Move the Nail Defender
The nail defender on defense is a defender located on the tiny nail hole at the free-throw line. This is a common practice for teams that use pack line concepts on defense. Defenses will position a defender there to clog the lane and deter the offense from any middle penetration. The defender provides early visual and physical help.
5 actions to remove or impact the help “nail” defender:
- “45” Cut
As the ball screen is being set, the opposite offensive slot player (4) will dive diagonally. This dive cut should drag the nail defender (x4) with the cutter and create a gap for dribble penetration.
- Weakside Exchange
A timed weakside exchange as the ball screen is being set should move the defender. The nail defender will drop with the cutter.
- Clear and Fade
As the ball handler is coming off the pick and roll, the corner player (3) will cut along the baseline to the opposite corner. At the same time, the opposite slot player (4) will fade towards the vacated corner. This should cause the nail defender to move with the fade cut. If the nail defender stays to stunt on the ball, the player fading to the corner will be open for a kick out jumper.
- Flare Screen
The corner player (3) setting a flare screen for the player in the high slot (4) should occupy the nail defender and cause the defender to focus their attention on fighting over the screen.
- Down Screen
The high slot player (4) setting a down screen for the player in the corner (3) should occupy the nail defender and cause the defender to focus their attention on helping x3 through the screen.
In these examples, we looked at moving the nail defender during a spread pick and roll action, but these concepts can be used with drill drive or any type of spread motion offense.
It is key that the timing of the cut or screening action happens as the pick and roll screen is being set. If it happens too early or late, the defense will have a better chance to react and adjust to the action.