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4 Important Defensive Basketball Drills & Principles

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1. Defensive Triangle- (off the ball)

This is a principle that was taught by the late Rick Majerus and some of the better coaches in the game today. It is used in a man-to-man defense and is one of the simplest concepts to understand and practice. I'll cover the principle and then give a drill to use. I tell players to imagine a line between your man and the man with the ball.

Make sure that you are forming a triangle. If you are in the triangle you will be able to play help defense as well as guard your man when he receives the ball. If you hear your coach refer to the triangle, this is what they are talking about.

Keep in mind that some coaches play different strategies and don't always believe in helping out. If that is the case go along with what your coach says and be supportive. We'll cover some things you can do in other articles to assist you in playing great on the ball defense.

To run this drill in practice you want a player at the top and on each wing. Practice swinging the ball side to side with the defense adjusting to understand the triangle. For new players go slow and teach them the concept behind it. Help them understand why the triangle is needed and important.

2. Help Defense (off the ball)

When a player on your team is beaten off the dribble what do you do? Do you stand there and watch or do you help? In simplest form, the best offensive strategy is to get the best shot possible and usually those are as close to the hoop as possible.

On defense we would like them to take the most difficult shot possible. The toughest shot is a contested shot from farther away. Doesn't that make sense? If each player is in the defensive triangle they are in a position to stop the ball from getting close to the basket and it forces the ball to be kicked out.

When the ball is passed to a post player down low we have two choices, play him straight up or double down on him by going down and forcing him to kick it out. When the ball is kicked out, everyone should recover by running out on the shooter.

Good defenses understand that it is a team of 5 and not one player trying to stop them. To practice this drill, make sure that the offense is penetrating without shooting. Have a 5-on-5 situation where the players make hard dribbles to see what the defense does. Make sure that help defense is taking place. For young players teach the principle of defense first so they understand the concept. Practice it over and over. This drill is great.

3. Jump to the Ball

One of the first things taught in team defense is to jump to the ball or jump to the ball side. When a player passes to the wing, the player on the top should jump to the side where the ball was passed. This is done because it will put you in great help defense as well as make it more difficult for you to be picked.

I tell people to watch the the current NBA Player Deron Williams. Deron Williams, Illini alumnus and my favorite NBA player, passes to the wing and tries to set his man up for a pick. Well, it doesn't work anymore because as soon as he passes the ball to the wing, the defender will jump to the ball side and it makes it near impossible to screen him where it is effective. Remember how much you can learn by just watching the game.

Watch how Williams reacts to this as he is extremely smart and talented. To practice this drill simply form a shell offense and when a pass is made make sure the appropriate player is performing it correctly. Don't allow the offense to move at first, just get the fundamental down. Once they get it down and then practice it, the entire drill will become clear.

4. Help and Recover

I love Big Ten basketball and I'm not shy about it. There is something about watching Illinois and Indiana play defense and get after each other. At the time this article was written no team in the Big Ten, except for maybe Michigan St. played as good of help defense as Illinois. They help and recover as well as any team that you will see.

When a player drives you will rarely find a situation where a defender isn't there to help out. The purpose isn't always to stop him, but slow him down long enough where the help is no longer needed. Sometimes doing a bluff by faking help defense is enough.

The team that gives Illinois fits right now is Ohio St. They kill me because Thad Matta loads up on shooters against them. When Illinois helps out the Ohio St. players can all shoot it from deep and they hit them. But would you rather give up a layup or a 22 footer. Most coaches will give up the deep shot any day.

Practice this drill by forming a shell offense on the outside and penetrate the ball. Watch to make sure that the defense is stopping the ball and forcing it back outside. Make sure the players are running hard to the ball when it is passed out. We will talk more about closing out later. I've touched on it in other articles already.

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