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Weakside Goalkeeper

This will be a concept many coaches have skepticism about. I don’t blame you, the first time I heard of the concept was from Stu Hartenstein and his clinic on Creating Chaos in Ball Screen Defense - and although I thought it was extremely interesting, I couldn’t get myself to apply it myself either.


The weakside Goalkeeper concept is used during a rotation situation and instructs the player defending two to split the distance and face his/her chest to the ball. In this way, the defender mimics a goalkeeper in soccer, with the two offensive players as the goal posts.

Gary Payton II is by far the best and most consistent defender I have ever seen at this concept. Using the goalkeeper technique each time a baseline rotation occurs and he’s the “out” defender. In this position, GP2 can read the offensive player’s eyes, see the flight of the ball and use his full wingspan to take up the most space / passing lanes.

Of course with any defensive tactic the offense will have a way to counter it. In this example a weakside cut would be the most obvious solution. However, the NBA is a league that prioritizes the 3pt shot and spacing so much, cutting from the weakside is rare and even frowned upon in some coaching staffs. Therefore it seems a great defensive technique to apply - and one GP2 has reaped the benefits of.

On the flip side, lower levels will see a bigger threat to the weakside cut and the possibility of giving up a layup. Which makes sense. You will need a lot of trust in your defender’s reaction time and anticipation to go from “Goalkeeper” to guarding a cutter. However there might be some warning that the defender can discern from watching the eyes of the ball handler.


Then again, how much better is it for our defender to sink to a split position, closed or flat to the ball, and how often is he looking at the ball anyway so he can see the pass and closeout?

But if you are in a league full of shooters and weakside spacing unlikely to cut, this could be the difference for your rotation defense. And if you’re not completely sold, remember the first person I heard this from, Stu Hartenstein. They didn’t use it during weakside rotations, they used it during pick and rolls - especially empty corner (Euro Motion Ball Screen). The low man became responsible for the middle-line, ready to tag the roller or defend weakside cutters, and the high man took a “Goalkeeper” stance to defend the weakside shooting and spacing.

Now I understand this concept is not for every coach, team or scheme. But it is an interesting concept to spur new thinking of what that weakside defender can or should be doing. Studying GP2 for the next Lockdown Breakdown has peaked my interest again on the topic.


See you next time!


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