Deny Defense

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Denial is the act of a defender being in between the basketball and the person they are defending in an effort to prevent or discourage a pass to the person they are guarding. It's an important concept as a team that is denying well can prevent an offense from being able to fluidly move the ball and ideally puts pressure on the ball handler to make a difficult decision on where to go with the pass.

Denial Stance & Technique

A player in a standard denial stance should be about arms length away from the player they are guarding. When the defense is too far away it's much easier to lose track of the person being guarded and the passer will not have a challenge finding the player in open space.

The defender's shoulders should be square to the player they are guarding and should be seeing the basketball at all times in their peripheral vision. Proper footwork is essential to being able to see both the ball and the person being guarded. Here is an example:

Denying the Passing Lane

The defender is guarding their man on the wing with the ball at the top of the key to the defender's left.

  • The left hand should be extended into the passing lane and the right hand should be extended towards the player being guarded to initiate contact on a cut. Using the right hand to initiate contact is important for when a player tries to make a face cut the hand can be used to maintain the defender's space and force the player underneath. It also gives an additional sense as to the momentum of the offense's movement without having to know visually where they are. If you can feel the person you are guarding in front of you it allows more of your vision to focus on what is happening with the basketball.
  • We teach that the defender's back foot should be even with the middle of the offense's body. One of the biggest flaws with denial defense in younger players is they understand the concept but aren't actually in the passing lane. Giving a landmark for where their feet should be extended to is often helpful.

Denial Position to Force the Offense to Extend the Pass

In some cases you may have a situation where a talented player is one that you don't want to give an opportunity to catch the ball in a position to easily create a score. You don't necessarily want to deny them the pass because they will find a way to get open on their own anyway and you may not have control of where they will make that catch. By playing into the body of the offensive player and having your baseline foot under the defender you force the offensive player on the perimeter to v-cut or step out further to catch ball rotation. The further a talented player(s) catches the ball from the basket the less of a threat they are to create a score. This denial position also allows for a strong and quick close out to play tight defense.

Sagging Down (Not Denying)

A legitimate strategy against a team that has not been or does not shot well is to not deny the pass at all. A player who's not capable of making a high percentage of shots from the outside may not be one that you want to deny the ball from in that spot. Sagging off as a defensive strategy allows you to have more people protecting the paint area and gives a on-ball defender more space to keep an offensive player in front of them.

Open to the Ball vs Open to the Player

There are differing philosophies in how denial stance is taught with the most traditional way being as we described it above, but some coaches will teach players at times to open themselves to the basketball. The defender would have their outside foot forward and be slightly under the passing lane with their hand closest to the player ready to intercept a pass. The methodology behind this is that when a player deflects a pass from a traditional deny stance with their back to the basketball, it becomes a 50/50 loose ball off the deflection. A player who is open to the basketball will be able to step in front of a pass and tip it forward directly in front of them as their hand will naturally deflect the ball in front of them allowing for a better transition opportunity and increased likelihood of a steal.

The down side to denying open to the basketball is that it's much easier to lose track of a defender making a back cut and will be more difficult to recover if the offense is able to create space. If the player receives the ball, the defender will also have to reverse their stance in order to be in position to keep the offensive player in front of them.

Face Guarding

Face Guarding is facing the man being guarded without concern for what is going on with the basketball. This means the defender is not playing help side in an effort to prevent the offensive player from receiving the ball at all costs. It's a technique often used to frustrate or limit the possessions of a team's best player. Other applications involve use in situations such as Inbound Plays where the basketball being stationary allows the defense to face guard in an attempt to prevent the inbound.

When should a team deny the basketball and what are the risks?

This is an interesting question as you would think the defense would always want to put pressure on the offense but there are situations where denial can work against you. Playing against an opponent that struggles to shoot the ball but plays well off of the dribble or around the basket may mean you want to sag off. If you feel that a team will shoot a low percentage from the perimeter then it's to the advantage of the defense to allow the offense to move and keep the ball on the outside where they are not a threat.

Playing a strong denial off the ball also will put you at the risk of giving up a backdoor cut or face cut going towards the basket. Athleticism, speed, and skill level are also a consideration in deciding on the level of pressure to apply.

The following questions are good to consider when deciding how far to extend your defensive pressure:

  • Are we athletic and strong enough to stay with the opponent?
  • Do we have a size and length advantage or will the offense be able to throw over the top of our pressure?
  • Is the offense turnover prone?

Drills with a Deny Focus

See Category:Defensive Denial Drills

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