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- By Ryan Brennan
Much like choosing your offensive strategies in a basketball game, calling the right defensive plays can be crucial in a win. When choosing a defense, you must evaluate both your team and opponents on the court and choose the best defense that fits their size, quickness and strength.
Although some coaches decide to go with the same defensive strategy throughout a game or season, having multiple strategies can give your team an edge and keep your opponents guessing.
However, you must be certain that your team is well prepared; otherwise they will only end up confusing themselves.
There are a lot of different defensive plays and strategies out there. Listed below are a few tried-and-true strategies I recommend adding to your defensive playbook.
The Man-to-Man Defense is Simple, But Important to Understand
The main principle when defending man-to-man is to make sure every player on your team defends one opponent. Another big component of a man-to-man defense is a term called “help side defense.” This happens when a defender that is “two passes” away drops off his man to help offenders that are cutting or setting screens.
The whole point of a man-to-man offense is to keep pressure on the ball at all times. However, for the defenders away from the ball, the defense is treated a bit like a zone defense. This makes it a very important defense to learn and memorize. It teaches great on-ball defense, which includes moving your feet, staying on your toes and knowing where to be at the right time.
There are several drills to perform that will help teach your team the man-to-man defense. One of them is called the “one-one-one” drill. This is a very simple drill that will help improve your players’ on-ball defense, as well as “one-one-one defense.” You will need your team in two lines, one under the basket facing the free throw line (defender) and one at the free throw line facing the basket (offender). This can also be done at the three-point line instead of the free throw line. To begin, the defender must throw the ball to the offender, immediately closing out on the offender. The offender just needs to try and score, while the defender tries to stop them. The drill is over when the offender scores or is stopped, then it moves on to the next duo.
Another drill is a “three-on-three” drill that will help improve your team’s defensive intensity. It’s more of a competition, so motivation can be made if the winners get some kind of reward. To set up, separate your team into three-man groups, trying to make the teams as fair as possible with at least one guard and one big man on each team. In this drill, points are only scored by the defense, if they stop the offense from scoring and get possession either through a defensive rebound, steal, block or a forced turnover. If the offense scores, the defense must walk off, while the former offense becomes the defense and competes for points. The team that was on the sidelines would become the offense. If the offense is stopped, they leave the court while the team on the sidelines becomes the offense.
Keep The Court Organized With a Zone Defense
A zone defense differs from the man-to-man defense because instead of guarding a player, each defender is given an area of the court (or zone) to guard. Any player that enters their area is their player to guard. Defenders move their position depending on where the ball goes.
For the most part, you’re going to want to use this defensive strategy when you’re worried about giving up too many points in the paint. However, you need to understand that you will be giving up some pressure on the outside. There are several types of zone defenses.
One zone defense is “Coach Marshall’s 2-3 Zone Defense.” For starters, when the offense is bringing the ball up, set two point guards at the top of the three-point line close together, the two forwards on the outside halfway between the basket and three-point line, and your center underneath the basket. If the ball gets passed to the wing, the forward on that wing would defend the ball until the closest guard gets to him. Then that forward would retreat back to the low post. The key is to always have someone on the ball, but have everyone else loosely guarding the entire floor.
Combination Defenses Are Effective in Confusing Your Opponents
The match-up zone is a type of “combination” defense, which combines aspects from the man-to-man defense as well as the zone defense. The on-ball defender will close out and play tight to the ball handler like a man-to-man. The zone that is seen away from the ball resembles a man-to-man help side defense. This is a great type of defense to confuse your opponent so they don’t really know what type of defense you are using.
Don’t Let Your Opponents Beat You On An Out-Of-Bounds Play
When defending an out-of-bounds play, you can use any type of defense. Most coaches use either a man-to-man defense or a zone defense. The “2-3 zone” is a great way to defend, causing a lot of traffic down low to prevent inside layups. The two guards will also help keep the offense from getting the ball up top.
If you are using a man-to-man defense, there are a couple of things you need to pay close attention to. For example, a rule called the “step under rule” will be in effect. If one of your defenders is getting screened, they need to make sure to “step under” the screener. That means they take one step back towards the baseline in order to get inside positioning on the screener. This will avoid your defenders from getting pinned by the screener.
Does Defense Really Win Championships?
Everybody is aware of the saying, “Defense wins championships.” As cliché as it sounds now-a-days, defense really is an important aspect when it comes to winning. Without a good defense, especially in basketball, your team will be weak and forced to rely on your offense to win. Even if you have an outstanding offense, you will have a big chance of losing.
The fact of the matter is that defense needs to be a common subject to teach youth basketball players. By teaching kids the correct movements and locations for different defenses will prepare them for their basketball career ahead of them.