Basketball

How to Slow Down a Pressure Defense

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Applying a pressure defense is a common strategy among basketball teams around the country, which is designed to disrupt the rhythm of the opposing offense, speeding them up and forcing mistakes. This can come in the form of zone press, full-court press, man press, or simply consistent trapping throughout the game. Regardless of the type of defensive pressure that you are facing, having a gameplan to counteract that is essential.

Force Their Hand

A common strategy used by teams attempting to slow down a pressure defense is by taking as many timeouts as possible and stopping play. While this can be effective in crunch time situations, it is not always necessary.

To take advantage of their quickened defensive schemes, design plays that are just as fast as theirs. Charge the basket and create easy finishes. This puts them on their toes when done effectively, and displays confidence on the offensive side of the ball, disrupting their rhythm and turning the tables.

Ball Strength

A high-pressure defense is one that is going to be reaching for the ball as frequently as they can without drawing fouls. Poking and swatting a limply-held ball will almost always result in turnovers. Ensure players are holding the ball with strength, and with both hands.

Simultaneously, players should be in a position of strength, squaring up their defenders immediately upon catching a pass. Otherwise, the defender will get in the face of the player with the ball, taking up as much space as they can and forcing the ball handler to pivot backwards. Being in an advantageous position (with at least a foot between the ball and the defender) will allow players to pivot and dribble, shoot, or pass.

Fake Passes

Defenders in this scheme are almost always going to be looking to jump passes and disrupt passing lanes in general. For that reason, simply faking passes is going to be an effective move in throwing the defense off. However, the fake must be convincing.

Any skilled basketball player can sniff out a fake pass if it isn’t well hidden, as they typically read the eyes of the ball handler. For a truly deceptive fake, square your shoulders towards one player and extend your arms. As soon as the defender jumps, quickly fire the pass over to an open teammate.

Hard Cuts

Getting open against a pressure defense will not be a simple task. Jogging around the paint to try to find an open spot will do no good. Get away from your defender by making hard cuts. Much like route running in football, a fast cut in the opposite direction will create space for a short period of time. The cleaner and better these cuts are, the more the defense will worry about individual players rather than the ball, thus creating offensive opportunities.

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Basketball

The Most Shocking NBA Trades in the Last 10 Years

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.net

Trades in the NBA happen frequently, but some stand out more than others. Here are some of the most shocking trades in the NBA in the last 10 years.

  1. Oklahoma City trades James Harden to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, 2013 1st rounder, 2013 2nd rounder, and 2014 1st rounder

In 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder were poised for great things. They had lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals the year prior, but they had a young, talented nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. As the sixth man, James Harden provided valuable scoring and playmaking off the bench.

Unfortunately, the prospect of having to pay an expensive luxury tax to resign Harden to a max deal proved to be too daunting. Since then, Harden has become a perennial all star and MVP in the league. To this day, one of the biggest “what-if’s” in NBA history is if the talented trio all stayed.

  1. Boston Celtics trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, and a 2017 2nd-rounder to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, a 2014 1st-rounder, a 2016 1st-rounder, a 2018 1st-rounder, and rights to swap picks in 2015 and 2017

Some call this the worst trade in NBA history, and with good reason. The Nets wanted a shot to knock off LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat, and they wanted to do it at all costs; even if it meant mortgaging their future. They got two Hall of Famers in Pierce and Garnett, but the problem was that they were 36 and 37 respectively.

The players Boston received in the trade don’t matter. What matters is who they drafted with the picks they got. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum look to have high NBA ceilings, and another pick they got convinced Cleveland to trade star point guard Kyrie Irving to them, leading us into our next talking point…

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 1st-rounder

The timing of the trade was shocking, as Kyrie Irving’s apparent disinterest and frustration with playing in Cleveland and with LeBron James came to a head when he requested to be traded. Cleveland has sorely missed Kyrie’s shotmaking ability since then, and the Celtics have seemingly become a playoff team overnight. Irving, combined with young starts Brown and Tatum, make for serious threat in the league.

Basketball

The Benefits of Offensive Rebounding

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Offensive rebounds, no matter the level of basketball, can win or lose games for your team. Not only does an offensive rebound create a new opportunity to score, but rebounding your own miss can change the momentum of a game.

Take the NBA for instance. A team can play hard defense for 24 seconds, force a poor shot, and do everything right to take control of the ball and score on the other end. When that ball comes off the rim and lands in the hands of an offensive player, the shot clock starts over and all of that hard work will have been for nothing. This is especially true at the end of a close game when possessions mean everything.offensive-rebounding-768x768

Current coaching strategies teach offensive players to get back on defense rather than crashing the boards when a shot goes up. The idea is that it is more important to get back on defense and stop the other team than to go for a rebound. This stems from the fact, especially in the NBA, that teams generally shoot around 42% from the floor, so there are not that many opportunities to start with. On top of that, a good defender keeps himself between the player he is guarding and the basket so that the defender should always be in a better position to grab a board.

While that makes sense logically, if you have ever played basketball at a high level, then you know momentum and hustle can play a huge role in the outcome of a game. The emotion built when a player outfights another guy for a rebound and the way it can shift the momentum of a game at any moment is difficult to quantify, but easy to see when it happens. Most teams will send in one or two players to crash the boards while sending the rest to get back on defense.

In high school basketball and lower, this, however, would be a mistake. In the NBA, you can count on guys being where they are supposed to be and rebounding when they are supposed to rebound. Other than a few special players, there have not been a lot of offensive rebounding specialists throughout the years because it is quite difficult at the professional level.

In college ball and below, that is not often the case. There tend to be more misses leading to more opportunities or more people in different or unique positions. If you are a college or high school basketball coach… crash the boards! It can change the outcome of a game very easily.

Basketball

Basketball Books to Add to Your Reading List

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Sports books are not often given the credit they deserve. Complex themes are weaved in between the sports they are focused around, creating vivid, realistic stories. However, one should not underestimate this genre, because you’ll be missing out on some very good writing. Below are a few basketball books that will get any reader into the sports genre. All of these books are based on true stories, but there are also some great fictional basketball books. No matter which, the following are all worth a read.

The Assist by Neil Swidey

This book isn’t set in the pros. It isn’t even a story about basketball. It’s a story about how a team couldn’t communicate because its two best players were at each other’s throats. The book is filled with controversy, and the fact that these teenagers are basketball players is second to the questionable actions portrayed in the book; a great read for both sports and drama enthusiasts.

The Last Season by Phil Jackson

Any fan of Kobe Bryant should read this book. Written by Phil Jackson, it goes into detail about the rivalry between Zen and Kobe. It is unbelievable that the two of them were able to set rivalries aside considering what the two of them had gone through. Phil Jackson goes into detail with this and much more throughout the book.

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam

Michael Jordan is perhaps the greatest NBA player of all time, unless you’re a LeBron James fan, of course. Other books may be able to tell you about Jordan’s greatest moments in more extraordinary ways. However, Halberstam doesn’t pull any punches within the pages of Playing for Keeps. While reading this book, much can be learned about Jordan’s past. It shows the bad with the good. It goes into detail on how Jordan would belittle lesser teammates, but it also talks about how Jordan used his business savvy to elevate himself to super stardom; a look inside one of the sports world’s greats.

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

This book focuses on the Portland Trail Blazers of the late 1970s. You will learn about every single player from this era and how not one single player served as the star of the team. It is a fine outline of the entire team and all players and coaches involved. There is a reason David Halberstam is a Pulitzer Prize winner: he is a master writer and expert on basketball.

There are plenty of other great basketball books too. After you make your way through these, be sure to dive into more for a more well-rounded perspective on the sport as a whole.

Basketball, Sports, Uncategorized

Which NBA Rookies Have the Highest Ceilings?

With NBA Summer League action in full swing, we’ve seen flashes of greatness from this year’s rookie class, disappointments, and everything in between. Those who were expected to dominate may have been underwhelming in their first few games, while players who weren’t given a second look in the draft have proved their worth thus far. The following rookies are, arguably, those who have stood out the most so far, and those who could have the biggest long-term impacts on their respective teams.

DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Given the fact that Ayton was the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, it should come as no surprise that his collegiate skills have, thus far, translated well to the NBA. In his first few Summer League games, Ayton posted two double-doubles, then went on to have fairly quiet showings. Of course, the Summer League is not always an accurate portrayal of one’s potential, but it can showcase certain skills.

Ayton’s defense has been under the most scrutiny since entering the draft. Many suggest that his defensive prowess will not translate well to the NBA, but if he is able to utilize his size for scoring, he should see success. Paired alongside Devin Booker, who is likely to garner the attention of most defenses, Ayton should have no problem getting to the basket with his combination of size and finesse.

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Young seems to be standing out for mostly the wrong reasons in this year’s Summer League. His shooting has been subpar following an impressive, almost Steph Curry-like range during his time at the University of Oklahoma. However, he has since improved since his first few games, scoring 24 points against the Bulls recently, and going 7-for-13 beyond the three-point line.

Young’s consistency will be the center of attention in his time with the Hawks, as he is fully capable of making some pretty miraculous shots while not having the most athletic build. Only time will tell if Young proves to be a boom or bust.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

Coming out of Michigan State University, some analysts had Jackson as a possible first overall draft pick ahead of DeAndre Ayton. His size and capabilities have all the makings of an NBA star, so his development in Memphis will be crucial to his success.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson has shown his skills in his first few games as a Grizzly, but failed to generate much flash on offense. Memphis still has veteran players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. This may make it difficult for Jackson to see a decent amount of playing time, which could stunt his development. However, utilizing his abilities in the times that he does play should remind Memphis why they drafted this collegiate star in the first place.

Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls

A player that was once overshadowed by Marvin Bagley III at Duke University, Wendell Carter Jr. has come into his own during his short time with the Bulls in this year’s Summer League. Carter posted 23 points, 6 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists in his last game despite Chicago falling to the Atlanta Hawks 101-93, showing that he is more than capable of scoring on all three levels.

The Bulls have struggled in recent seasons without much leadership at the helm, but if both Carter and Zach LaVine can prove themselves as future Chicago stars, the team may be on an upward trend sooner than later.

Kevin Knox, New York Knicks

Drafting Knox with the ninth overall pick seemed like a head-scratcher to some Knicks fans, but few would argue against the Kentucky star after his Summer League performance. Knox put up 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in his final summer game in which he went 5-for-7 beyond the three-point line. He averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and is looking like a promising addition to New York’s struggling offense.

Assuming the Knicks are able to retain Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., and some of their other core players, Knox could be a shining light in a somewhat dismal locker room.