Building a Sound Team Defense

Coaches, in most cases, simply do not have the luxury of time to build a solid team defense. However, with the use of "Shell" drills, the preferred method of teaching team defense over a long period of time and an integral part of the "Whole-Part-Whole" method of teaching, it is possible to successfully install the basic foundation of a sound team defense in just a short time.

This is accomplished by combining related ballside and weakside skills into a series of progressive 4-on-4 defensive breakdown drills. However, prior to teaching any team defense, players must possess a working knowledge of the individual defensive skills and techniques along with the basic defensive concepts.

Sequential Defensive Breakdown Drills (Shell 4-on-4)

Part One: Teaching Team Defense Basics

Part Two: Teaching Post Defense Basics

Implementation: Ten Session Master Plan

 


5 Stars

Part 1: Teaching Team Defense Basics

Reviewing and refining team defensive fundamentals is an important element at the start of any successful season. A lot of slippage takes place between seasons especially on defense. Teaching team defense basic skills and techniques is actually a series of 6 shell breakdown drills that consist of basic shifting, closing out, defending baseline drives, point dribble penetration, basket cuts, down screens, and live play.

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Individual Defensive Fundamentals Required

On Ball Defensive Skills

Guarding a Player With the Ball

Defending Dribble Penetration

Attacking the Picked Up Dribble

Taking a Charge

Defensive Rebounding Techniques

Off Ball Defensive Skills

First Pass Denials

Defending Back Cuts

Executing Quick Closing Outs

Providing Helpside I Support

Double Teaming

Learn More Basic Defensive Concepts

Note: Before actual teaching and breaking team defense down into its components, it is best to begin by having the players just play 4-on-4 half court. Closely observe the defensive fundamentals of players along with the defensive footwork, teamwork and communication (if any) that is taking place. Analyze how the offense is scoring its points. This will allow you to determine what areas need emphasizing and the most work in your practice planning.

 

| Shifting | Dribble Penetration | Closing Out | Basket Cuts | Down Screens | Cutthroat |

 

Phase 1. Basic Shifting: "Jump to Ball"

This four-on-four shell drill is similar to a zone shifting drill. Its purpose is to teach defenders to cognizant to their location in relationship to the player with the ball at all times. Demonstrate and walk players through the basic defensive shifts.

Point Pass Point Pass Point Pass Point Pass

Once the ball is moved around to each position and proper defensive stances and positioning is checked, offense passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly to ball position. Defenders assume strong pass denial positions, but allow passes. No shooting or driving on offense. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball is in air.

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Phase 2. Defending Dribble Penetration

Defending dribble penetration involves three (3) stages:

| Seal & Recover | Baseline Dribble Penetration | Middle Dribble Penetration |

Introduce and demonstrate each stage separately, starting with "Seal & Recover" first. Next, defending "Baseline Dribble Penetration," and lastly, "Middle Penetration." Once players have a working knowledge of each stage, combine all three stages giving the offensive players the "Green Light" to drive to the basket from any position.

First Stage: Seal & Recover

Closing the gap. Once players possess a working knowledge of "Jumping to the Ball," allow the offensive players one or two dribbles into a seam. The player guarding the ball handler, stepping with the foot in the direction of the penetration first, protects the "Elbows" forcing the dribbler towards a sideline of corner pushpoint. The ballside support defender stepping up with the inside or lead foot seals off the seam. Defenders recover according to the ball hander's pass.

Point Pass Point Pass Point Pass Point Pass

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Second Stage: Baseline Dribble Penetration

When the ball is on the wing, it is vital for the defender protect the "Block" and to force the ball hander toward the corner baseline pushpoint. On baseline dribble penetration, defenders must defend entirely with their legs. Both hands should be held above the shoulders to discourage and contest the shot or pass options. Having both hands high ("Showing Hands") also eliminates referees from calling fouls. Whoever gets to the block first will win the battle. If the defender gets to the block first, the dribbler is forced in a difficult shot from behind the backboard or into a secondary trap zone. However, if the offensive player reaches the block first, it will allow them access to the backboard for an easy shot.

In providing strong backside support on baseline dribble penetration, the low Helpside I defender rotates over to a spot outside the lane line to take a charge or double team. The high I defender rotates down and “Helps the Helper.” The third defender drops to the free throw line anticipating any pass out of the trap. When the ball handler passes the ball out, defenders must rotate and closeout as the ball leaves the passer’s hands. The defender closing out to the receiver must close out quickly on balance with both hands up. The other defenders close out to the nearest opponent.

Base Drive 3 Base Drive 4 Base Drive 3 Base Drive 4

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Third Stage: Middle Dribble Penetration

When the ball is in the middle of the court, it is vital for the defender protect the "Elbows" by forcing the ball hander toward a corner pushpoint. On dribble penetration, the defenders must defend entirely with their legs. Both hands should be held above the shoulders to discourage and contest the shot or pass options. Having both hands high ("Showing Hands") also eliminates referees from calling fouls.

On dribble penetration down the middle to the basket, the ball side defenders must maintain strong pass denial positions and do NOT help. However, they can fake. Helpside I defenders are responsible for rotating over to stop the ball handler’s penetration. Low Helpside I defender steps out taking a charge whenever possible. Mid or High Helpside defender drops to baseline.

Mid Drive 1

Mid Drive 2

Mid Drive 3 Mid Drive 4

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Phase 3. Closing Out

This closing out drill is a continuation of the basic shell shifting drill. After the basic shifts have been demonstrate and practiced. Have players execute proper closeouts prior to shifting in accordingly to the ball position. Drill start with defenders align under the basket and the coach making an entry pass to any of the four offensive players.

Closeout 1 Close Outs 2 Close Out 3 Close Out 4

The defender guarding the ball handler closes out on balance with both hands up, pressuring the ball handler to a sideline or baseline pushpoint. The three off ball defenders close out to designated support spots one step off the passing lane and two steps up the lane towards the ball handler.  All defenders must communicate and talk. Offense then passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball leaves passer's hands. Once players comprehend the importance of assuming support spots, allow the offensive players one dribble into gaps. Off ball defender "Seals (the gap) and Recovers" back to opponent.

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Phase 4. Defending “Give & Go” Basket Cuts

The “Give and Go” basket cut is one of the oldest, yet most admired plays in basketball. When executed successfully, it draws raves from the spectators and coaches alike. However, this simple basket cut should never be allowed. It is a result of careless or lazy defense.

Rule: Beat the Cutter Through on Ball Side

When a ball handler passes the ball and makes a cut to the basket, the defender must jump in the direction of the pass and assume a pass denial position. NEVER allow the cutter to make an uncontested cut or trail the cutter to the basket. The Low I defender must also help out on basket cut. In addition, the On Ball defender must pressure the passer.

Basket Cut 1

Basket Cut B

Basket Cut 3 Basket Cut 4

Once the proper rotations against basket cuts are checked, offense moves the ball around the perimeter with the option of making basket cuts. Defenders allow perimeter passes. However, they aggressively deny all basket cut passes.

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Phase 6. Disrupting Down Screens

There are three components to an off ball down screen: the passer, the screener, and the receiver. Defenders must “talk” and coordinate their efforts in attacking these three players.

Switching automatically on down screens eliminates any hesitation or indecision on the part of the defenders and is the most effective way to attack the passing lanes. It also has the advantage of keeping small defenders outside and “Bigs” inside. However, opening up and pulling the receiver’s defender through, and chasing out with the screener’s defender “Showing & Recovering” are also viable techniques to defend down screens. For the purpose of this drill incorporate the technique that best fits your own defensive philosophy.

Down Screen 1

Down Screen 2

Down Screen 3

Down Screen 4

Once the proper rotations against basket cuts are checked, offense moves the ball around the perimeter with the option of dribble penetrating down the middle. Defenders allow perimeter passes. However, they aggressively deny all dribble penetration.

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Go Live: Cutthroat (4-on-4)

Once the basic team defense breakdown drills have been taught and practice, go 4-on-4 live with competitive competition such as “Cutthroat.” This is best done with three teams of four players. Drill begins with down screens and coach making an entry pass. A manager or coach is used for rebounding made shots and quickly passing back out to the coach. The goal is to work your way to defense and stay there.

Cutthroat 1

Cutthroat 2

Cutthroat 3

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Cutthroat Full Court Variation

Drill Shell 1

Once players become proficient playing half court Cutthroat, you can take it full court by playing 4-on-4-on-4. Taking Cutthroat live full court introduces a transition element into the drill. Defensively, players must communicate and match up. Offensively, they must fill wide lanes and execute early offense. No posts up or on ball screens are allowed.

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Caution: During the drill be sure to track and analyzing how the teams are scoring. If a specific problem(s) should occur, go back to the specific shell drill to address and refine it.

 

 


5 Stars

Part 2: Teaching Post Defense Basics

Being able to defend the post is crucial in basketball. However, it is amazing just how many coaches just assume that their players know how to properly defend the post area and provide little or no instruction. Post defense is not just limited to the tallest players on a team. On the contrary, smaller players can definitely expect to be posted up. Post defense also requires a team effort. The defender guarding the passer must exert the utmost pressure, and the Helpside defenders must provide strong back side support.

Teaching the basics of post defense is comprised of a series of four shell breakdown drills that include: Basic Post Shifting, Defending Post Isolations, Post Disruptions (Fonting, Base Post Double Team and Top Post Double Team) along with "Cutthroat" live competition.

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Prior to teaching post defense, players must possess a working knowledge of the individual defensive skills and techniques required to successfully guard a post play. These individual post defense prerequisites include:

Various Post Defensive Techniques

Methods of Changing Positions on the Post

Guarding a Post With the Ball

Double Teaming

Introduce, demonstrate and have players walk through all three post disruptions the first session. Then work on them separately during the next three sessions. Review and refine as needed during the rest of the season.

| Post Shifting | Post Isloation | Post Disruptions | Going Live |

Phase 1. Basic Post Shifting

Basic post shifting shell drill is similar to a zone shifting drill. Its purpose is to teach defenders to be cognizant of their location in relationship to the player with the ball at all times. Demonstrate and walk players through the basic defensive shifts.

Post Shift 1

POst Shift 2

Post Shift 3

Post Shift 4

Once the ball is moved around to each position and proper defensive stances and positioning are checked, the offense passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly to ball position. Defenders assume strong pass denial positions, but allow perimeter passes. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball is in air. However, they aggressively pressure and deny all post passes. No shooting or driving on offense.

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Phase 2. Post Isolation (1-on-1 Live)

All players, regardless of size, must be prepared fundamentally to defend post ups. Post defense is played before the post receives the ball, not after. A defensive post must be active and extremely determined to deny all post passes by maintaining a low "Ear on Chest" pass denial position. Play with finesse, and do not lean on, wrestle or hug the post. Defensive post must adjust position on every pass. Have "active" feet and do NOT get caught standing flat-footed.

Post Iso 2

Post Iso 2

Post Iso 4

Once the ball is moved around to each position and proper defensive stances and positioning is checked, offense passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly to ball position. Defenders assume strong pass denial positions, but allow perimeter passes. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball is in air. However, they aggressively deny all post passes. No shooting or driving on offense.

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Phase 3. Closing Out

This phase is a continuation of the basic shell shifting drill. After the basic shifts have been demonstrate and practiced. Have players execute proper closeouts prior to shifting in accordingly to the ball position. Drill start with defenders align under the basket and the coach making an entry pass to any of the four offensive players.

Post Close Outs 1

Post Close Outs 2

Post Close Outs 3

Post Close Outs 4

The defender guarding the ball handler closes out on balance with both hands up, pressuring the ball handler to a sideline or baseline pushpoint. The three off ball defenders close out to designated support spots one step off the passing lane and two steps up the lane towards the ball handler.  All defenders must communicate and talk. Offense then passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball leaves passer's hands. Once players comprehend the importance of assuming support spots, allow the offensive players one dribble into gaps. Off ball defender "Seals (the gap) and Recovers" back to opponent.

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Phase 4. Post Disruptions

The importance of individual post defense cannot be over emphasized. However, sound individual post defense can be augment with post traps at times to insure total disrupt of the inside post up game. "Fronting," "Base Go Trap" and "Go Top Trap" are strategic weapons to combat a strong post up game.

Post Font

Use the post front to deny a good post the ball. In fronting the post, it minimizes the number of inside post passes and, as a result, limits the number of offensive touches and shots in the low post area. However, fronting the post requires a team effort and must be given high priority during practice times.

Post Front 1

POst Front 2

POst Front 3

Post Front 4

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"Go Base" Double Team

The "Go Base" post trap scenario is used most often for double teaming the offensive low post. It used whenever the offensive post player is moved off the low block area or on a coach's call in the deep low post area when a 3/4 high side post pass denial is utilized or the defensive player is late in fronting the post.

Base Trap 1

Top Trap 2

Base Trap 3

Base Trap 4

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"Go Top" Post Double Team

The "Go Top" is a secondary post trap rotation that can be deployed as a change up to confuse the offensive post. The Go Top can be very effective when the offensive post has a tendency to turn into the middle after receiving the ball. In the Go Top rotation, the high Helpside I defender releases quickly on the post pass release and double teams the post. The post defender turns the offensive post into the middle and into the double team.

Top Trap 1

Base Trap 2

Top Trap 3

Top Trap 4

Once the ball is moved around to each position and proper defensive stances and positioning is checked, offense passes the ball around the perimeter and defenders shifts accordingly to ball position. Defenders assume strong pass denial positions, but allow perimeter passes. Defenders rotate and communicate as ball is in air. However, they aggressively deny all post passes. No shooting or driving on offense.

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Go Live: Post Cutthroat (4-on-4-on-4)

Once the basic team defense breakdown drills have been taught and practice, go 4-on-4 live with competitive competition such as “Cutthroat.” This is best done with three teams of four players. Drill begins with down screens and coach making an entry pass. A manager or coach is used for rebounding made shots and quickly passing back out to the coach.

Post Cutthroat 1

Post Cutthroat 2

Post Cutthroat 3

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5 Stars

Implementation of Defensive Breakdown Drills

Caution: It is best to introduce a drill or skill one session and refine it the next.

Session One: Introduce and walk through shifting, base drives, basket cuts, point drives and down screens. (Steps 1 -5) Requires approximately 5-10 minutes each.

Session Two: Review steps 1-5 (shifting, base drives, basket cuts, point drives and down screens). 10 minutes each.

Session Three: Review steps 1-5 (shifting, base drives, basket cuts, point drives and down screens) - 5 minutes each. Introduce 4-on-4 live "Cutthroat" (Step 6) - 10 minutes.

Session Four: Play 4-on-4 "Cutthroat" live (Step 6) - 15 minutes. Introduce and walk through post shifting (Post Step 1). 10-15 minutes.

Session Five: Review post defense shifting (Post Step 1)- 5 minutes. Introduce "Post Isolation" 1-on-1 live (Post Step 2) - 20 minutes. Play 4-on-4 live "Cutthroat" 10-15 minutes.

Session Six: Review post defense shifting (Step 1)- 5 minutes. Introduce and walk through post disruptions (Post Step 3): "Fronting the Post", "Go Base" double team, and "Go Top" double team. 5-10 minutes each. Review "Post Isolation" (1-on-1 live) 20 minutes.

Session Seven: Review basic post disruptions "Fronting the Post", "Go Base" double team, and "Go Top" double team. 5-10 minutes each. Go live 1-on-1 "Post Isolation." 20 minutes. Introduce post version of 4-on-4 "Cutthroat"(Post Step 4) - 10 minutes.

Session Eight: Introduce and walk through defending specific screens (Back, Base and On Ball). 10 minutes each. Play post version of "Cutthroat" 10 minutes. Play basic "Cutthroat" (no post). 10 minutes.

Session Nine: Review defending back, base and On-Ball screens - 10 minutes each. Play post version of "Cuttthroat." - 10 minutes. Introduce "Cutthroat" full court. 10 minutes.

Session Ten: Review defending back, base and On-Ball screens - 5 minutes each. Play "Cuttthroat" employing back, base and On-Ball screens. 10 minutes. Play post version of "Cutthroat" full court. 10-15 minutes.

Note: Review basic team and post defensive breakdown drills only as needed during the remainder of the season.

 

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