Basketball Defense

Winning Basketball Defensive System
Using Multiple Basketball Defenses - Man, Zone, Match-up, Press
By Brad Winters

We love to play tough basketball defense. Our ball-hawking, floor-slapping, in-your-face defense is our team's greatest strength. We believe and teach that great basketball defense is all about "heart" and "hustle."

Our attitude on defense is that we are going to make you work to score on every single trip down the court. As a defensive basketball team, we simply refuse to give-up cheap, easy baskets.

Our defensive basketball mind-set is - if you make a great shot, then that's OK, but we made you work!

[Related: Playbook Basketball]

Great basketball defense is all about "heart" and "hustle"

Defense Wins Championships!
Building a Great Defensive Basketball Team

We always expect and demand great defense from our basketball players. One thing we will not tolerate on our basketball team is lazy defense. In our mind, players do not have a choice about whether or not they are willing to hustle on defense. Our players know that, if they want playing time, if they want to win the big game, if they want to win the Championship, then they must play hard on defense.

In our opinion, playing great team defense makes a group of guys a "true team." We believe playing great defense helps players understand the need for everyone to play as a team, to always put the team first, to play unselfish team basketball, and to bond and believe in the power of the team.

In other words, consistently playing hard on defense builds character. It also reveals the character of the team or the lack of character. Teams composed of players with little or no character will not endure long-term. These teams are doomed for self-destruction!

In short, playing tenacious basketball defense teaches players to appreciate hard work, to fight for what's right, to be responsible, and to be accountable to the team. These are the character traits of a true Champion on the court and off the court, and these are the type of basketball players you want to represent your basketball program.

Basketball Defensive Team Goals
Defensive Basketball Player Expectations

As you know, in order to be successful, you must have goals. Our basketball team goals for defense include the following:

Sprint back on defenseHustle! We must sprint back on defense and make a stand on every possession. Gambling, lunging, reaching, over-committing, and fouling is false hustle.

Fatigue our opponent. We must wear down opponent both mentally and physically - when the legs go, the heart and the head follow quickly behind. The best way to fatigue your competition is to play up-tempo basketball and use a variety of fullcourt pressure defenses.

Maximum defensive ball pressure without getting beat off the dribble. We must not allow our opponent to see the court and pass the ball when and where he wishes. We must attack and create doubt and confusion.

Protect the "Power Zone." We must not allow pass or dribble penetration into the power zone (paint).

Challenge all shots. We must close out intelligently and contest every shot.

Block out and rebound the basketball. We must block out and rebound on every shot attempt. No second or third shot attempts due to poor rebounding effort or failure to block out.

In each quarter of the basketball game, we want to hold our opponent to 12 or less points. Always remember, the scoreboard does not lie.

Basketball Defensive Game Plan
Basketball Coaching Strategy

Another very important part of having a great defensive ball club is strategy. It is the coach's responsibility to strategically plan his team's defensive basketball game plan.

Our strategy is simple. We want to create a mind-set of doubt, fear, and confusion in our opponent. To accomplish this defensive strategy for basketball, we use a variety of different attacking basketball defenses designed to "surprise attack" our opponent.

As in all organized attacks, the element of "surprise" is often the key to success or failure. If your opponent knows exactly what you are going to do every time down the floor, then he can play relaxed and wisely counter your team's defensive tactics... We want to force our opponent to do just the opposite.

As is often the case, after a "surprise attack," people panic. When people panic, they become confused, fearful, and filled with anxiety. This causes some people to lose control and think irrationally.

When basketball players panic, they play too fast and make bad decisions (i.e. playing out-of-control, wild passes, dribbling too much, forcing shots, careless turnovers, forgetting their assignments, etc.). These are all signs of "panic" and that is exactly what we are trying to accomplish by using this defensive basketball strategy.

Multiple Basketball Defenses
Defensive Basketball Playbook

By using multiple basketball defenses, our opponent never knows what we are going to do next. Hence, we always have the added element of "surprise." When the other team starts to show signs of panic, we know that victory is near. Below are the basketball multiple defenses we use during the course of a ball game:

Tough (man-to-man defense)

Gator (1-2-1-1 full court press)

Hot (2-2-1 full court press)

Black (1-3-1 half court trap/2-2-1 half court trap)

#1 (1-3-1 zone defense)

#2 (2-3 zone defense)

#3 (3-2 zone defense)

#4 (box and one defense)

#5 (triangle and two defense)

Tough - Is the name we use for our man-to-man pressure defense. This is our base defense and the basketball defense we "hang our hat on." We signal this pressure defense by raising our fist high in the air. In our man-to-man basketball defense, we basically want to apply maximum pressure on the ball, protect the power zone, and force contested jump shots outside of the lane.

Gator - After all made Free Throws and after dead ball situations in the back-court, we set up in our 1 2 1 1 fullcourt press defense.

Hot - On all made baskets, we set up in our 2 2 1 fullcourt press defense.

Black - This is a special defensive call made from the sideline usually after a made 3-point shot, at the end of a quarter, or especially at the end of a game when we are behind on the scoreboard. Thumbs-up signals our defensive players to attack with the 1 3 1 halfcourt press, and Thumbs-down signals our defensive team to attack using a 2 2 1 halfcourt press. Both of these halfcourt trapping defenses have unique defensive slides and require different offensive alignments to attack correctly... This creates more doubt and confusion for our opponent.

Zone defenses and junk defenses - We use a variety of zone defenses and so called "junk defenses" in special situations.

We like to use the 3 2 matchup zone defense if we are ahead by more than twenty, in foul trouble, or playing against a very weak outside shooting team. In our opinion, the 3 2 zone defense is the hardest basketball zone defense to attack.

2 3 Zone Defense DiagramDefending under out-of-bounds basketball plays; we use a 2 3 zone defense and trap the ball in the corners. This 2 3 zone corner blitz defense counters zone inbounds plays trying to get the corner jump shot.

We also really like the triangle and two zone defense and the box and one zone defense. In the triangle and 2 defense, we completely deny the other teams two best players the ball. It places great pressure on the other team's non go-to players to make plays and score.

Against the great player (Michael Jordan tactic), we like to use a sagging man-to-man defense and let one of our teams best defenders completely deny the star player the ball and limit his touches on the ball as much as possible. This defense is very similar to the traditional box and 1 defense.

In conclusion, expect and demand great basketball defense from your players. Become a defensive basketball coach. Constantly talk about your team defensive goals to your squad. Get excited when a player makes a great defensive play. Have your bench stand and clap when a player sacrifices his body and takes a charge for his team. Go out of your way to continually praise kids for great defensive effort... Yes, defense does win Championships, and playing defense is what we do best!

"For us to be successful on defense, we must get back and stop the basketball, eliminate easy baskets, keep the ball out of the lane, and bother the shooters." -- Coach Dick Bennett
"If you want team play, you must stress defense.  Defense makes players unselfish." -- Coach John Brady
"We feel that the 2-2-1 press is a very effective means of controlling tempo and providing us with opportunities to capitalize on the mistakes of our opponents. At the same time we feel it is a very safe press because we work very hard at the necessary rotations." -- Coach Jim Calhoun
"Defense doesn't break down on the help, it breaks down on the recovery." -- Coach Chuck Daly
"I think that to stop an offense, you must go to the heart of that offense. If it is a particular move, a screen, the break, an outstanding scorer, whatever it is that they like to do and rely on, you have to work in your plans on taking that completely or as much as possible away from them." -- Coach Bob Knight
"The mismatch is not what gets you beat. What gets you beat is giving up the uncontested, open shot." -- Coach Rick Majerus
"In evaluating the way in which ball possessions are gained during the course of a game, we find that 60 to 80% of the possessions are gained by rebounding and after an opponent's score. 20% come from opponents's error, and only 5% of the possessions come from steals and interceptions. A study of the way ball possessions are gained makes it seem highly impractical to base pressure defense on interceptions and steals." -- Coach Ralph Miller
"The basic premise of my system is to fatigue your opponents with constant pressure defensively and constant movement offensively." -- Coach Rick Pitino
"In all the research you do as a coach, studying other coaches and championship-type situations, you find that all those teams combined talent with great defense. You've got to stop other teams to win." -- Coach Pat Riley
"Defense wins championships, you need to emphasize it and work on it. If it doesn't bother you, it won't bother them." -- Coach Pat Summitt
Championship Basketball Playbook

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Transition Offense
Motion Offense
Flex Offense
Zone Offense
Offensive Plays
Inbound Plays
Press Breaker Offense
Full-court Press Defenses
Zone Defenses
Junk Defenses
Man to Man Defense
Game Strategy
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