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Defending Baseline Drives in Basketball

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Largely because of the three point line, more and more teams are forcing players baseline and refusing to give up middle. The reasoning is that a guard who penetrates the middle of a defense can either attack the basket himself or kick it out to the weak side wing for an open three point attempt.

As a result, many coaches find themselves trying to answer the question of "If we force baseline, where does the help come from?" There seems to be two popular answers to this question:

1. Strong Side Post
2. Weak Side Perimeter

#1 Strong Side Post

As expected, this method has its pro's and con's. The pro is that the strong side post player is a lot closer to the help position and has a much better chance of stopping the ball handler before he reaches the paint. The con is that if the post player is too late or gets stuck on the high side of the offensive post, then a layup will surely occur.

For defenses that play mostly behind the offensive post, this is by far the easiest option. Post defenders can simply move around the bottom side of the offensive player and establish a position to stop the drive.

For the team that primarily defends the post with either a three quarters front or a full front, this can be a little challenging at first because many young and inexperienced posts will get sealed or pinned on the high side of the offensive player. If you are going to three quarters front the block, your guards must be constantly drilled not give up direct line drives to the basket. This will give your post defenders more time to recover to the crucial help position. When executing a full front, the defender should come under the offensive player on the baseline side before establishing his fronting position. This way the defender is in a great position to quickly slide over and stop any baseline attacks.

#2 Weak Side Perimeter

The more traditional way to stop baseline penetration is by rotating defenders over from the weak side. This is a great concept if your players have sufficient quickness and anticipation skills. Since the most common habit pass for a baseline driver is a dump pass to an open post player, rotating a guard over from the weak side allows the post defender to stay home while still stopping the dribbler's attack. However, if this guard is late with his help it is more than likely that a foul will be called.

Personally, we currently rotate defenders over from the weak side. Why? Because in our situation we usually have more good guards than good post players and do not want to risk a foul call on our post. Your team personnel may be the complete opposite of ours and so using the strong side post may be your best option. Whatever method you choose to utilize, if you make sure that it fits your philosophy and personnel, you can't go wrong with either one!

On a related side note, colleges are now using the same restricted area arc that the NBA has been using for years. This is going to make it even more difficult for perimeter defenders to rotate over since the arc is located three feet in front of the rim. In order to take a charge, defenders must be completely outside the arc - no heels on the line! Not only will this make taking a defensive charge more difficult but it will also make recovering back out to an open shooter on the weak side wing/corner nearly impossible.

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