Defensive Basketball Drills – Make your Team a Defensive Powerhouse

Good defensive basketball drills are integral to your team’s success. The ability to shoot, to pass, to dribble are all important when you have the ball…but you need the ball first! Defense is probably the most important, under-appreciated aspect of the game of basketball, at least by player standards. And thus the part of a player’s skill set that he practices the least. But any basketball coach will tell you, there’s always a jersey to be found for a good defensive player.

Defensive Basketball Drills

And yet it is so often so difficult to get our players to sign on to that idea! Let’s face it, playing good defense rarely gets your name in the newspaper. They don’t show great defensive plays on the NBA highlight reels very often, unless you want to count the occasional blocked shot (but if the defender had done his job to begin with, his man wouldn’t have been able to get the ball to shoot it!). In short, defense doesn’t get the glory. But without it, there will be no glory to be had.

The emphasis in most of the defense drills that follow is not on building a game-like situation as much as it is on performing the skills with the best form and proper concentration – basic fundamentals. Proper form should be enforced throughout, so that the movements eventually become ingrained.

Defensive Basketball Drills
Fundamentals First

When you are teaching defense, you need to run drills that cover the different aspects of the defensive part of the game. Start with a focus on fundamental defensive movements, teaching proper stance and movement and then reinforcing this by using basic defensive drills. Then develop them further using drills such as the Slide and Sprint, Slide Across the Key, and Charging the Ball. These drills teach the very basics – how to move on defense quickly, how to approach an opponent with the ball. If a player can’t move quickly and in control, he can’t play effective defense. Anticipation is another drill that develops basic defensive skills such as agility, reaction time and balance.

Defensive Basketball Drills
1-on-1 Drills

Many defensive basketball drills focus on one-on-one situations, such as the Full Court 1-on-1 and Deny Across the Key drills. Another drill – the Quick Reaction drill – has a major focus on helping out on defense, but also includes practice in one-on-one defense at the low post and at the top of the key.

Regardless of the style of defense the team plays – i.e., man to man, zone, or a combination of the two – the basis of any defense is found in man-to-man basketball, and these drills develop the skills to do this effectively.

Defensive Basketball Drills
Team Play

Having said that, while every player needs to be able to play individual defense, basketball is not an individual game. It is a team game, and so players need to understand how their individual defensive work fits into the team concept.

Drills like Check Rotation and Deny and Help incorporate more of a full-game situation that helps players not only develop their individual defensive skills, but also helps them to see how they can contribute to overall team defense; and drills like the 5 on 4 Defensive Shell Drill and the 3-on-2 Reaction Drill train players to work together on defense.

Special situations need to be taught on top of this. If you intend to utilize a full court or half court press, you need to teach players how to execute a good double team, which the Three in the Corner Double Team Drill focuses on.

And on a larger scale, players need to realize how important it is to transition quickly from offense to defense – the quicker this transition, the better their chances of stopping their opponents. Use the Quick Transition Drill to improve this essential strategy.

Remember to keep players focused on performing the basic skill as best they can – i.e., they should always use proper form and movement every time they run these defensive basketball drills. The better their form is in practice, the better it will transfer to the game.

And do your best to get them pumped up about playing defense – you hate to watch a player dogging it on defense and letting the team down. Perhaps instill a defensive player of the game award to present after each game to recognize a player that played exceptionally well.