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Three Methods - Ball Side Help

In this installment of the Three Methods Series, we will look at different ways to work on your Ball Side Help defense.

One of the priorities on the defensive side of the ball is reducing dribble penetration from the perimeter. A defense that is giving up dribble penetration consistently is probably also giving up lay-ups, kick-out shots, and trips to the foul line. It is impossible to eliminate dribble penetration completely, but whenever possible we need to make an effort to reduce its impact. Ideally, this can be done will great on-ball defense, but against the best players and offenses it is going to take multiple people.

The people who are most directly involved in helping stop dribble penetration are the help defenders on the ball side. These defenders can sometimes deter dribble penetration simply by positioning themselves in a manner that shows they are ready to help. These defenders should be on their toes, be communicating with the on-ball defender, have the hand and foot closest to the ball moved forwards, and be in a position to help or stunt at any drive. In this post, we are going to get into three methods you can use in your practices that emphasize those teaching points and give your players a chance to work on this aspect of the game.

If you haven't read any of the other posts in the Three Methods Series, check out some of the links below:

Teaching Points -

Even though we are introducing three different methods, we want to try to be consistent with the teaching points that we are emphasizing in each. We need to keep these teaching points simple and understandable for the players. Finding a common language for these teaching points is important as well. Coming up with a phrase or term that describes one of our teaching points is a great way to quickly communicate a desired reaction to our players.

Here are the three teaching points I'm trying to emphasize with ball-side help:

1. Lead Foot & Hand - We want players to get their hand and foot closest to the ball forward. Between the forward position of our hand and foot and our spacing in the gaps, we can deter dribble penetration before it even starts.

2. Do Not Overhelp - We want players to "stunt" and fake help when the ball is in neutral or the advantage is small. When that advantage becomes large we need to make sure we are reacting with help.

3. Have Active Hands - When we do decide to help we need active hands to deflect or prevent kick-out passes to the shooters.

Method #1 -

Our first concept is more of an introductory or teaching concept. We typically start with a coach-led 2/1 Stunt & Recover drill. The idea would be to emphasize the teaching point of getting your lead foot and hand forward toward the ball. As the coach drives towards the basket the player on the perimeter helps towards the ball and recovers back to his man. When we use the word stunt we are referring to a player not completely selling out for the overhelp. We are simply showing ourselves in an attempt to slow the drive down or encourage a pass. Once we feel comfortable with the technique then we can progress into some 2/2 play.

2/1, 2/2 Stunt & Recover -

Once we are ready for 2/2 we want the coaches out of the drill. As you can see in the lower left diagram we want the offense to start with an advantage, which should force the help from the perimeter.

Stunt & Recover:

Just as we did in the 2/1 version the defense is going to get that lead foot and hand forward and stunt at the basketball. Once the ball is in play we are going to play live 2/2 on that side of the court and the defense will have to figure out if a switch is warranted or it we can recover and play it straight up.


In this kind of concept, I like to have players paired up and we will simply rotate a new pair into the drill each possession. I will often have players rotate from the "advantage " position to the "wing" position to out of the drill. Ideally, you can have this set up on two hoops so we have 3 groups of 2 at each hoop and we are just cycling reps through the players.

Method #2 -

The 1/1 & 2/2 Russian Series is one of my favorite finishing and decision-making practice concepts. I often use the 1/1 version in our Finishing School portion of my practices. The 2/2 version now introduces a shooter and second defender to the equation. This added element of the wing player can be a great way to focus on the concept of stunting and ball-side help defense. There are two ways that you can organize the drill, you can split it into two teams and place one team on each sideline, or you can simply run it as a whole team concept.

2/2 Russian -

We generally organize the drill by getting a line on each sideline, setting a chair up at the point, placing an offensive player in the corner, and a defensive player in the gap.

At the top of the key, we are going to get a dribble handoff that will create a small advantage for the offensive player. As you can see in the bottom diagram this will present the offense with a small advantage that the defense has to neutralize.

Help Decision:

For the defense, we need to make the decision to either stunt or help on the drive. We will need to simultaneously recognize how big the advantage is and whether or not we need to help. At the very least we are expecting our perimeter help to stunt at the basketball and attempt to slow the drive down.

Finish the Possession:

Regardless of what the defense does, we will play out the possession 2/2. Once the possession is over we sub two new players on the baseline (2 & X2), and two new players at the point. Because we cycle through players fairly quickly I generally try to do this with the whole team at one basket.

Method #3 -

Our last method is a whole team 4/4 Shell concept, called "Hot Spot". We are going to essentially designate a spot on the perimeter that requires the players in that spot to drive the ball. I typically designate one of the slots to be that hot spot so that there is a clear decision to be made by the ball side help players. On the drive, those players on the ball side need to be prepared to stunt and help against the drive.

4/4 Shell, "Hot Spot" -

To further organize this concept I like the idea of splitting the team into two. We will get 4 players from each team out there to start, and then bring in 2 subs after each possession.

Ball Movement First:

We want the possession to start with ball movement from the offense. We allow the offense to cut to the basket or take 1 dribble in order to force the defense to play it honestly.

Hot Spot:

Once the ball is passed successfully to the designated hot spot then it needs to be driven aggressively to the rim. On the defensive side of the ball, we want to see the ball-side defenders react to the drive. Once that ball is kicked then we are playing 4/4 live in the half-court until we get a score, stop, or deflection out of bounds.

Ball Side Help Decision -

One of the biggest philosophical questions we are going to have to answer is whether or not we are helping from the corner.

When the ball is driven from the point and we are a single gap away on the wing there should be no question about ball-side help. However, when that help is coming from the corner there is a much greater threat of giving up a wide-open three-point shot.

What if we don't help?

If we choose to only stunt from the corner stunt or provide no help at all then we need to develop a backside help system that will account for that choice. To counter the lack of help we would try to force tough contested two-point shots with a rotating rim protector coming from the backside.

Concluding Thoughts -

Finding time to teach your ball side help principles is a must if you are going to build a solid defensive system. There will most likely be at least one dribble drive attempt on every possession so we need to do our best to neutralize those attempts. Similar to the offensive side of the ball we need to teach decision-making to our players about when to help and when to stunt. This is the only way we can make sure our players are not overhelping and giving up clean looks from the three-point line.

Next week we will get into helping from the backside.

Three Methods - Ball Side Help
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If you liked the ideas in this post I would urge you to subscribe to my website and YouTube Channel for future content. If you have any drills that you really like on this topic feel free to leave them in the comments or get in touch with me.

Coach Lynch Contact Info:

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