Basketball Coaching Index

HomeDefensesRick Torbett's Dynamic Defense

Basketball Defense – Notes or Rick Torbett's Dynamic Defense

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
This article discusses and presents some notes on Rick Torbett's ( "Dynamic Defense". Rick is the innovator of the highly acclaimed "Read and React Offense", and he, along with retired NBA Coach Dick Helm, has now come up with this excellent defensive system, called "Dynamic Defense".

This article is an introduction, an outline only, highlighting key points. If you really want to learn this system and apply it to your own team, you must get the DVD set. There are many details not covered here. I highly recommend the reader obtain this excellent defensive DVD set to get all of the details, and the many video clips and discussions that really demonstrate all of the concepts. The DVDs include numerous drills, not just defensive drills, but also many footwork, speed, agility and quickness drills.

Coach Rick Torbett

One of the best parts of the DVD set is retired NBA coach Dick Helm actually teaching the Dynamic Defensive system to a new team in about 45 minutes, starting with the basics and progressing into Level 4. This 45 minutes might be exactly the way you want to teach it to your own team in your first practice session on the defense.

The third DVD is "Mental Toughness", which I found really interesting, dealing with sports psychology (I'm thinking it might even help me with my golf game!).

DVD #1 presents the framework and introduction. This is a step by step curriculum and applies to all defenders and all types of defenses (man-to-man, zones, presses, etc). Dynamic Defense also serves as a framework for measuring the defensive abilities of each individual player as well as the team. Four Levels (1, 2, 3 and 4) form the framework. You (and players themselves) can categorize each player as a level 1, 2, 3, or 4 defender (discussed below).

This creation of levels cuts to a player's natural competitive instincts and players become more self-motivated to become good defenders, wanting to progress from a level 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. This has the potential of changing the relationship between the coach and players in regard to defense. Instead of the coach harping at his/her players about defense, the coach simply assesses each player his/her correct level, and players will want to naturally progress up to the next level (which means more playing time).

A coach can simply tell his team that, in a close game in the 4th quarter, he has to play his level 3 and 4 defenders, and a level 1 player can expect less playing time in this situation. So, hopefully the coach becomes more of a facilitator and teacher, and will have to do less "nagging" to get his players to want to play defense.

In regard to team defense, the coach may tailor his defense depending on the defensive levels of his players. For example, if your guards are poor Level 1 and Level 2 defenders (can't guard the ball, prevent dribble-penetration, and are poor at help and recover situations), you may need to think about using a zone defense.

This system also helps with your defensive scouting. Your scout can easily assign a defensive Level to the opponent's team defense and also to each individual player. You can then design an offensive scheme that can take advantage of the opponent's defensive weaknesses.

Before discussing the four levels, we need to define the term "highway". The highway is the middle third of the court (gray area in diagram A). We want to keep the ball out of the highway, forcing to the sidelines at all times.

basketball court highway

Four Levels

What are the Four Levels of defenders? These four levels are discussed by Rick Torbett and also Dick Helm, retired NBA coach (15 year assistant to Lenny Wilkins).

  • Level 1 Defender
    Guarding the ball. This defender is a good on-ball defender, able to guard and pressure the ball, stay in front of his man, forcing to the sideline, and keeping the ball out of the highway.

  • Level 2 Defender
    Guarding way from the ball. In addition to level 1 skills, this defender is an off-ball defender who knows how to guard away from the ball. He/she always sees the ball and his own man. The concept of help and recover applies here.

    He plays off his man so that if the ball is dribbled into the highway, he can slide over and stop penetration, and then quickly recover back to his man. A good level 2 defender helps stop the dribble-drive into the highway, a pass into the highway, and helps defend cutters in the highway.

  • Level 3 Defender
    Guarding Situations. In addition to level 1 and 2 skills, this defender knows how to react and rotate correctly and quickly to various "situations" that arise (e.g. double-teams, pick-and-roll ball screens, switches, post feeds, baseline drives, etc). This defender sees the whole picture, and is always an alert and active defender, helping stop the ball and keeping it out of the highway.

  • Level 4 Defender
    Recovering from situations. In addition to level 1, 2, and 3 skills, this defender can quickly recover back to the correct player after a "level 3 rotation". This defender is a "most valuable player", a "stopper". He provides defensive leadership, communicating and directing his teammates on rotations, close-outs, etc. He can direct the traffic.

Level 0 Skills

Now let's back up and talk about basic Level 0 skills that all defenders must possess before even becoming a level 1 defender. These can be broken down into:

  • Moving Mechanics
    If you can't move, you can't play defense... plain and simple.

  • Rebounding Mechanics
    Each defensive possession must end with a rebound.

Moving Mechanics

In DVD #1, considerable time and detail is devoted to moving mechanics. You have to get the DVD to view all of this excellent material (many drills)... it's too extensive and beyond the scope of this article to describe it all here.

Expert Spencer Wood of explains and demonstrates the important components of speed, agility and quickness, including three planes of motion (forward-back, side-to-side, and rotational), and three types of muscle actions required (acceleration, deceleration and isometric stabilization).

His video clips demonstrate many step-wise (the progression is important) footwork drills that will help your players acquire the necessary skills. As coaches, we can no longer take that attitude, "Well this kid is just not very agile and not very quick." These skills can be taught and improved upon.

Also discussed is the ideal body position for quick defensive movement (knees bent, feet wide, feet parallel, knees parallel, with a "neutral pelvic tilt", and a tight core). The proper foot strike (balls of feet) is important.

A discussion and demonstration of good defensive close-outs comes next (acceleration, deceleration, lower the hips, short choppy steps, maintaining a tight core, and reverse momentum of the upper body). Many more video drills are shown of Defensive Close-Outs and Drills and other speed, agility and quickness drills.

Rebounding Mechanics

Rick Torbett discusses his concepts of rebounding and boxing-out. Rebound like a quarterback by securing the ball, chinning it, and then either making the outlet pass, or a quick dribble out. The boxing-out technique depends on whether your man is in the "war zone" (near the basket), or on the perimeter.

War Zone Rebounding

If your man is close to the basket, use the standard boxing-out techniques and aggressively pursue the ball with an attitude.

Outside the War Zone Rebounding

If your man is away from the basket on the perimeter, do NOT use the standard boxing-out techniques... the offensive player will often get around you, or you may get a foul. Instead, find your man and "check" him by making contact with him with your forearm. If he tries to get around you, "arc" him outside, and then aggressively pursue the ball.

If your man is stronger and pushes or forces you inside the war zone, then use the standard block-out technique used in the war zone. If your man releases away from the basket to half-court as a "safety", go to the closest elbow and rebound from there. Often the 3-point shot results in a long rebound to either elbow.

See the complete article in the members section. The complete article also includes:
  • Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4
  • press defense
  • zone defense
  • notes on the Mental Toughness DVD

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