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Ever heard of the saying, “Offense wins games, defense wins championships”? This alone speaks volumes on how important the defensive aspect of the game is in the sport of basketball. So, it only makes sense that every team that strives to find success on the court should put a premium on clamping down on the competition. For this reason, training is more than necessary, and this can come in the form of basketball defense drills.

Through engaging in defense drills, a team gets to familiarize with the proper execution of defensive schemes the coaching staff had prepared for the system. It also allows every team member to acclimate one’s self with the physical and mental toll of playing a honest, hard-nosed defense. To get right into it, here are several team drills for that lockdown defense!

Building a Barrier System: Basketball Defense Drills for Team Fortification

A unit that has defensive stalwarts in every position on the court poses a great threat to any team in the competitive field. After all, the opposition will have a hard time converting on baskets and ultimately winning the game. If your team is raring to be a defensive nightmare, these are the drills you all need to focus on.

No more scoring thrust that you could not stop!

Full Court Press Drill

Being able to put pressure on the offensive team in every part of the court while playing on the defensive end is crucial in producing winning results in a game. This means that, when preparing yourself and the team for a match, it is nothing but necessary to develop an effective full court press through this drill.

The full court press exercise, which is one of the most important basketball defense drills, works on a team’s defensive coverage from one end of the floor to another. In detail, this puts into practice various defensive habits needed to pull off a tight-knit press, from picking up an offensive player in transition, executing a defensive scheme in a half court setting, and providing help defense to teammates.

For conducting this drill, here is how it is done:

  • Assemble two five-man teams, one of which will play on offense while the other one will serve as defenders.
  • The goal of the team on offense is, of course, to score points while the team on the defensive end aims to get stops.
  • The drill should start with an inbound play on the baseline, where the offensive team tries to get the ball across the floor and convert a basket. At the same time, the defense stifles the players on offense to prevent a shot. Also, there is a limit of three players on each team allowed at the half court when the inbound pass is made (For the offensive team includes the inbound passer, the receiver, and another player to help out in advancing the ball in the face of three defenders).
  • Once the ball makes it into the other half court, that is the only time all five members of each team gets to initiate the action.
  • There will be a change in possession once a shot has been made. In case of missed shots, should the offensive team secures the rebound, they can still continue to find ways to score. But if the defensive team gets a hand on the ball, the change in possession will occur through checking the ball on the baseline.

In case you want to ignite the competitive fire within the circle, form three groups to engage in the drill. Whichever team produces a point while the ball is in their possession gets to stay on the court, while the team that fails to get defensive stop switches with another squad.

Man in the Hole

Being able to defend any player in a one-on-one situation from one end of the court to another makes you a strong asset for any team. So, it should not come as a surprise that developing defensive habits, physical strength, and mental toughness to keep an intense coverage on defense is a must-have skill in your repertoire. This is where the Man in the Hole comes in handy, one of the most effective man-to-man basketball defense drills and even considered as a staple to many training regimens of seasoned coaches.

The Man in the Hole exercise revolves around the fundamentals of transition defense when keeping tabs on a ball handler who is trying to advance the ball from coast to coast. It enhances your capability to stay in front of your man as it improves your footwork, lateral movement, stop-and-go mechanism, and sprinting wares. More than that, it conditions your physique to withstand the tough grind of man-to-man defense, building up enduring stamina while sharpening your innate athleticism.

To put this into practice, here are the instructions you have to keep in mind:

  • For this drill, there should be one defender and three ball handlers. The three players on the offensive end will have one turn each in advancing the ball from one end of the floor to another. Needless to say, in all three possessions, the defender will have to play hard-nosed defense throughout the run.
  • Have the first ball handler start on the baseline, with the defender ready to face guard as the former aims to beat the latter down the floor.
  • Once the first ball handler makes it to the other baseline, he or she will pass the ball to the second ball handler as the defender shifts the defensive attention towards the next offensive player.
  • Again, once the second ball handler reaches the other end of the court, the ball switches hands as the third ball handler tries to outrun the defender, who is playing hard transition defense for the third and final time.
  • As the defender completes the drill, he or she is now “out of the hole”. Therefore, the next defender steps up to the plate to be the next man up for the drill.

When conducting this basketball defense drill, the operative word is intensity. Always make sure that doing this as intensely as possible is nothing but necessary to receive its full benefits. Before you know it, you will be as the elite of a man-to-man defender on the court as you aspire to be.

Closeout drill

In recent times, the offensive style has shifted towards the three-point game. There are a lot more shot creators from beyond the arc in the sports nowadays, owing to the fact that the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard are successful at leading their respective teams in the NBA. So, as an aspiring premier defender, you would love to have the skillset to at least contest the shots of deadeye marksmen and decrease the accuracy of the long balls. This is where the closeout drill proves to be beneficial to you.

The closeout exercise, which is one of the most impactful basketball defense drills when it comes to preventing open looks for shooters, works on the technique, speed and precision of a defensive player when rushing towards an open shooter.

To get right into it, here is how it is executed in practice:

  • The defensive player should start out the workout underneath the basket while two shooters are positioned at the right and left wing from beyond the arc.
  • The defender then should slide side-to-side on the baseline, tagging the two end points of the baseline with his or her lead foot to work on the lateral movements done on the court when helping out on defense. This should be executed in a low, athletic stance with hands stretched out wide.
  • Without prior notice, one of the two shooters will then initiate a pull-up jumpshot from the three-point line. Once this happens, the defender must rush towards the shooter for a closeout. In this part, it is advised to sprint towards the offensive player two-thirds of the way before reducing the pace and shifing towards a choppy footwork movement over the remaining distance. The purpose of this is to give the defender leverage to change directions in case the shooter opts for a sudden drive or a dribble combination instead of a pull-up. Also, never forget to keep hands raised to easily contest and deflect the shoot, if within reach.
  • Once the closeout ends and the shot is defended, the defensive player should return to the baseline and repeat the side lateral movements before a shooter attempts for a shot yet again.

The technique to pull off the closeout defense is crucial to learn and master containing the spot up shooters in the game. So, the details on the stance, footwork and the hand deflection must be executed to a tee when practicing the drill in order to achieve fludity and muscle memory.

Five-on-Five Whistle Change Drill

In a team sport like basketball, communication on the court is of paramount importance to achieving sporting success, and the lack thereof can cause setback after setback. This rings true even in the defensive aspect of the game. Truth be told, a slight miscommunication among teammates on the defensive end can open up scoring opportunities for the opposing side.

With that said, it is nothing but needed to work on the chemistry of a team on defense. For this exact reason, the five-on-five whistle change drill proves to be beneficial. This exercise focuses on making adjustments on the defensive assignments of every player in a team when a screen-and-switch action occurs. It also comes in handy in situations where the defense has yet to set in transition and there is a need to cover an offensive player that you were not assigned to guard.

To engage in this drill in practice, here are the instructions on how it is run:

  • Assemble two teams of five members, one side serves as the offensive squad while the other one plays the defensive role. Also, designate a person to call a whistle throughout the exercise.
  • Have them match up in a half court setting, and conduct a ball game that should be as intense as an official match to serve as a solid game simulation.
  • In the thick of the live game, when a whistle is blown, the game will be put in a quick halt as the offensive team places the ball down on the ground.
  • From that point, one player from the defensive team will pick the ball up and their team will be the one running the offense. Take note: the one who was defending the ball handler who set the ball down should not be the one who takes the ball in possession. It should be the other members.
  • At the same time, the team that was on the offensive end will have to switch to the defensive side as quickly as possible. The important rule on this one is that they cannot guard the player that was checking them in the previous possession. This is where the importance of communication comes into full effect.

Billed as one of the most effective, chemistry-building basketball defense drills out there, this exercise will put the ability to communicate each member in a team to the test. Constant heads up messages and active listening will be the name of the game, allowing the team members to develop the needed communication tools to thrive on the court.

Penetration Prevention Drill

Is your team having a hard time clamping down on offensive attacks that revolved around interior penetration and point blank shots? If that is the case, then the penetration prevention drill is the solution to your concerns.

This exercise is the best exercise among the basketball defense drills when it comes to preventing slashing dribble drives, crisp interior passes, and easy baskets in the shaded area. The reason for this is because it is a competitive and engaging training activity that builds the defensive toughness of the players and develops habits that translate well in game situations.

An activity that needs to find its way to your team’s training regimen, this drill is simple yet effective. And here are the instructions on how it is pulled off:

  • Divide the team in two groups of four members. One squad will take the offensive side while the other will partake in the drill on the defensive end.
  • Ask the assistance of a coach or anyone that can facilitate the drill.
  • Have the two competing teams engage in a half court, four versus four match. However, scoring a basket is not the basis of racking up points and winning the game. A point will only be given everytime a penetration in the shaded area occurs. In other words, never let the team on offense get inside the shaded area. Be it a dribble drive or an interior pass down low, once a player reaches the paint, a point will be handed out.
  • Much like a normal half court game, change of possession will take place once a point is scored, or when the offensive team commits a turnover.
  • The drill will end once a team collects a total of three points. The reason behind the low score objective is to amplify the intensity and competitiveness among the participating players.
  • To further amp up the development the defensive habits of the hoopers, hand out a point everytime the defenders commit a foul. This keeps their defensive mentality honest and prevents them from developing tendencies to commit ill-advised fouls.

4-on-5 Overload Drill

The last one in this list of basketball defense drills is the 4-on-5 overload drill. It is a training exercise that works on a team’s ability to put pressure on the offense despite being outnumbered. Scrambling on the defensive end is a constant occurrence in real games, which often happen in transition. So, it goes without saying that learning and practicing how to handle such situations can improve the coverage prowess of a unit.

Here are its instructions:

  • Assemble a five-man team for offense and a four-man squad on defense.
  • Place the ball at the hands of the offensive player at one of the wings, and have it passed around from one person to another for the defenders to cover.
  • As the defenders scramble in a help-and-recover situation, the offensive team will have to do their job and find ways to score. Dribbling is allowed in order to establish a game simulation. This will help the defenders adapt while having a number disadvantage.

Execution is Key

The basketball defense drills on this list are effective at building and polishing the defensive chops of any team. Still, make it a point to put a premium on the right execution. In the process, the full benefits of the exercises will be maximized. In turn, the growth and development will surely come your team’s way. So, stay hard at work and become the best defensive stalwart that you can be!


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