By and large I still believe free throws and lay-ups are how you win games. However, as a strong advocate of the 3-point shot, I can tell you the “3” can and will keep you in games and is a great equalizer for teams who are not as big or athletic but who can shoot the ball with accuracy.
Great 3-point shooters can keep a team in a game and on those special nights, upset an opponent seemingly single-handedly, making it essential to have to teach your team how to successfully defend either one great 3-point shooter or to defend a team of solid 3-point shooters.
Here are 12 rules or concepts for defending the 3-point shot:
1) Identify the 3-point shooter(s). You have to know who they are in order to defend them.
2) Play no help defense. Assign your best defensive player to the great 3-point shooter and do not give help with that defender, eliminating many of the easy and quick ways to set up a 3-point shooter. Penetration is one of the easiest set-ups for a 3-point shot and not helping takes that option away. In effect, the defense is playing a box and one.
3) Closeout with high hands. A defender should always “think shot and play drive” and have high hands with closing out on any offensive player in order to prevent a clean look at the rim. This is particularly important with a 3-point shooter.
4) Deny the 3-point shooter when playing pack-line man-to-man. Most pack type defenses do not contest any none penetrating pass made beyond the 3-point line. Denying the pass to the 3-point shooter and playing regular defense on all other offensive players is disruptive and effective.
5) Be aware of long rebounds. Long rebounds allow for easier offensive rebounds for 3-point shooters. Statistically, a 3-point shooter who is able to obtain the ball for a second shot from the inside out shoots at a much higher percentage than normal.
6) Shade in a zone defense. Know where the 3-point shooter is and shade towards the shooter.
7) Make the 3-point shooter put the ball on the floor. Not only does this make the shooter less effective, the shooter will drive inside the 3-point arc, eliminating the threat of a 3-point goal.
8) When screened leave no gap on the catch. It is not always possible to prevent a 3-point shooter from catching the ball, particularly after a screen. Arrive the same time the ball does and leave no gap, forcing the shooter to drive.
9) Pick up and deny at the NBA 3-point line. Locate the 3-point shooter by half court while in defensive transition and deny the shooter from the NBA 3-point line.
10) Late in the game, to protect a lead, force the 3-point shooter to go backdoor. This eliminates the threat of a 3-point shot.
11) Late in the game, to protect a lead when up by four, foul. If the opponent is not in the bonus, they will have to inbounds the ball. If the opponent is in the 1-and-1 bonus, the opponent has to make the first free throw, miss the second and obtain the rebound and score to score three points. The same situation applies in the double bonus.
12) Trap the great shooter. If your team plays a trapping defense out of its man-to-man, this can be an extraordinary tactic. Trap only the great 3-point shooter, forcing the shooter to give the ball up.
For these tactics to be effective, they must be practiced regularly and be a part of your normal defensive arsenal.