Basketball post defense is challenging work. But it can be especially tricky if you are a shorter player. So how do you switch this match up from mismatch to underdog success?
A lot of the time, you know, going into a game, you’re going to be outmanned. It’s easy to see from the roster if the team will be bigger and taller than you. Often, in this scenario, your coach will have a game plan. They may trap in the post, deny from the wings, or play a certain defense. Whatever your coach draws up, do your best to follow that system.
But even if you’ve got the right defense, sometimes the play breaks down. You might get switched onto a post. You might be undersized in the Position. So how do you defend a dominant post player?
Well, first off, know that they’re going to score. You can’t win every possession against someone who has height on you. Don’t let this get in your head. If you use these tips to play tough, scrappy defense, you might be able to throw them off their game.
Don’t Allow Them to Get Position
The best thing you can do is not let the player get set up where they want to be. This means meeting the post high, near the top of the key, and redirecting them in their path to the block. Suppose you have established your Position at the elbow. In that case, they will have to move around you, and you can force them into an easily defensible position. This is called bumping the cutter. If you do your work early, it will cut down on their effectiveness in the post.
Commit to Your Basketball Defense
Different coaches will utilize different defenses, but you will often be playing either full front or 3/4 front defense if you’re outmatched in the post. For a full-front defense, make sure you entirely seal off your player behind you, call for help, and trust that your teammates will back you up. This forces the offense to make a tough lob pass over your head. For a 3/4 front defense, make sure you split your opponent (one leg in front, one leg behind) and keep your hand high to tip away balls.
Whatever style your coach asks, commit to playing tough defense that way. But if there is a particular style you prefer, consider sitting down with your coach to talk about it.
Use Their Size Against Them
Often, bigger post players are used to throwing their weight around in the low block. Use this against them. If they sit on your legs in a post up, quickly move back a step so that they lose their balance. If they go to back you down with a hard drop step, you can “pull the chair” and move out from where they expect you to be, causing them to lose balance. If they drop their shoulder into you, you can take charge. These are all techniques that are dependent on you having been playing tough, physical defense and then making a quick switch. This helps to make sure that you keep the player honest.
Have Good Footwork
We’ve established that you’re not going to beat this opponent with your height, so the next best thing is to play solid defense. Once they get the ball, the key is to adjust your stance and get your body between them and the basket. You’re most likely smaller and more agile, so use your speed to your advantage to move quickly to counter their drop step or crab dribble. If they can’t get a clear path to the basket, you force them to take a tough shot, and are also still in good position for the rebound.
Call For Help
You don’t have to go it alone. Often, your teammates will be ready to spring a trap or provide help-side defense, but you have to let them know when you need it. Make sure to communicate clearly with “Help!” “Low Side,” “Go,” or whatever phrase your team settles on. Your team needs to hear you help you, so make sure you are loud and clear.
Know It’s Gonna Be a Battle
If you’re a small forward, you need to be prepared to work harder than your opponent anytime you step on the court. One thing you can do to help is to make sure you get strong in the weight room, but you’re going to have to step on the court and battle at the end of the day. Play tough, play scrappy, and don’t give in to their size. If you play this way, you’ll keep them from doing what they want to do and throw them off their game.