What is Hedge Defense in Basketball

What is Hedge Defense Mean in Basketball (NBA)

Like any other sport, basketball has techniques and tactics meant to be employed by the players. Competitive basketball has proved the sport’s heavy reliance on creative tactics. These employed tactics are prerequisites of a strategic winning plan.

Proper execution of these tactics is what sets apart a victor from a loser. In basketball, these tactics are in two categories, namely, offensive and defensive tactics.

Different teams have different gameplays. A team may have mastered an offensive play, whereas another may play a defensive game. Another team may decide to capitalize on both tactics to strategically always be a step ahead of their opponents in the game.

In basketball, an offensive game entirely revolves around creating scoring chances. A good player will use their skills to find loopholes and attack with the intent to score. A defensive game leverages defensive rebounds and ball possession to prevent the opponents from scoring.

There are several defensive and offensive techniques employed in basketball, but we will focus on a technique known as hedging in this piece. We will also comprehensively discuss the types and tips on how to improve your hedge alongside defining it. 

Hence, if you are an amateur looking for a simple hedging description or just looking into expanding your basketball know-how, we have news for you!

What is a basketball hedge?

A hedge is a defensive basketball strategy employed against an offensive strategy known as pick and roll. Pick and roll usually comes in handy as it throws the opponent’s defense into disarray, thus creating an opening to score.

When defending a pick and roll, hedging comes into play when the screener’s defender pops out to stop the ball handler’s forward momentum, thus denying the opponents a scoring chance. 

Before proceeding further, it is essential to note that a pick and roll is also known as a screen and roll. It involves two activities: two teammates who decide to set the basketball screen as the other cuts through to position themselves to attack and score properly.

Hedging is a setup that targets players who set up the screen to prevent a roll. However, it is limited to this instance as there are numerous ways to apply it advantageously. Since it is a defensive tactic, hedging is advisably done by swift defense players.

Tips when using your hedging technique on defensive coverages

There are several tricks to incorporate in your hedging technique. These tricks will serve to block defensive coverages such as a pick and roll effectively. A pick and roll may alternatively be called a screen and roll or a ball screen. 

Also, about four coverages will be mentioned in this piece and discussed alongside how to defensively intercept and neutralize, particularly ball screen coverages while using hedging or any of its variations. Some of the tips mentioned are as follows;

Switching the screen and roll 

This is an effective defense system to counter basketball screens. A basketball screen is an offensive play that involves body-blocking an opponent player in ball possession while avoiding contact at all costs—initiating body contact. In contrast, ball screening is an infringement of the basketball rules. This basketball violation gets often referred to as a foul. 

During a basketball game, each attacker usually gets assigned to an individual defender; hence, switching occurs on a screen setup. The switching action between the defender guarding the ball and the other defender guarding the screening player is leverage.

The switching action is strong leverage as it preempts goal-scoring chances as it stops the opponents from being around or in proximity to the painted area. This is because it gives way for the defender assigned to the screener to hedge the opponent in ball possession effectively.

As much as this coverage is useful, it is not a one-size-fits-all. For instance, this tactic may not be beneficial if your team lacks a swift player who can multitask efficiently. It is also not advisable to use this technique with players playing different positions to avoid confusion.

Hence the technique can be seamlessly used between two center position players. Hedging may also come in handy when the screening player is not necessarily a terrific shooter to avoid a pick and pop scenario.

Blitzing the ball handler

This is a tactical defensive play used in basketball to disrupt the offensive players’ pass attempts. The disruption usually takes place during a screen and roll. It usually involves double-teaming to block the performance of a roll and eventually take over ball possession.

The screener’s defender and the player’s defender in possession of the ball usually double team to prevent the opponent in the painted area from converting the chance into a possible goal.

However, this method may be ineffective if you lack a swiftly capable center player who can block the opponent’s ball possession. It may also be ineffective if you have a poor help-side defense setup that may fail to intervene if the double team’s attempt to steal the ball fails.

Poor side-defense may be detrimental to your team’s defense, and the opponents may use this as leverage to access the rim and eventually score. This technique is suitable when done on the sidelines of a basketball court.

Ball screen icing

This coverage is a ball screen defense tactic aimed at keeping the ball-handler at the court’s sidelines. Its implementation limits the opponent’s gameplay options and keeps them as far away from the middle court area as possible. Icing is also alternatively referred to as bluing.

Icing a ball screen is the action that involves the defender on the ball forcing the ball-handler to move away from the paint area. As this occurs, the other teammates and the screener’s defender should strategically position themselves along the sidelines.

The screener’s defender should be near the ball-defender while also not underplaying his guarding role. This is vital for easier recovery in case of unexpected gameplay from the opponents.

This technique is most suitable for junior teams yet to master guarding the pick and rolls set from the extended area around the free-throw line. However, this technique needs your center to be prompt in the event of a mid-range pull-up or a mid-range jumper.

These mid-range shots are challenging to score; hence are not much of a threat. Over the years, not so many center players have hit the net with mid-range shots. Despite its success rate in big leagues, this coverage is most effective if your team has a reliable side defense set up.

Hedging and recovery

This is an additional coverage used to defend a ball screen. The hedging is done by a screener’s defender, who pops out to slow a ball handler’s pace while the on-ball defender juggles between attacking and on-ball defending.

The on-ball defender attacks by either going over or under the screen; hence these two actions should be promptly done to leave room for recovery. When the ball handler or point guard gets back to position, the hedger must promptly recover into their position or any proximal unmarked player.

This coverage is suitable for use in amateur basketball leagues. Its success rate is high when used on swift ball handlers who are not necessarily good shooters. It is useful for teams with all-rounded center players who will hedge hard and promptly recover when needed.

However, this technique is unsuitable if your center player cannot hedge and subsequently recover, as this may compromise your team’s defense. It is equally a tricky technique as the defensive player should not allow any space to accumulate while hedging.

The ball handler may use the accumulating space to evade the hedge and access the paint area.

Final words

We have covered four typical screen and roll coverages and how to tackle each one while tactically incorporating hedging. Hedging is an excellent technique. However, it is not applicable for every case.

Its efficiency is highly reliant on your players’ abilities. Conversely, hedging should also consider the opposing players’ abilities. At this point, we can clearly define hedging and understand its significance, pros, and cons alongside situations when it is most applicable.

However, the most overlooked factor is practicing these defensive coverages before trying them out during games. It is imperative for a player to continually drill these coverages to avoid tactical mistakes that may compromise your team’s defense leading to a game loss.

Another underestimated factor is effective communication. There should be a free flow of information from the coach to the players. Also, if applicable, from the coach to the captain to the necessary players. 

Your team needs to develop unique signals to easily communicate during a game without giving off their play style. Communication is crucial as it is one of the fundamental qualities that enhance successful teamwork. 

Other underrated factors include the importance of a defensive stance and proper weak side defense. A defensive stance is when a defensive player stays in a great attacking position to attack or defend another player. 

Weakside defense, also known as help-side defense, directly affects your team’s overall defense and dictates several pick and roll coverages’ success rates. Age is another critical factor that affects ball screen coverages.

Some of these techniques may be too tactical for amateurs and junior players to understand. Hence, it is advisable for coaches to introduce these tactics gradually when dealing with a younger group of players. Alternatively, you may also resort to other defensive tactics.

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