breaks that arc you begin the banging on him.