“Weakside I” and “High I Defender”

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The weakside help defenders x3 (the low man) and x4 (the high i defender) form an i-shaped alignment

Term: the Weakside I

Definition: the I-shaped alignment of the two weakside help defenders: “low man” (who is guarding the player in the weakside corner) and the “high I defender” (who is guarding the weakside wing)

Second Term: the High I Defender

Second Definition: the weakside wing’s defender

High I Defender Synonyms: the “Sink” man

See Also:

  • The Low Man: the defender closest to the baseline and hoop on the weak side of the floor, responsible for providing the first and most important layer of help defense
  • No-Middle Defense: a (near universal) defensive system that tries to deny the middle and encourage drives toward the baseline, which require help rotations from the weakside I defenders

How It Works:

As Golden State’s Jordan Poole (yellow) has the ball on the right side of the floor, Memphis’s Desmond Bane (“L” for “Low Man”) and Tyus Jones (“H” for “High I Defender”) stand at the weakside low block and Elbow, more or less forming the letter i (or a lower-case l):

As Poole penetrates (to the outside of his defender, per no-middle defensive principles), Bane, the low man, rotates over to “trap the box” (i.e., stop the ball):

As that happens, Tyus Jones, the high I defender, sinks to the level of the drive; he “helps the helper” in the sense that Bane is the helper, so Tyus is helping him by guarding his man, Klay Thompson. However, Tyus has to guard both Klay and Andrew Wiggins, so he zones off, splitting the difference between the two:

If Tyus had stayed with Wiggins, Klay Thompson would have a wide-open corner 3. If Tyus had fully committed to Klay, however, Wiggins would have had an open 3 (either on a pass straight from Poole or on a “one more” pass from Klay to him). But splitting the difference lets Tyus guard both players and deflect the pass intended for Wiggins:

(If you’re curious, Golden State is faking Miami action—DHO + PnR—in which case Poole would hand off to Draymond Green, who would then get a ballscreen from Otto Porter Jr. at the top of the key; Steve Kerr did not reach the NBA Finals six times in eight years by calling a lot of Draymond Green–Otto Porter pick-and-rolls, so this play was probably a designed keeper for Poole.)

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