Strategies and Counters to Key Basketball Concepts


Basketball can be a chess match.

There’s always a counter to a counter.

The key is not only understanding counters, but also having the personnel to execute the counter.

Situation: wings and bigs with a below-average 3-point percentage are taking a high volume of 3s

Sometimes, wings and bigs of these prototypes are left open to shoot. When types of shots are taken, it’s not good offense being ran, it’s open shots that opposing teams are willing to live with because they are playing the percentages.

If a below-average shooter has a game where he’s on fire and punishing teams for leaving him open, more power to the player.

A counter:

Teams don’t want to discourage their below-average 3-point shooters from taking open 3-point shots, but there are actions that can be ran to avoid taking shots that opposing defenses want offenses to take.

Instead of camping these wings and bigs in the corner, use the wings and bigs as an on-ball screener. Get them involved in an area that’s easy for them to collapse the defense and get shooters open looks.

Here are multiple actions:

On the perimeter, Larry Nance fakes the give-and-go to CJ McCollum. Jordan Hawkins runs full speed to Nance, whose defender, Maxi Kleber is sagging off. Nance attempts just 1.2 shots from deep per game.

Nance sets a hard screen on Seth Curry. Hawkins, a terrific shooter, takes the dribble handoff, hits a wide-open, one-dribble pull-up midrange jumper with Kleber staying in the paint.

Situation: non-shooters on the perimeter

Similar to the previous situation, there are viable options to create high-percentage shots involving players who lack the ability to space the floor. In this situation, non-shooters are left open on the perimeter, but there are solutions:

A counter:

Once a non-shooter receives a pass on the perimeter, a shooter can run towards them and take a dribble handoff. The non-shooter’s man is typically sitting in drop coverage.

If the non-shooter can set a hard screen as they hand it off, the shooter will get a wide-open look from deep as the non-shooter’s defender cannot recover in time out of his drop coverage.

Shooters that can catch and shoot on the move are the perfect types to take dribble handoffs.

Rudy Gobert is standing on the perimeter in this after timeout play. His defender, Brook Lopez is sagging off him and has no threat of Gobert taking a 3-pointer.

Malik Beasley is face guarding Anthony Edwards. Edwards fakes a move, dead sprints toward Gobert and takes the dribble handoff.

A combination of Gobert’s screen on Beasley and Lopez sagging off, allows Edwards to get a clean look from deep.

Situation: mismatch in the post

When defenders switch an off-ball screen, it can lead to an offensive big posting up a much smaller defender.

A counter:

If the big is posting up on the weak side of the floor, this is an opportunity for the defense to pre-switch. The smaller defender can communicate with the nearest off-ball defender on the perimeter and they can switch matchups.

They must be quick on the switch before the ball can swing inside to the offensive big or the open shooter on the perimeter.

Paul George back cuts on Jose Alvarado and can potentially post up in the paint with much more size. Alvarado and Zion Williamson communicate quickly to pre-switch matchups and eliminate the mismatch. 

George does not even get a touch on this possession and the Clippers end up with a wild contested shot as the shot clock is about to expire.

Situation: top shooter gets blitzed off a dribble handoff

Sometimes, when a shooter comes off a dribble handoff, they can get blitzed and may not have a passing angle to get rid of the basketball.

A counter:

When the screener can anticipate blitz coverage, he can fake the dribble handoff and have the two defenders bite on the fake. Now with two defenders out of position, the screener can now play 4-on-3 and now it’s up to him to make the right read.

Very similar action to a short roll game.

This is a staple in the Golden State Warriors’ offense.

Stephen Curry tosses the basketball to Draymond Green.

Green fakes the dribble handoff and Spencer Dinwiddie has to honor Curry’s off-ball movement.

Green has a straight line drive to the rim.

Uncontested dunk.

Notice Luka Doncic in this clip. Hands on knees. Doncic rotates over but does not bother to contest Green.

Situation: perimeter defender is beat on dribble penetration on isolation drive

Straight line drives can collapse a defense and can lead to giving up easy buckets.

A counter:

Something that teams could do more is peel switch. When the point of attack defender allows dribble penetration, the nearest defender can pick up the dribbler and stay in front of the basketball.

Now, the point-of-attack defender switches over to man that’s open on the perimeter, which requires precise communication. Peel switches can be executed on both the strong side of the floor and the weak side of the floor.

Utilizing peel switches can prevent a ton of dribble penetration. It does not create mismatches on switches since usually the switch is between two wings. 

Haywood Highsmith is out of position once Malcolm Brogdon drives the closeout.

However, Bam Adebayo rotates to stop Brogdon’s dribble penetration and forces him to pick up his dribble. Highsmith takes Adebayo’s man, Jaylen Brown.

Adebayo and Highsmith complete the peel switch. Brogdon has to throw the basketball back out to the perimeter.

Caleb Martin gets caught ball-watching but gets a good contest on Al Horford‘s 3-pointer.

There’s always answers to everything.

It’s a combination of IQ and talent.

Sometimes, it’s not about what a player or team didn’t do; but rather, give credit to the other player or team for winning the chess match.

It’s all easier said than done. Know your personnel and execute.

About Mac Pham

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