Winning basketball games is about playing good defense. This article specifically focuses on how to effectively cut off the lanes and how to play effective weak-side defense.
In cutter closure you want to make sure that the passing lane for the cutter is closed off or taken away. When Deron Williams, of the Utah Jazz, makes that first pass and cuts to the basket, the defender jumps to the ball to avoid being picked and to put himself between his man and the basket.
If the player didn't jump to the ball he would be easily picked or would find himself behind Williams and that is bad. When you don't get in the cutter's lane you will get beat by any team that can pass the ball. Practice this drill by making sure that each cutter has their lane closed off by staying between the man and the ball. Trust your teammates, who are there to help if needed.
I consider weak-side or back-side defense as one of the greatest untrained concepts in youth basketball. Players aren't taught the true purpose of defense and I get so frustrated watching little kids play when they are guarding their man out at half-court while the ball is at the foul line. That is pointless. Weak-side defense is really when your man is 2 or more passes away.
How do you react when the ball is on one side and your man is on the opposite side? Don't hug him or get to close because he isn't a threat. When a coach can teach his players to help on defense they will win games. It's that simple. Your job while playing help defense is to stop the ball and force a pass to someone else. Think how you play offense and how much you love when the court is spread out and players aren't in a position to help or stop you. But then think about driving to the basket and running into 4 other players ready to take you on.
Make sure that you always know where the ball is and where the basket and your man are. Form the triangle and be ready to stop the ball at any time. Every good defensive player and team understands the idea of making it difficult for the offense to score.
Weak-Side or Back-Side Cutters
People always ask me how they should handle when the player they are guarding is always cutting to the basket. The same principles apply when closing a lane. When the player you are guarding is cutting to the basket the first key is make contact. I didn't say clobber him, but make some contact and try to beat him to the spot you think he is going to.
Close his lane by jumping to the ball side. Make them beat you with an incredible pass as compared to beating you with laziness. I coach players to force the cutter to go underneath or take a new angle to where he wants to go. If you've done that everything will be fine. If you let the player beat you to the spot you will not be playing long for any team with a decent defensive coach.
Let me tell you guys that I wasn't the greatest defensive player. I was one that formed bad habits when I was younger because I could score. It hurt me later in life when I wanted playing time because I hadn't worked at it and I regret it. I've sat through University of Utah practices where I couldn't believe the amount of focus those kids had on defense. I learned so much from others that I love sharing now so that younger players can avoid the mistakes I made or learn from the mistakes and successes that I've had over the years.