To Chop or Not to Chop?
Over the years, there has been a lot of debate if players should or should not chop their feet in a closeout. Perhaps the debate has been unheard by many, but several NBA staffs are pouring data and research into this debate. In turn, many NBA teams have endorsed a run and stop approach compared to a choppy feet breakdown. However through conversations, film study and experience from various levels of basketball, I believe this question is rooted more in defensive priority than technique. Both footworks displaying their own set of pros and cons. Perhaps each have their value depending on level but as is often the case, the best answer lies in the middle of two extremes. Let's look at the pros and cons first.
Chopping the Feet
Chopping the feet has been an age-old fundamental. Endorsed by many sages of our game and used for decades to navigate defensive closeouts. The keys are well know: taking short, choppy steps, to breakdown your momentum from a sprint to guarding the ball. Controlling your momentum and hypothetically being ready to slide and contain at any moment.
For many, this is an ideal technique. But there is always downside. For what this concept gains in containment, it sacrifices in covering the last third with speed. Therefore having the potential to give up more rhythm shots than the alternative.
Sprint to Stop
This is a technique you see used by many great defensive teams in the NBA. Their defenders ability to go from a sprint into a 1,2 stride stop in their closeout technique. Although most coaches believe asking a player to run and stop on defense is impossible, we constantly demand it of our players on the offense end all the time. We instruct our players to drive at full speed and stop on two, pull up for a jumper or execute a stride stop.
However, as previously said, there is downside to any technique. And this is certainly not the holy grail. The 1,2 stop often forces players into a staggered stance position. Here the defender is clearly more susceptible to giving up a driving lane/angle. Thus, what this technique gains in disrupting shooting, it sacrifices in containment. Plus, this stance can also exposed the defender's top foot - the most vulnerable defensive situation.
The Middle Ground
Before we get into the actually middle ground technique, we should mention the value of the above ones and not discount them completely. The Sprint-Stop mechanic is most seen at the NBA level, which makes sense, the NBA's game is impacted so greatly by the 3pt shot and the defenses ability to take it away. Whereas the choppy feet technique is seen much more at lower levels, where 3pt shooting is more variable and layups are the most deadly. So perhaps the weaknesses of these techniques can be overcome from he value their strength offers.
But what about the middle ground? Why decide between one or the other? Is there room for a 4 step breakdown. 2 chops and a stride stop. Helping the player slow down their momentum, end in a square stance and not sacrifice too much speed. In fact, this is the technique most of your players already use during non-defensive movements. Ask player to run to the baseline and back, and what do they do as they approach the first baseline? They take two momentum gathering steps into a 1,2 plant to change directions. The same technique can be used in closeouts. The 4 step breakdown.
If you want to learn, watch and hear more about this technique and other important keys to elite closeouts, check out my latest YouTube video.
See you next time.