When defending a player on the wing, you should do everything you can to keep the ball from being dribbled into the middle. This means forcing, influencing, or shading the ball towards the corner/baseline and then working hard at stopping the drive (by yourself) before the attack reaches the short corner.
The above sentiment is nothing revolutionary, but let’s examine why it works.
When the ball drives baseline, there are several factors in favor of the defense:
- The offense is actually decreasing the usable court space.
- The baseline becomes a defensive “sixth man”.
- Shooting angles are not as good as being in the middle of the floor (read: shooting percentages drop).
- Natural passing angles are fewer and more difficult.
- Non-ball defenders seem to drop toward the goal more easily than when the ball is driven into the middle.
When the ball drives into the middle away from the baseline:
- The ball-handler has more space.
- The ball-handler has more passing options with better angles.
- Post players have to be careful about stepping up to help leaving their players open at the basket.
- Teammates on the perimeter are reluctant to help for fear of giving up the three point shot.
- Statistically, this drive simply seems to favor the offense over the defense.
So, when you’re guarding the wing (outer one-third) of the half-court, do everything you can with your stance and your distance to make the drive go toward the corner more times than it goes to the middle. Percentage-wise, it’s worth it.