Attacking the Switch

Posted on May 06 2022

Switching has become such an integral part of the defensive strategy in the modern game and it is important for coaches to have a clear plan and teaching cues to combat the switch at the offensive end of the floor.

The switching of screens and offensive actions has become a staple of the defensive strategy for many coaches and finding ways to attack the switch, create high percentage opportunities and build players’ understanding in this area is crucial to the development of young players.

Why are they switching? –

Teams will switch screens or specific actions for a number of reasons –

  • To be disruptive
  • To stay out of rotations
  • To dictate match-ups
  • To create turnovers

For the offensive coach, understanding the WHY of the switching strategy of the opponent should be an area of focus. Are they switching to disrupt and create pressure? Is the switching about containment and staying out of potential rotations? Or is it to keep a big at “home”.

Understanding and communicating the why of the strategy will better help players make appropriate reads and react accordingly.

When are they switching?

  • Is it any “like” screening action
  • Who is involved in the switching? Is it all five positions or 1 through 4?
  • Do they switch specific screens or actions by default?
  • Do they switch all the time or as a specific tactic?
  • What point of the possession is an automatic switch?

Attacking the switch –

The coaching staff needs to define who is the priority to attack in the switch and what is the preferred area for that person in accordance to their strengths. Like so many coaching decisions, strategy and tactic needs to be linked to personnel.

In simple terms, decide where you are going to attack the switch from the perimeter or interior. Too often, the default is to see a big switching onto a guard and seeing this as the only mis-match or option. Most modern bigs have the athletic quality and skill set to defend the ball on the perimeter for two slides.

The interior mis-match is a difficult for defences to navigate and the ability of players to read this and create the pass by direct post feed or high-low flash is crucial to punishing switches.

The rebounding mis-match is one of the hardest one to defend, so have the screener attack the front of the rim and think offensive boards.

 Identifying “what next?”

As teams switch more often, the ability of teams to “put out fires” defensively immediately after the switch has evolved. Vary really now will you see a well-coached team give up a direct score immediately after the switch.

Offensive teams can be guilty of getting tunnel vision against the switch. “We have to score off this mis-match NOW” mentality.

Switching is more than about the two defenders engaged in the switch. There is movement and positioning behind the switch and the offensive coach needs to identify that when looking for best advantage.

Similarly to the concept of “short pass, long pass” against a trap, at times it is appropriate to get away from the switch quickly and create a long close-out opposite.

Particularly in the pick and roll, there will usually be a defender “roving” to cover any issues arising from the switch. Moving the ball quickly and force that “rover” to be accountable now.

Other things to consider –

  • Screener – as soon as you hear or “sense” switch, slip or dive to basket (create doubt)
  • Twist or flip the angle of the screen against switching
  • Use of the “Boomerang” pass against the switch – send it back and attack
  • “One for the ball, one for the basket” in all screening actions

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