The following techniques and strategies can be taught and employed regardless of what style of man-to-man defense you play. Whether you play a packline, full denial, or sagging man-to-man defense, these basic fundamentals should be ingrained in your players. As you (and they) begin to understand better how to play effective man-to-man defense, you can certainly make some nuanced changes depending on your opponent and overall philosophy.
The basics … here we go…
- When guarding on-the-ball, play the ball hard no more than one arms length away. Mirror the basketball the your hands (more specifically, your palms). When the offensive player picks up the dribble, call ‘DEAD’ so your teammates will know they can now fully deny their offensive the basketball.
- A defensive player that is one pass away shall be one step off of the passing lane (allow for a hand to be in the passing lane to deter a potential pass or possibly steal a pass). Being one step off the passing lane allows you to protect against the backdoor cut. A final point to remember is that when your man is closer to the basketball, you should be closer to your man.
- If you are two or more passes away from the basketball, you should be in good help defensive position.
- When the ball is above the free throw line extended, the help defenders should have one foot in the lane, forming a ‘ball-you-man’ flat triangle.
- When the ball is below the free throw line extended, the help defenders should be one step over on the ball side of the basket at the level of the ball. The same flat triangle (ball-you-man) should be formed.
- When defending in the low post, you will be in either a help position or a fronting position. An offensive post player in the mid to high post area will be guarded using a ¾ deny.
- When the ball is above the free throw line extended, the defender should be showing to the ball (make sure the offensive passer can see you). The closer your man is to the basket, the closer you need to be to the offensive post player.
- When the ball is below the free throw line extended, play up and over in the low post or even in a dead front position.
- Be more concerned with the ball than the man. The ball must be stopped first, even if that means leaving your man. Also remember that a hand will not stop the ball or man; therefore, get your feet and body in position to take the charge from the help position.
- The basketball should be kept on one side of the floor. This means we do not want to allow the ball to be reversed. Force the ball down the sideline, showing the offensive player the baseline but not the block.
- Body contact must be kept in the low post when playing up and over. Use your body to ‘see’ man and ball. Fronting the post allows for defensive help on ball side and to draw charging fouls, especially on baseline penetration. Contact with the low post player and good helpside defense keeps the lob pass out of the post players hands. (The lob pass is also deterred by good on-ball defense).
- Anytime the ball enters the post, the perimeter defenders on ball side drop to the post and reach up for the basketball that is in the offensive post players possession (do not swat ‘down’ for the ball as that is often called a foul). The perimeter defenders are trying to force the pass back out to the perimeter for a lower percentage shot.
- Whenever the dribbler picks up the basketball, all help defenders should recover back to their offensive player. The primary goal to remember is stopping penetration by any dribbler. Once that particular dribbler is no longer a threat to score, we want to make it difficult to pass.
- If your man is setting a screen, it is your job to help during the screening situation. If your man is receiving the screen, it is your job to fight through on the ball side of the screen. On ball screens, the help defender jumps in the path of the dribbler to make him change directions or to go out wide to allow your teammate to recover.
- Every deflection should be intercepted if everybody is in proper defensive position.
- When guarding the jump shooter, do not leave the floor until exploding to the rebound. Extend your arms above your head to contest the jump shot. We want to contest every jump shot, not attempt to block them. Do not leave your feet, but try to take the shooter out of rhythm by keep good vertical position.
- If you can play good man-to-man defense, you can play good zone defense. The principles are the same.
Did we miss any of the basics? Share in the comment section below!