TEACHING WEAK SIDE HELP
There is one simple, but effective drill to use to teach weak side help, person to person defense;
This drill should be run for five minutes EVERY PRACTICE for every player on the team, to ingrain proper position into all defensive players for a wide variety of offensive movement and position.
Set up with five offensive players equally spaced about five feet outside the three point circle, as in a standard spread motion offense. Make sure the offensive players all have pinnies to differentiate from the defense. Assign defensive players to each offensive player.
With the ball at the top of the key the defensive player nearest the ball plays a normal man to man defense on his player, but the defender positions himself to force the ball to one side or the other to create a strong and a weak side. The middle position is the strongest for offense so the defense wants to create a weak side help situation.
IF ONE PASS AWAY, DENY PASS
The two defenders whose players are closest to the ball (one pass away), play very close to their man in a deny defense and have one arm in the passing lane trying to deny the pass to that player. Their head is turned slightly to see the ball and their man, while their body is in a good aggressive defensive position. Essentially, these players are trying to deny the pass to the wing and to entice their player to go back door, which calls for a difficult inside pass from the point guard, which might be thrown away or intercepted, or present an occasion for a trap when the weak side help defender stops the ball.
IF TWO PASSES AWAY, TWO FEET IN PAINT
The other two defenders have BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT at a point nearest to the player they are defending, pointing with one arm at their offensive player and the other at the ball with their back always toward the baseline, being sure they can play effective help defense against a basket attack. If their man is opposite the elbow they play higher in the paint, but if their man is along the baseline they play lower in the paint. These players are positioned in that fashion to provide weak side help in the event a wing goes back door or a dribbler attacks the basket. In that case, the primary weak side help defender closest to the attack puts their body in between the ball and the basket, while the other weak side helper covers the center of the paint in the event the dribbler gets by the initial defender or passes to another player. It is usually the offensive player the primary weak side defender has left who is open and must be covered by this rotation.
When the basket is attacked, ALL players drop quickly to the paint area to defend, while keeping in proximity to their player mindful of a drive and kick out pass. Quickness in dropping and recovering is important and must be constantly practiced.
If players are numbered 1 at the top of the key, 2 on the left wing and 3 on the right wing and 4 on left and 5 on right blocks, when 1 passes to 2, the 2 defender aggressively plays man to man on 2, the 1 defender denies a back pass to the 1 guarding against a back door cut, and the 4 defender exits the paint, if necessary, and denies a pass to the 4 as he is now one pass away from the ball. The 3 defender, who is now two passes away from the ball, drops off his man and puts BOTH FEET INTO THE PAINT nearest his man, but shading to the ball location, while the 5 defender adjusts his position closer to the ball side, while still watching his man carefully and leaving BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT. The 3 defender and the 5 defender do not play aggressive man to man when they are two passes away, but are in the paint to provide "weak side help".
If the ball is on the left baseline in 4's possession, the 4 defender is in an aggressive man to man position, and because the 2 is one pass away, the 2 defender is aggressively denying the pass to 2. All other defensive players have both feet in the paint at a position near their man, but able to provide weak side help. In this case, we would recommend having the 5 defender at the ball side block with BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT and an open body position in an effort to see the ball and his man, the 3 defender in the center of the paint with BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT watching the ball and his man and prepared to defend against a drive or a kick out to his man, and the 1 defender with BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT nearest his man, prepared to recover to defend against the outside shot, since the 1 is the most likely 3 point shooter.
If the 4 drives the baseline, the 4 defender and the 5 defender providing weak side help block the drive and trap the player. Other defenders drop to protect the paint as the basket is being attacked, always mindful of where their player is and protecting, only as a secondary concern, against the kick out pass.
In the event of a 1/4 offensive set where four players are in a straight line across the foul line and foul line extended with the point guard handling the ball at the top of the key, a variation of the rules above must be followed. The two nearest players to the ball handler should be denied the ball by their defender while the other two players (the wings to begin) are playing just outside the paint, about five feet below the elbow, at a point nearest their assigned player. If the ball is skip passed to their player, they immediately leave the designated paint area and begin aggressively guarding their man. The other players rotate following the rules above.
If the ball is passed to the left wing, the wing defender who originally had one foot in the paint moves quickly out to defend his man, the point guard defender closely guards and denies a back pass and defends against a back door pass and the defender guarding the man at the elbow also denies. The right hand wing defender drops quickly to the paint and puts BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT about in the center where he can see and point at both the man with the ball and his assigned man. In this case his back is to the baseline and he is positioned far enough down in the paint to see both the ball and his man simply by moving his head. The defender who was at the weak side elbow drops a few feet into the paint with BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT and his back to the baseline pointing at both his man and the ball.
In a variation of the 1/4 offense called the 1/4 Low, the ofur offensive palyers are put on the baseline leaving hte point guard in position to go one on one against his defender. In that event, the post defenders assume a position inside their men with BOTH FEET IN THE PAINT on either side near their block. Their position should allow a pass to their man to be blocked or intercepted but still allow both defenders to leave their man to stop a drive by the point guard. The other two defenders play just outside the offensive players on the blocks to be in a position to defend if a pass is kicked out to the wing player, or to provide help guarding against a drive and dish to one of the inside players. It is critical in this case that the point guard defender do his best to create a weak side situation and not allow the ball to be dribbled directly down the lane.
Players on the ball and one pass away always play aggressive man to man DENY defense, while the other two players who are two or more passes away play in the paint to provide help against a dribble drive or back door cut. Logically, the 4 and 5 are least likely to be good outside shooters so their defenders should almost always be in the paint defending as weak side helpers. The 2 and 3 defenders will be moving the most as their players are the logical scorers who can hit shots from the outside as well as drive to the basket. The 1 defender, because the point guard generally tries to stay in the center of the court running the offense, and providing safety againt a fast break, will likely not move as much as the 2 and 3 unless the 1 does a lot of back door cutting.
Denying the wing pass forces the point guard to dribble drive or to make skip passes or back door passes, which require great precision and can lead to many turnovers, assuming the weak side help defender does his job.
In the event an offensive player tries to go back door, the defender tries to maintain contact, and always turns into the ball side, using a reverse pivot, to maintain eye contact with the ball, extends the inside arm to block a pass and follows his player as closely as possible. If the pass is complete, but the player is stopped by the weak side defender, a trap should be immediately applied and an aggressive attempt should be made to strip the ball.
COACHING POSITION & CORRECTIONS DURING DRILL
One coach stands under the basket while the other stands at the top of the key and both provide guidance to defensive players.
Some defensive players do not react quickly enough to a dribble drive when they are supposed to be providing weak side help. They must constantly watch the ball, as well as their man, and on a basket attack, recover from their original position with two feet in the paint, to a position in the paint in line between the ball and the basket and be prepared to aggressively defend the basket to include taking a charge from a driving player.
Defensive players tend to get lazy and do not want to drop to the paint when the ball is rotated away from them, leaving open spots in the defense that can be attacked. When this concept is first presented, players want to follow their man out of the paint, even when they are two or more passes away because "man to man" has been ingrained in them. Coaches must properly position players repeatedly to ensure they know the correct position in the defense.