“I stress offense without the ball and defense before the other player gets the ball.” John Wooden
As important as on the ball defense is during a basketball game, off the ball defense is just as important and much more difficult. Playing effective off the ball defense is one of the most challenging parts of playing basketball. It is easy to keep your attention on the offensive player you are guarding when he has the ball. When he doesn’t have the ball is when you really have to be aware.
1. Ball, You, Man-There is an imaginary line that runs from the offensive player with the ball to you; an imaginary line that runs from you to the man you are guarding; an imaginary line that runs from the man you are guarding to the offensive player with the ball. There is a triangle that is formed between the man with the ball, yourself, and the man you are guarding. YOU MUST SEE YOUR MAN AS WELL AS THE BALL AT ALL TIMES. This is vitally important and the number one rule of playing great off the ball defense.
2. On the line, up the line- If you are playing an aggressive man to man defense you may deny the offensive player you are guarding when you are one pass away.You should be on the line and up the line of the offensive player you are guarding and the offensive player with the ball. Your shoulders should be squared with the offensive player you are guarding even though you are in a denial position. On the line means you are on the imaginary line that extends from the offensive player with the ball to the player you are guarding. Up the line means you are positioned a little less than halfway from the man you are guarding on this imaginary line. So you are positioned less than halfway between your man and the man with the ball.
3. Keep appropriate distance from offensive player- You need to position yourself approximately at an arm length’s distance away from the offensive player you are guarding. The hand closest to the ball is in the passing lane, not your body. This is mainly because it is more difficult to see your man with your peripheral vision when you position your body into the passing lane. You arm is enough to dissuade the man with the ball from passing to the man you are guarding, especially when you have an active hand in the passing lane. This also allows you to see the ball and your man easier with your peripheral vision. If you get too close to your man and hug him, he will also have a better opportunity to cut to the basket. Having an appropriate amount of space between you and the offensive player is necessary because it allows you to react and impede his progress if he cuts to the basket.
If you are one pass away from the offensive player with the ball and you are denying the wing player without the ball, it is difficult to help on dribble penetration. Just keep this in mind because usually the help will not come from this man.