Defense is a guessing game. To every offensive move, a defender has three basic guesses. The offensive player can drive right, drive left, or shoot. That means a defender virtually has only a 33% chance of guessing correctly right from the start. Most offensive players will take those odds. Only the player with the ball decides when to start, when to stop, when to shoot, and when to drive. Here’s the game within the game. If a defender can learn the tendencies and habits of the offensive player, they no longer have to guess quite as much. They can start to predict and even manipulate the offensive player into action. In that case their odds of success go up. Great defenders know how to take the guessing out of it.
On the other hand, the same can be said concerning the offensive player. If they can not only make their defender guess, but then make a decision based on the defender’s reaction, their odds of success go up as well. They are able to make the defense guess one way, so they can go the other way. As the saying goes, “The only thing that can beat great defense is better offense.”
It’s not accurate to think that a great defender is beat by a greater move. In fact, the greater the defender the less “moves” actually matter. The real secret to beating the best defenders is found in the “moments” - Timing, unpredictability, and reaction. Today I will introduce a series of step by step movements that the best offensive players use to win the 1-on-1 battle with any defender!
Many of the great scorers within the game of basketball have one “move” in common. It’s not the move that is generally noticed in the highlight reels. It tends to be covered up by a monster dunk, an acrobatic finish at the basket, the popular Euro Step or by a flashier crossover or spin. It’s simply an action of dropping the hips.
It seems most basketball players don’t understand this simple concept. When a player steps forward, their hips lean forward as well. In order to get low, they basically have to do a lunge on the move. There are problems with this. First, since the player’s hips are forward, it will be very difficult to shoot without dribbling forward or stepping back. Second, since the player is getting low as they attempt to drive past, a physical defender can simply knock them off their path. It’s widely known in sports that the lower a player’s hips are, the more explosive they will be, but too often we fail to discuss when and how to get low. While most players get low as they drive, the best players get low before they drive. They literally drop.
This is how it can be performed. When a player is attacking right, they lead with their right foot. Instead of stepping forward, however, they simply move their right foot forward and move their left foot back causing their body and their hips to drop straight down. Gravity pulls their body into an explosive position, so they can attack ready and low (photo 1 and 2).
This driving position is the key. If a player can master this simple drop, the game opens to a whole new level. If the defender does not react to the drop, the offensive player has the green light to drive. After a player has shown the ability to drop and drive, they begin to demand attention whenever they do so. Their drop becomes a foundation in which they have many options.
The drop, while seemingly simple, can be tough for young players to learn and even some pros. To learn quickly and effectively, direct the players to stand on a line (photo 3). On command, they must slide their lead foot forward and the other foot back as quickly as possible. The line will hold them accountable, as their feet must be staggered, and their hips straight above it. After several repetitions, they can drop and explode as quickly as possible as if driving. If they can master this drop, they are ready for the second step.
The natural counter to any drive is a crossover. Defenders know that as well as anybody. Yet if a player has a great first step explosion out of the drop and the right footwork to perform a crossover dribble from that position, there is very little a defender can do.
The beauty of the drop is in the footwork. As a player’s hips go down, their lead foot shoots forward. A great defender does not allow the offensive player’s foot to beat their own feet. They must react or they are already beaten. As soon as the defender reacts to the drop, a crossover can be used against their reaction. The offensive player controls the reactions of the defender and at that point, that defender can only guess.
It’s important to note that most players are not effective using the crossover dribble to get a quick shot. Many athletes either take the ball all the way to the basket or need two dribbles to get their shot out of their hand. That is why the footwork is crucial. There are two important fundamentals here. When a player crosses the ball over, their back foot, in this case the left foot, must step even with the right (photo 4, 5, 6 and 7). This opens up the opportunity that the second key offers; the ball and the left foot must hit the floor at the same time. This way if the defense was shaken loose by the crossover, two steps can be used such as a 1,2 step, otherwise known as a stride step, to separate for a quick shot. The only way to create space efficiently and with only two steps is to perform the footwork properly.
DROP AND SHOOT
In order for any move to be effective, it must have a counter. Whenever a counter involves the possibility of taking a shot, the move is strengthened. Therefore, once the drop and drive and the drop and cross are threats, the offensive player always has the option to simply drop and step into their shot, otherwise known as an NBA stutter.
If you notice the photo 8, the offensive players hand is under the ball. While we know this would be called a carry if dribbled again, the defensive player must respect this dribble. No defender can bet on the officials making the call. This is also the offense’s advantage.
Therefore, when the player drops and reads that the defender is guessing crossover, the ball can be ripped across the body as if a crossover is being performed (photo 9). With the same footwork being executed as with the crossover, not only does this shot appear to be the start of a crossover, but the player is also stepping right into an unpredictable and extremely quick shot. It’s an unstoppable series of moves, and that’s why the best players always have it in their arsenal.
MAKING IT WORK
Whether at the end of the shot clock, or in the flow of the game, a simple drop of the hips demands a reaction. That’s why I consider this move the most essential move in today’s game. With just a little fundamental footwork, a player can get off a shot at any time.
But don’t be fooled. The Drop and React is simple and theory but difficult to master. Only the best players seem to be able to make it a weapon each and every game. Why? Players are often in such a hurry to beat their defender that they forget to drop. They lunge forward, leading with their head and off balance. At that point everything is broken down.
Remember, in order for any counter to work, the main move must be perfect. That means for any player to make this series effective, they must master the drop first. Whether they drop and drive, drop and cross, or drop and shoot, the drop itself must look and feel the same. Then it’s all about timing and reaction. However the defender reacts should point the way to a solution. While they know the offense has only three choices, they can’t do anything about it. All they can do is guess. And that’s right where any player wants their defender.