Post Defense

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Defending a post player can bring a variety of challenges. Size, strength, skill, agility, experience, stamina, and a variety of other factors can determine the outcome of what is essentially a battle for position. When guarding on the perimeter there is the opportunity to close out or to have a help side defender step up to bail you out if you make a mistake. If a post player receives the ball in position in the post you have usually given up a high percentage score. No matter how the player is guarded there are going to be several essential concepts that you need to remember:

  • Maintain a low center of gravity - controlling the battle at the hip level is more important than the more obvious place in the upper body where a player will look to receive the ball.
  • Stay wide and strong but on balance. - Over committing or being too straight up in your defensive approach can leave you open to getting sealed off through ball movement.
  • Don't get lazy - Just because your man has been inactive on the weak side of the ball for 4 or 5 seconds doesn't mean he isn't about to flash to the strong side. Always be on your toes and be ready for contact.
  • Keep your hands up - You never know when a pass will come through your area or when your defender will try to initiate contact. Keep your hands up both in denial position and when on help side.
  • No Face Cuts - One of the worst things you can do is allow a post man on the weak side of the ball to flash to the ball in front of you across the basket line. If they catch it and finish with the hand opposite of you it's a likely And-1. You must put an arm up and get your body in front of the cut to force them behind you.
  • Win the Effort Battle - Most mistakes or deficiencies can be fixed by outworking your opponent. Frustrate your opponent by letting them know you're going to outwork them on every possession.
Be the smarter player - know your opponent's tendencies.

Evaluation of how to guard a Post player

When evaluating an offensive player either through scouting, review of film, watching them in warmups or simply adjusting to how they play during the game can make a big difference in the way you will take advantage of their weaknesses. Here are some of the things you should look for:

Lack of Range

If it becomes clear that a player has an inaccurate shot when squared up to the basket it can make a significant change in how you approach guarding them. You will want to strongly keep position underneath the basket to prevent them getting close which is what they want to do. They may like scoring off the seal, drop step, and offensive rebounds. If they catch the ball off the block close out but stay on your feet and be ready for a drive, slide into position to take a charge or wall up. Maintain position in a defensive stance and don't give up your place in between the player and the basket.. do not bite on the up and under or shot fake.

Height Advantage/Disadvantage

A significant difference in height (even a couple of inches) can make an impact on how you guard a post player. Let's look at a few scenarios:

Shorter Post Defender vs Taller Offensive Player

In this case you will generally want to evaluate based on the range and skill of the offensive player. If the player is very limited in range you want to keep them from getting the ball low on the block but may not be concerned if they catch the ball at 5-10 feet away from the rim. In this case with a limited offensive post player it may be better to play behind and use your lower center of gravity to win the battle down low. Use your hips and agility to keep them from establishing low on the block and drive them away from the basket. If you allow them to catch the ball within a few feet of the rim you stand little chance of stopping them from scoring so you must prevent them from catching the ball in that area.

A second option is to front the post and play completely over the top of the offensive player but this puts you at risk for the lob pass over the top for a layup. You must have quality help from the weak side ready to attack any pass thrown over your head in order for this to work.

Taller Post Defender vs Shorter Offensive Player

In this case with the height advantage it doesn't make a lot of sense to front a shorter post player. The taller defender will want to stay in a three quarter denial or simply stay behind and use the height advantage to block or alter any shots the post player attempts. What's important here is making sure not to get faked out by second and third moves at the rim which a shorter post player is likely to utilize.

Three Different Ways to Guard the Post

The decision in how to guard a particular post player can be a coaching or player decision that can be easy with familiarity or need to be adjusted on the fly as a player's strengths become apparent.

Playing Behind

Playing Behind refers to keeping your body completely in between the offensive player and the basket, not denying the post entry at all. For one reason or another, if you are not preventing a player from catching the ball in the post you are viewing them as an ineffective offensive threat with the ball down low. You're forcing them to prove that they are able to create scores from the block and if they begin to do that you may need to adjust your strategy.

Three Quarter Denial

Three quarter denial gets its name from the fact that you are playing in front of the offensive player but not completely in front. You want to be 3/4 of the way around the front and you have to make sure your footwork is on track. Emphasis:

  • Solid, strong base - Be in a wide, athletic stance for optimal balance. Stay low to control the battle of the core as contact up high is often a foul, contact down low is establishing position.
  • Deny Basket Side You want to be denying on the inside of the player, not the outside. If a player is able to seal you and get the basketball it's going to be much easier to recover to a player on the baseline rather than a player who is able to get the ball in the middle of the paint.
  • Active Hands - One hand should be in constant contact with the offensive player, the other should be up in the passing lane.
  • Leg over the top - Don't try to deny with your arm wrapped around a player but your front leg and hips behind them. You will need to battle to get over the top to get into a quality 3/4 deny position.
  • Be Active and Re-establish - Post offense and defense is a constant battle for position. Recognize that if you lose position you need to outwork your match up to re-establish it.

Fronting the Post

Playing in front of an offensive player in the post comes with it's difficulties. Face guarding a player may work on the perimeter or in the open court but it doesn't work in the post because it's essential that you be able to see the ball and know where a post entry is coming from. When fronting it's essential that you have teammates who are going to be on the basket line to assist taking away any lob passes that the offense may try to throw over the top.

Players who are fronting the post should:

  • Take a stance similar to boxing out with a wide base and maintaining contact with the offensive player behind them.
  • Stay lower than the offensive player while maintaining balance.
  • Hands up.
  • Always see ball and man.
  • Work to stay out front and if sealed off quickly fight to re-establish position.

Knowing your opponent's tendencies

Many post players will have tendencies or "go to" moves that they feel comfortable with and prefer to use. When you get an opportunity to scout a player you're going to be guarding either when on the bench, on film, or in the stands take note of the things they like to do. For example:

  • Do they like to spin off defenders to seal in the post or do they shove?
  • Do they try to get opponents to bite on shot fakes or up and under moves?
  • Can they and will they shoot if left open?
  • Can they use their weak hand and do they ever make a move to that side?

Make these reads and adjust your defense to take away their first option. Be the smarter player in the post battle and you will be successful more often in the long run. Stay down, stay in front, contest and don't give up the easy bucket. If you do allow post entry inside make the shot as difficult as possible by maintaining legal guarding position and contesting the shot followed by a quality box out.

Doubling Down

Bringing a second player to trap or pressure the offensive post player is a decision that will leave someone else open. Having a scout or an idea of who (if any) the weak shooters are on the floor can help a Coach designate a certain player on "go" call or have them make the read on their own. The player doubling down should maintain a line of sight and the other 3 defenders need to be ready to rotate to stop a basket cut or an open look for other shooters.

Discussion Topics on Post Defense

Also see: Post Defense Discussion.