In the example below we have the following defenders "X":
- On Ball Defense
- One pass away: Denial
- Two passes away: On Help Side
- One pass away: Post Denial
- Weak Side Post: On Help Side
The two players in Help Position in the above diagram are the defenders guarding O3 and O5. Note that the player guarding O3 is on the basket line but is only deep enough that he can see both where the basketball is and where the person he is guarding is. The man guarding O5 is also at a proper depth in relation to the post player that he is guarding.
Good Help and Bad Help
One of the most common issues is the wrong defender stepping to try to help stop dribble penetration. It's instinctual for a defender to reach out or to step towards the ball when someone nearby has been beat. Unfortunately by doing so, that defender leaves their own assignment wide open for a shot or a cut which they will not be able to close out to in time.
There is a difference between a close out on a perimeter player and a step up from the help side position. A step up from help side should be one or two (at most) large steps to establish legal guarding position on the driving offensive player. The goal is to disrupt the path of the driving offensive player to prevent an easy layup or to be in position to take an offensive foul if the driver is out of control.
If the defender closest to the basket does step up it is the responsibility of the other weak side defender to rotate to the basket to "Help the Helper" . The driving player will have a easy dish off to the post or short corner because the basket defender has stepped up to stop the ball. This will require a quick closeout if the ball is kicked to the weak side but having to contest the outside shot is always going to be preferable to giving up a layup.
Do's and Don't of Help Side
- Communicate - From the Basket Line you have a view of everything going on in front of you. Help the on-ball defender and deny defenders by letting them know whats happening outside their view.
- Show & Recover - On initial dribble penetration quickly step to show help and recover. This can deter a drive before it gets deep into the lane.
- Hands Up and Active - Not only does having your hands up make you appear to take up more space defensively, you will be quicker to get your hand into a passing lane, contest a shot, or you can use your hands as a reference point to make sure you always know where both the basketball and your defensive assignment are.
- Lose Track of your Assignment - If you're too high on the basket line and not flat to the level of your assignment you will run the risk of a backdoor cut behind your line of vision. You should also be aware if your man crosses to the strong side of the play, you may need to close out into a deny or on-ball defensive position.
- Allow a Face Cut - If you're watching the ball too closely and not paying attention to your assignment, you run the risk of your assignment making a face cut across your body giving them position for an easy lane to the basket. You must force the player to cut behind you to prevent an easy curl.
- Help Too Far (or too long) - Make sure to help protect the basket but you don't need to guard the strong side. If you overcommit to guarding someone else's assignment once they have sufficiently recovered into defensive position you are leaving your own assignment open.