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The Next Ball Screen Defense Explained

More coaches are now teaching decision making on offense, however far few are teaching decision making on the defensive end. With the increased ability of the offense to create advantages different ball screen coverages, defenses have had to respond by finding ways to neutralize these advantages in new and non-traditional ways such as the Next Ball Screen Defense and Hot Defense. As well, defenses have had to find ways to randomize their coverage solutions in order to keep the offense off-balance. Players can be taught to make decisions in order to achieve both of these goals.

In the Basketball Podcast with Gonzalo Rodriguez, Rodriguez detailed Obradoiro’s ball screen defense system. This system was built to allow greater defensive decision making for players and randomize ball screen coverages. We are going to explore how the Next and Hot coverages incorporate into their system, key teaching points, and some ways to teach the coverages.

Incorporating Next and Hot Ball Screen Defenses

Full refers to any ball screen going toward a two or three side. Opposite to this, Single refers to any ball screen going toward a single side. When going toward either side, the defense has a set list of coverages it can choose from. Depending on the talent of your team, you can adjust this list to include fewer coverages to choose from.

Next Ball Screen Defense

Full Coverages

  • Drop
  • Switch
  • Quick Show
  • Next
  • Hot

Single Coverages

  • Drop
  • Switch
  • Quick Show
  • Hard Show
  • Blitz

The philosophy is that it is too easy for the offense to make the skip pass to attack the tag when going toward the full side. It is more beneficial to try to defend the action with two players rather than include a third player. Due to these reasons, the defense does not have the choice of playing an aggressive coverage like a hard show or blitz.  Likewise, it is too easy for the offense to attack Next or Hot when going toward a single side. There is no player to stunt and create indecision if the ball handler passes ahead.

Last refers to anytime there is a cutter in movement or action occurring at the same time as the ball screen. The movement during the ball screen often distorts tag responsibilities. Due to this, the defense would prefer to guard the ball screen with two players. 

Last Coverages

  • Drop
  • Switch
  • Quick Show

It is the responsibility of the furthest player away from the ball screen to call “Full”, “Blitz” (Single) or “Last”. Based on this call, the screeners defender has the choice of what coverage to use. The player a single gap away also has the decision to use Next or Hot coverage if the call is “Full”.

Key Teaching Points for Next and Hot Ball Screen Defenses

Next Defense is a jump switch from a single gap away. The job of the big is to stay attached to the roller. It is important to note that Next Defense is not call by the defense but is instead a decision. The decision to Next is cued by the ball handler breaking the three point line with the defender trailing behind. The screeners defender can play a drop or quick show but the on-ball defender should chase over the top in order to be in better position to peel to the next player. It is important for the player in the gap to show length and to sink in to switch in order to prevent the back cut. The player two gaps away to be high in the gap to stunt and create indecision if the ball is thrown ahead.

Hot is a trap from a single gap away. The difference between Next and Hot is the positioning of the player switching. In Hot, the player switching is parallel to the sideline as opposed to being flat in the gap. The goal of this positioning is to force lob passes to create more time to recover. Hot can be used as a call as the player in the gap is trapping on the first dribble as opposed to deciding if help is needed in Next. As well, it can be used against a specific matchup that can be specified before the game. Coach Rodriguez teaches specific technique for how players can use their hands. The first method he teaches is for players to hide their arms and show at the last second based on scout and knowing how players like to pass the ball. The second method he teaches is for players to show hands high or low in order to take away one pass. This is more often used in order to force more lob passes.

How to Teach Next and Hot Coverages

Often times, coaches will script coverages when practicing in order to work on the technique and execution of the specific coverage. Although this approach helps with those goals, it does not help with the decision making aspect. The key to using the Next Defense and Hot Defense successfully is to use them randomly in order to keep the offense off-balance. This means that players must be shown the context of when to use them and be empowered to make the decision during live play.  

Next Ball Screen Defense

As seen in this diagram, the initial emphasis is on the decision to use the coverage within the specific context it can be used. The spacing is scripted to be Full each time. The initial teaching point is the cue to use the Next Defense. A further load could be to include a specific player being designated as Hot. As well, the scoring system can be used to reinforce this by including points for the defense when it makes the correct decision to use and execute the coverage.

Next Ball Screen DefenseNext Ball Screen Defense

The next step is to randomize the context. This can be done by using a dynamic start like wheel. The offense has the option to play in Full or Single spacing based on whether the coach has the screener set it toward the inside or outside. The low player must now communicate the spacing and defense must recognize if Next Defense or Hot Defense are a possibility. 

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