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HOW-TO: Helping on Defense


Making the weak side a strength


On a truly exceptional basketball team, teammates are quick to help each other on both offense and defense. After all, the art of team play is a large part of the beauty of the game, full of possibilities and permutations. With proper execution and communication, teamwork on defense can suffocate the offense, making them feel as if every single player was being covered by a double team. On the other hand, sloppy execution can result in missed rotations and wide-open baskets.
In basketball, the strong side refers to the region of the court that the ball-handler is on, as opposed to the weak side or help side. Due to the pace of the game, help side defense is an inevitable part of most possessions, due to the need to cover rotations, deny passes, recover lost ground for their teammates and provide additional support against a particularly tough individual.


Positioning: All these requirements sound like quite a handful, but good help defenders understand that half the battle is won with proper spacing. By maintaining a comfortable distance between their man and the ball-handler, they are able to prevent their defensive assignment from receiving the ball in the first place while still being in time to react and help on any drives. 


Anticipation: Good weak side defenders do not have to be physical specimens, but they are usually mobile and versatile players who are as quick in their minds as they are on their feet. Andre Iguodala is a good example, using his lateral quickness to recover on drives and challenge any passes or shots. An understanding of your opponent’s tendencies can be helpful here, for instance in pick-and-roll situations when you are trying to hedge the ball-handler.


Timing: Awareness and discipline are important in getting to your spot at the right time. If you close out or double team too early, you allow the offensive player an easy kick-out opportunity, which you will not be in position to interfere with. If your help comes too late, you may not be in time to challenge the shot attempt and could end up being called for a foul instead.