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Improve Your Transition Defense with Minimum Practice Time

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At the beginning of every season coaching staffs everywhere sit down and decide which areas of their program will require the most teaching and practice time in order to be the most effective.

Offenses, defenses, conditioning, time & score situations, and individual skill work are all areas that require adequate practice time.

However, many coaches list transition defense at the very top of their list.

Like most coaches, I have fallen into this trap at times as well.

We used to drill endlessly on sprinting three steps until arriving at mid court, turning over our inside shoulder and locating the ball, backpedalling far enough back to stop the layup and then sprinting to closeout to either the ball or to a help position.

I told myself and our team that we had to prevent transition layups at all cost, no matter how much valuable practice time it ate up. Looking back, I realize now I probably emphasized this more because of ego than because of necessity.

In my mind, from an offensive standpoint nothing looked as good or as exciting or as well coached as a fast break layup or dunk. On the other hand, from a defensive standpoint nothing looked as bad or as demoralizing or as poorly coached as giving up that same layup or dunk and I didn't want my team to look bad.

However, when I started breaking down how many points we were giving up in transition, I started to change my thinking. While we were giving up two transition baskets a game, those two baskets were still worth only 4 points.

So is dedicating a ton of time during your practice really worth stopping 4 points?

Here are some numbers to consider

For instance - last year teams scored 89% of their total points in the half court and 11% in transition. So if you take a typical 2 hour practice and spend 20 minutes each day working on your transition defense is that really time well spent? Should you spend 17% of your practice time working on stopping how a team scores 11% of their points? My personal on this is NO.

So the challenge is how can you develop and improve your transition defense without spending a ton of time on it every day in practice?

Here are three possible ways to do just that.

Send 3 to rebound and 2 to get back

When a shot goes up have one guard sprint all the way back to the opposite top of the key and have the other guard sprint back to half court. For many teams, a transition layup is usually the end result of some kind of uncontested run out. This strategy eliminates that. Sending two players back instead of one can increase the effectiveness of your transition defense without spending a single minute on it in practice.

Utilize your post players more on offense

I fully realize that the current trend in basketball is to shoot a boat load of three pointers but long shots generally produce long rebounds. A team that rebounds the ball 64 feet from their own basket has a much bigger transition opportunity than the team that rebounds 83 feet from their own basket. Driving the ball and attacking the basket is a very effective offensive strategy but it often places your point guard right underneath the basket. In my mind it's much better to score in the post and give our point guard a 15 foot head start to get back.

Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

Teams that run need the ball first. If you crash the offensive boards a couple of things will happen. First you will get more offensive rebounds which will let you score more points and draw more fouls. Any time you score, the ball has to be inbounded which gives all defenders at least a few more seconds to get back in defensive position. After giving up several offensive rebounds, the opposing coach may choose to go to a bigger lineup, which is going to indirectly slow down his team's transition offense.

Using any one of these methods will improve your transition defense and only cost you a minimal amount of practice time. Using all three will ultimately force your opponents to rely solely on their half court offense to beat you. Of course, with the extra time you are not spending on transition defense anymore, you can now afford to spend some extra time on your half court defense.

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