Basketball Coaching


Basketball Defenses - Selecting Your Half-Court Defense(s)

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook... lots of great basketball stuff. Come on - join today.

   See more comments...

Tip: How to use this basketball playbook

Like selecting an offense, select a basketball defense(s) that best fits your team's personnel, size, quickness, and strengths, and your own defensive philosophy. Some coaches stick to the same defense all season and try to perfect it. Other coaches will try multiple defenses, not only throughout the season, but within a game, switching between man-to-man and zone defenses, trying to confuse the opponent, and trying to stop the offense's strengths.

I have seen coaches go man-to-man anytime the point guard made the first pass to the right side, and go 2-3 zone whenever that first pass went to the left side. Some coaches will change defenses after a made free-throw, or after a time-out, or will call out defenses from the sideline. The only thing about all this... in trying to confuse the offense, you have to make sure your own players aren't the ones who become confused!

Defensive Intensity. This applies to all defenses. Like Rick Pitino and Tom Crean, turn up your defensive intensity by Charting Deflections.

swarming defense


Man-to-Man Defense

Man-to-man defense has each defender assigned to defend a certain offensive player... his or her "man". Sounds simple enough, but great man-to-man defense is much more than that. Defenders two-passes away from the ball drop off their man into "helpside" defense. So away from the ball, the man-to-man defense looks and acts a lot like a zone defense, while you have a defender pressuring the ball at all times. Man-to-man defense has the advantage of maintaining pressure on the ball at all times.

This defense may be susceptible to guard dribble-penetration, but this can be avoided by your on-ball defenders learning to become good defenders, your adjacent wing defenders learning to "hedge" in the seams, and by having good helpside defense. Or, if your players are less athletic, consider the "pack line" defense. You can double-team the low posts, and occasionally "red" or double-team the point guard as a surprise tactic. You must have a plan for dealing with screens.

My personal belief is that all young players MUST learn how to play man-to-man defense if they are to become good defenders at a higher level. Every player has to learn how to play good on-ball defense, how to move the feet, etc. Even high school teams that prefer zone defenses will be stronger defensively if every player can play pressure, on-ball defense. Understanding helpside defensive principles makes learning zone rotations really easy for most players. This article will help you teach your defense... "Teaching Basketball by Progression".

For details, see:
Tenets of Team Man-to-Man Defense... this is the definitive article with everything your need for your man-to-man "team" defense... on-ball pressure, deny, helpside, preventing dribble-penetration, defending the post, cutters, screens and out-of-bounds plays. Two trapping tactics ("Red" and "Side-Fist") are also presented. The animation is very helpful.

Basic Man-to-Man Defense... the basic principles.

Pack Line Defense... a sagging man-to-man defense that helps protect the paint and deny dribble-penetration.

Bob Kloppenburg's SOS Pressure Defense - 3-part series:
Overview of the SOS Pressure Defense - an overview of the SOS defense from legendary NBA coach Bob Kloppenburg.
Bob Kloppenburg's Half-Court SOS Pressure Defense - details of the half-court SOS pressure defense.
Bob Kloppenburg's Full-Court SOS Pressure Defense - SOS defense - transition and full-court.

Defense for the Last Few Seconds of the Game... defensive strategies for the end of a close game.

Defending the Pick and Roll... from Coach Joao Costa.

Defending Without Fouling... become a disciplined team that doesn't foul.

Defensive Tips... basics for players.

Drills for Teaching Man-to-Man Defense:

Breakdown Drills for Teaching M2M Defense... breakdown drills for teaching man-to-man pressure defense.

Shell Drill... helpside, deny, hedge, on-ball positioning.

M2M Positioning Drill... helpside, deny, on-ball positioning.

Defense 1-on-1 Drills... defending 1-on-1, on-ball defense.

Defense Defensive Close-Outs and Drills... learn to close-out on the ball.

Trapping Drills... learn to trap.

Take the Charge Drill... rotate and take the charge.

3-on-3 Drill... 3-on-3 defensive drill.

Zone Defense

Zone defense is different from man-to-man defense in that, instead of guarding a particular player, each zone defender is responsible for guarding an area of the floor, or "zone", and any offensive player that comes into that area. Zone defenders move their position on the floor in relationship to where the ball moves.

Their are advantages and disadvantages of zone defenses. For example, you can often stop dribble-penetration and protect the paint with a 2-3 zone, but you give up some pressure on the outside. See "Zone Defense" for details. Zone defenses can be categorized based on the defensive "set" that you use (2-3, 1-2-2, 3-2, 1-3-1, etc). Rebounding out of a zone defense is also important. See Zone Defense Rebounding

Specific Zone Defenses

2-3 (or 2-1-2) Zone Defense... protect the paint and stop dribble-penetration. But watch out for those outside shooters. You can play a "sag-back" type of 2-3 zone, or a more aggressive, trapping 2-3 zone.

Coach Marshall's 2-3 Zone Defense... over 40 years of success and knowledge go into this 2-3 zone defense.

Dave Robbins Circle Defense... Coach Dave Robbins' Circle zone defense (2-3 and 1-2-2 zones).

Buzz - Twilight Zone - Defense... a new way of playing the 2-3 zone defense... playing the passing lanes.

1-2-2 and 3-2 Zone Defenses... with the 1-2-2, pressure the ball on the outside arc, allow for some trapping, but you leave the high post, middle of the paint, and corners open. Close the high post by adjusting and switching to a 3-2 zone.

1-3-1 Zone Defense... apply pressure on the outside arc and high post, and allow for some trapping, but you are vulnerable inside and in the corners. Two styles are presented... a conventional, more conservative zone, and a more aggressive, trapping style.

Amoeba Defense... a gambling, surprise tactic zone defense that can get you steals and turnovers.

SWARM Defense... ball pressure, stopping the dribble, circle rotation from coach Wayne Walters.

Point-Zone Defense... get pressure on the ball, protect the paint, confuse the offense.

Defense for the Last Few Seconds of the Game... defensive strategies for the end of a close game.

post defense

Combination Defenses... Match-up Zone Defense and "Junk" Defenses

Match-up zone is a "combination" defense, combining elements of man-to-man defense (on-ball), and zone defense (away from the ball). This is a zone defense that acts a lot like a good man-to-man defense, remembering that good man-to-man helpside defense looks like a zone away from the ball. The on-ball defender closes-out and plays tight like in a man-to-man. The zone away from the ball resembles man-to-man "help-side" defense. The match-up zones have specific rotations and assignment rules. You may confuse the offense by changing your starting defensive set, and they may not be certain if you are in a man or zone defense.

"Junk" defenses are special defenses designed for specific situations, and you would never base your entire season's defensive scheme on junk defenses. But they can be helpful when used from time to time against certain teams. Defending a team with superior talent or a star player is always a challenge, and these defenses may help you defend the heart of their offense. Some of these defenses include our "triangle defense", the "box-and-1", "diamond-and-1", "triangle-and-2", "inverted triangle-and-2", "1-3 and a chaser", and "3-1 and a chaser".

Combination Zone Defenses

Match-up Zone Defense... important principles, rules, different sets.

1-3-1 Match-up Zone Defenses... this is a detailed 1-3-1 match-up zone employed Coach Ken Sartini (aka Coach Sar) with his high school teams in the Chicago area.

Junk Defenses... defending the star player, "box-and-1", "diamond-and-1", "triangle-and-2", "inverted triangle-and-2", "1-3 and a chaser", and "3-1 and a chaser".

4-1 Chameleon Defense... unusual 4-1 helf-court defense from Tyler Whitcomb.

Triangle Defense... a detailed defense for defending against the star perimeter player.

Half-Court Press Defense, Traps

Starting your defense at (or just beyond) the half-court line can confuse the offense, result in turnovers, steals and lay-ups in transition, and can disrupt the normal flow of the offense, making it difficult for them to "get into" their offense. Any press is a gamble that you might give up an easy basket, but half-court presses are less risky than full-court presses since your have all five defenders back in the half-court.

Some teams will half-court press the entire game, or until the offense shows they can beat it. Some teams will use it intermittently, as a surprise tactic. I have personally witnessed the "Viking" half-court press (actually started out beyond the half-court line) as a very effective defense, when run correctly.

Additionally, within in the framework of our basic man-to-man pressure defense, we will at times "red" (aggressively trap) the point guard O1 as he/she comes across half-court, or after our point defender forces O1 to one side, or on an on-ball screen, or whenever O1 is dribbling too much. See the bottom of this page "Tenets of Team Man-to-Man Defense".

Half-Court Zone Press Defense

Viking 1-2-2 Half-Court Press... a very effective 1/2 to 3/4 court trapping press if you have three quick athletes (X1, X2 and X3) who play aggressively.

2-2-1 Half-Court Press... another half-court trapping press defense.

Defending Out-of-Bounds Plays

Again, you can choose between man-to-man and zone defense to use against out-of-bounds plays. Some teams simply defend all baseline out-of-bounds plays with a 2-3 zone. This packs the paint area, and will help nullify screens and prevent those inside lay-ups. However, there are inbounds plays designed to attack the 2-3 zone (see "Out-of-Bounds Plays vs the 2-3 Zone")

Using man-to-man defense, we have several rules. First, "step under" and switch any inside screens. The screened defender steps under (back toward the baseline one step) to get inside position on the screener, in order to avoid getting "pinned". In addition, deny the pass inside by having your inbounds defender play a "one-man zone" off the ball in the paint denying that pass. The inbound defender drops off the inbounder passer into the paint, looking to deny any pass inside and lay-up. But once the pass goes outside, he/she must move quickly back on the inbounder, who is his/her "man". See the bottom of this page "Tenets of Team Man-to-Man Defense" for details and diagrams.

Helpful DVDs:

Many coaching DVDs at the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD Store

Basketball Defenses
Many more basketball DVDs at the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD Store This page lists and categorizes many DVDs of basketball defenses. Under this category, the following defensive titles are featured: 2-1-2 Match-up Zone Defense, Defensive Philosophy, Match-up Press Defense, Zone Defense, Man-to-Man Pressure Defense, the Packline Defense, as well as the Scramble Defense. This section features some of the most well known and renowned coaches in basketball today. Coaches featured include Dick Bennett, Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, Jim Larranaga, Roy Williams, Bruce Weber, Rick Pitino, Dean Smith, Jay Wright, Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Geno Auriemma and Bobby Gonzalez.

  Copyright © 2001 - 2019, James A. Gels, all rights reserved.

Coach's Clipboard on Facebook Connect with Coach Gels and Coach's Clipboard on LinkedIn Follow Coach's Clipboard on Pinterest Coach's Clipboard on Twitter