Defending At The Waist In The Paint

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Good defense isn’t always appreciated. If you turn on the television to watch highlights of a game, you’ll often just see stellar offensive plays. Once in a while, you’ll see some great defensive plays, but they’ll usually just be extravagant blocks. Because of this, kids today are trying too hard to get big blocks instead of doing their job on defense.

A great way to defend the ball in the post is by defending at the waist. To have you understand what I mean by this, let me show you some tape of Andre Iguodala’s defense in their last game against the Thunder in the Conference Finals along with one particular play against LeBron in last year’s finals.

Let’s start with this first strip that Andre had on Kevin Durant in the 1st quarter of Wednesday’s game.

As you can see, Kevin Durant gets a great first step off the catch which creates a problem for Iguodala as he is easily beat. Instead of jumping to try to block Durant’s shot or to even contest it up high, Andre reaches in and gets a clean steal. This is the notion of ‘reaching with a purpose‘.

Iggy doesn’t guess when he reaches. He understands that, from the way Durant is driving, KD is going to bring the ball down to his waist. He doesn’t reach until the exact moment that Durant has brought the ball down to his waist.

Just a couple minutes after that play, Iguodala had another stellar defensive play on Kevin Durant.

This defense right here from Andre Iguodala is absolutely perfect. Every basketball player is taught to bend their knees and to keep their hands active. Iggy slides his feet as Durant moves to his left. He doesn’t reach right away just as he did in the play before. He waits, and when he sees Durant bringing the ball above his waste, Andre swipes down and strips the ball.

Lastly, we can take a look at one particular defensive stop Andre Iguodala made against LeBron James in the NBA Finals last year to fully understand the notion of defending at the waist.

LeBron James is almost impossible to stop once he gets a head of steam. On this play, LBJ takes Iguodala to the paint. Iggy slides his feet perfectly and is able to stay in front of James the entire time. James uses his brute strength to create some space to possibly get up a shot, but he chooses not to. James tries to give Iguodala a pump-fake, but he doesn’t bite.

As soon as LeBron pump-fakes, Iguodala knows he has him. He knows that LeBron is then going to bring the ball down to his chest and as soon as that happens, Iguodala is able to get the steal easily.

So, to summarize, defending at the waste isn’t a hard concept. Slide your feet, stick with the defender, keep a hand up, don’t fall for the pump-fake, and reach only if you see an opportunity to cleanly strip the ball. Instinct has a lot to do with this facet of defense and if you reach incorrectly or do not continue to incorporate the fundamentals of defense, you will get beat.

As we know, Andre Iguodala ended up becoming the NBA Finas MVP following this series and it was because of defensive plays like these. For any young hoopers out there who want to improve their defense, start watching tape of Andre Iguodala.



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