1 Defensive Keys:
- get back to the level of the ball, fast
- pressure and force the ball
- don't allow passes
- stop moves to the basket
- help and recover
- stop ball reversal to the other side
- force the ball outside (sideline, baseline)
- move when the ball moves
- see the ball and your check
- sag to help if the ball enters the post
- contest all shots (close out, hand up)
- box out (no second shots)
On-ball defender X1 pressures and contains the ball handler, trying to make her put the ball on the floor then pick it up again for a "used dribble", or forcing the dribble towards one sideline or the other.
To overplay the ball, X1's head is on the ball handler's top shoulder, and her stance is open (heel-toe) towards the sideline, bent-knee "nose to chest", and at arm's length.
Most of her weight is on the top foot, allowing her to push off to slide towards the sideline, or to push off and drop step if the ball handler goes to the middle. X1 yells "Ball" to help communicate the defense.
All defenders must see the ball, and every pass is contested. A defender whose check is one pass away from the ball plays "on the line" between her check and the ball in a closed, deny stance with one arm in the passing lane, and "up the line" one-third of the distance.
A ball side post player is considered one pass away and is closely guarded (here by X4).
A defender whose check is more than one pass away should be well off her, clogging the middle of the floor in an open stance, and "below the line" towards the basket in a flat triangle position. She is a "sight" (help) defender. Here the ball is above the foul-line so sight defender X5 has one foot in the lane, or even has one foot on the ball side of the court. Deny and sight defenders yell "Deny" and "Sight" to help communicate the defense.
If the attacking ball handler is dangerous on the dribble, defenders who are one pass away can sag to a "gap" position below the line to help stop dribble penetration, rather than deny a pass on the line.
Here X2 and X3 are in gap positions. Gap defending can also be used to help prevent a pass into the low post (here by X2).
Another coaching option is to deny passes only out to a certain distance, e.g., one step past the 3-point line, then gap to help defend the ball beyond that.
If an attacker makes a backdoor cut to the basket, her defender slides down with her in the deny position.
If necessary the defender turns her head away from the ball and extends the other arm, reversing the deny position. If her check moves through the lane to the weak side, the defender stops and opens up into a sight position.
On a pass from O1 to O2, defenders jump to the ball while it is in the air (one step towards the basket and one step towards the ball on each pass away from the defender).
X2 closes out on O2, going from deny to on-ball defender.
X1 and X4 become deny defenders one pass away from the ball, and X3 goes from deny to sight defender.
X5 remains the weak side helper, sinking towards the basket to maintain a flat ball-you-check triangle position.
If a ball handler runs a give and go, her defender jumps to the ball and maintains a ball-you-check position, and then slides to deny a return pass on the basket cut.
Here are the positions after O1 passes to O2 and does not basket cut.
On-ball defender X2 overplays ball handler O2 towards the sideline then towards a baseline cut-off point 2 to 3 yards outside the edge of the lane.
Sight defenders X5 and X3 are in a "help side (letter) I" position, and the offense is now basically playing 3 on 5.
A sight defender must defend against a cut to the ball from the weak side by moving towards the ball and establishing a deny position.
She can also force the cutter to change direction by beating her to a spot on the floor.
Because of ball pressure, the on-ball defender will at times get beat on the dribble.
Here when X2 gets beat, X1 sags to take away penetration.
When O2 kicks the ball out to O1, X3 bluffs at O1 to give helper X1 time to recover to her check.
This is an example of helping the helper.
If X2 gets beat on the dribble and X1 can't get there in time to stop the penetration, weak-side helper X5 yells "Help" to signal help rotation and comes across the lane to stop the dribbler.
X3 rotates down to pick up X5's check, and X1 moves towards the foul line (a dangerous scoring area). If the help defender in the lane must cross the lane to help stop ball side drives, the weak side wing moves down to help the helper.
If O2 shoots, X5 boxes her out, X3 takes O5, and X1 takes the nearest guard.
If O2 passes to O4 in the corner, the ball is below the foul line, so sight defenders X5 and X3 at least have two feet in the lane or are straddling the centre line.
X2 has jumped to a deny position, and X1 sags off to help defend the ball because her check is further away from the basket than the ball.
Defenders do not play any higher than the level of the ball unless their check is in scoring position, or the ball handler has picked up her dribble and all defenders then overplay passes to their checks.
If O4 is able to drive the baseline past X4, X4 yells "Help" to signal that she needs help defending. Weak side helper X5 comes across to stop the dribble outside the lane and also yells "Help", to signal the help rotation. X3 rotates down to pick up X5's check, and X1 moves toward the foul line.
If O4 shoots, X5 boxes her out, X3 takes O5 and X1 takes the nearest guard.
Weak side defenders should not rotate to help if the on-ball defender has contained the dribble, since an attacker will be exposed.
Here are the positions after help rotation.
X1, X3 and X5 create a defensive "triangle"
If O4 dribbles on the high side past X4, X2 sags off her check to stop the dribble penetration, then recovers to her check.
If X2 is unable to stop the dribbler, weak side helper X5 comes across the lane and yells "Help", X3 rotates down to help the helper, and X1 rotates towards the foul line.
If the opposition plays with a high post, the defender denies beside the post on the side of the ball.
If the ball is reversed to the other side, defender X5 goes behind O5 to deny from the other side.
The defender of a high post does not get involved in help rotation.
Here O4 drives the baseline, weak side helper X3 yells "Help" and comes across to stop the dribble penetration, X1 rotates down to help the helper, and X2 moves towards the foul line.
X5 continues to guard the high post.
To guard a player in the low post, the defender plays beside her in a deny position. She plays on the topside if the ball is in the foul line area, and moves in front of the post (open to the ball) to the bottom side if the ball goes to the corner. Her inside foot is toe-to-toe with or behind the attacker's foot so that the defender can reverse pivot for a rebound.
X1 could sag to the level of the ball because her check is further away from the basket. However, she also does not want the attackers to reverse the ball to other side with a pass to O1.
On a drive by O4, low-post defender X5 rotates to pick up the dribbler, weak side helper X3 rotates to cover the low post, X1 rotates down to cover for X3, and X2 moves towards the foul line area.
The post position is dangerous, so it is important to prevent passes into it.
If the attackers make a lob pass to the low post over her defender, the weak side helper yells "Help" to signal help rotation and comes across the lane to double team the low post, X1 rotates down, and X2 rotates to the foul line.
The weak side helper could also come across to double team the low post on a chest or bounce pass from the wing. More usually, the wing defender would instead sag to double team the post, forcing a pass back out (there should never be more than two trappers).
However, if the post is not much of a scoring threat, or to defend the 3-point shot, the wing and other off-ball defenders could deny a kick-out pass from the post.