Video Breakdown: What is Lock and Trail defense?

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Last time on the glossary we covered an offensive move named after Allen Iverson, but today we’re going to talk about a defensive technique you may have heard of called “Lock and Trail”.

The lock and trail — sometimes called “lock and ride” or “lock and go” — is a defensive method typically used for guarding a jump shooter coming off a screen, but it can also be utilized on dribble handoffs and elsewhere on the floor.

The basic idea is for defenders to come over the top and pressure guys at the arc. That happens when a down screen is set on a shooter, usually below the free-throw line, and the defender “locks” onto his man and “trails” him to the 3-point line, even if he cedes what appears to be an easier route to the basket.

But it’s not meant to be so easy. This is a help defense situation, where the trailing defender is trying to prevent the jumper and the help defenders are preventing the drive.

The technique is built to pressure a shooter off of his spot and back toward defenders until a recovery or full switch can be made, and a good result for NBA coaches utilizing the lock and trail would be a mid-range jumper with the 3-point line and the painted area locked up.

Let’s diagram what that looks like by watching the full video breakdown above, or the write-up below.

Drawing it up

Let’s say you’ve got the start of a set with two posts and two wings down near the block. Defenders here are in white, and the red offense is trying to get the ball to the guard with the yellow star.

In order to get the guard free, the center is going to set a down pick on his defender. The star is going to pop to the arc and curl around to received the pass from the point guard.

Lock and trail means fighting into the direction of the screen, staying on a defender’s shoulder, and following him around to the arc.

Once the offensive player gets to this point, he has to make a choice to dribble toward the basket or pass, where help defenders from the post and the point can dig down and help slow his progress until the trailing defender can catch up.

That’s the basic concept, now let’s check it out on tape.

You can see the lock and trail in action here by the Mavericks against Golden State. Klay Thompson is at the right elbow looking to come of a screen from Draymond Green.

The defender goes up and over to prevent him from getting the shot at the top of the arc, then the help defender comes off of Green to stop the drive before they eventually make a full switch.

Even when players are behind on a play, it can be an effective tool to run guys off the line, especially when it’s mixed with a soft ICE coverage. Rodney Hood is pretty far behind Devin Booker when this play starts, but look at how razor thin he’s cutting this angle off the screen to pressure Booker at the arc.

That’s mixed with an open invitation thanks to this pick-and-roll coverage by Derrick Favors, and Booker takes the bait as he moves toward a midrange shot.

Finally we have the Raptors trying to get DeMar DeRozan off a stagger screen coming to the near side of the floor. Andre Iguodala is down low with him, and doesn’t go over the top, instead locking and trailing to prevent a corner three.

As Iguodala trails, JaVale McGee comes off his man to stunt on DeRozan long enough for Iggy to recover.

That’s the basics of the lock and trail. It’s an alternative to switching screens or cutting underneath them, and now if you hear someone using that terminology, you’ll know that it’s a way for teams to run 3-point shooters off the arc and into the teeth of the defense by coming over the top of screens.