“Nexting” (Next Pick-and-Roll Coverage)


x2, the “nail defender,” switches onto 1 as he comes off the ballscreen.

Term: Nexting (aka “Next Coverage” or “Next Switch”)

Definition: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the nail defender switches onto the ballhandler as he comes off the ballscreen

How It Works: Nexting Pick-and-Roll Coverage

Guarding the player in the weakside wing or slot, the nail defender is positioned by the “nail” (the exact middle of the free-throw line) to deter middle penetration. Against a spread pick-and-roll, he typically stunts at the ballhandler and then recovers to his matchup. This stunting deters a middle drive and buys time for x1 and x5 to recover from their pick-and-roll coverage:

In nexting, however, that nail defender aggressively switches onto the ballhandler. By stopping the ball, the nail defender eases the burden on the screener’s defender. Whereas the screener’s defender might usually hedge and recover to the roller, nexting lets him mostly ignore the pick-and-roll because the nail defender is hedge-switching onto the ballhandler instead:

Meanwhile, the ballhandler’s defender (x1) peels off the ballhandler (similar to a peel switch) and can simply switch onto the nail defender’s original matchup (left) or, if he can’t get there in the time, find the open player as his teammates rotate (right):

How It Works: Nexting Off-Ball Screens

Nexting can also apply to defending off-ball screens by having the “next” defender stunt or switch onto the cutter. In the case of a pin-down screen, which sends the cutter towards the ballhandler, the ballhandler’s defender can stunt or switch onto the cutter, as x1 does to 2 here:

This usually occurs when the cutter’s defender attempts to go over the screen (i.e., “locks and trails”) but can’t recover in time to prevent an open shot. Notice that the ballhandler’s defender, Detroit’s Killian Hayes, stunts at the shooter as he comes off the stagger screen:

Nexting/stunting is very common against pick-and-pops, especially if the screener’s defender is in drop coverage and thus can’t recover to the screener in time to contest a pick-and-pop 3:

For example, Memphis’s Jaren Jackson Jr (green) picks and pops, and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (violet) stunts or next switches onto Jaren:

Stunting at the pick-and-pop is so common in fact that some offenses have the weakside wing player automatically 45 cut whenever the ballhandler passes to the popper:

The stunting defender has to choose between staying with his matchup to prevent an open layup and stunting at the big to prevent an open 3:

Counters to the Counter: Stopping the Next

Fan for 3:

The simplest way to counter stunting/nexting is for the stunter’s matchup to knock down a 3. In this play, Atlanta’s Trae Young (blue) drives off a ballscreen to his left. The nail defender, Washington’s Deni Avdija (green), stunts at/next-switches onto Trae:

However, Avdija’s original matchup, Bogdan Bogdanovic, fans out for a 3:

Fan for 3 (Cut the Zone variation):

When defenses stunt/next, many of them momentarily zone up away from the ball, with two defenders guarding three, or one guarding two. A basket cut by one of those players kills the efficacy of zoning up.

Detroit’s Cade Cunningham (green) gets a ballscreen to attack the middle, and the nail defender, Toronto’s OG Anunoby (violet), next-switches onto Cade:

OG thinks his next coverage will work because Toronto still has two defenders to zone up the three Pistons:

But a 45 cut from Hamidou Diallo takes his defender, Pascal Siakam, with him:

Which leaves one defender to zone up two players spaced far apart:

And Saddiq Bey his the 3:

Similarly, this following play from the Cleveland Cavaliers has the nail defender (x2) next-switch onto the ballhandler, leaving x5 to zone up 5 and 2:

A basket cut by 5, however, takes x5 with him, leaving 2 wide-open on the perimeter:

Cut the Stunt:

Or the cutter can be open for a dunk:

Flare the Stunt:

Another common counter is to set a flare screen for the nail defender:

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