Back to all

Basketball defense drills - how to develop lockdown defense

Apr 22, 2021
8 mins read
Basketball defense drills - how to develop lockdown defense
Basketball defense drills - how to develop lockdown defense

One of the biggest misconceptions in basketball history is that offense is vital than defense. But what's coming up in most debates today is that offense and defense are in every bit equally important.

Offense increases your team's shot attempts and overall shooting percentage per session. However, to achieve this, your players need a good defensive strategy to minimize their opponent's ball possession and shooting percentage.

Teams that defend well not only take pride in stopping opposing offenses, but they do so without fouling. And contrary to what most people think, effective defense isn't all about being fast and quick. It's more of keenness and awareness of what's going on around the ball. With this in mind, let's get to the 6 best basketball defense drills that develop this approach.

Get your BlazePod®


Types of Defense in Basketball

Before diving into the drills, here is a refresher on the common defensive strategies that your team can implement on the court;

Man-to-man Defense

Also known as person-to-person, this is a basic defense type in basketball where each player guards the opposing team's corresponding position. The best man-to-man defense skills train your players to utilize their instincts, quickness, and agility to predict and react to their opposing offensive players' movements. Man-to-man defense can further be broken down into 3 sub-types: straight person-to-person, switching person-to-person, and sagging person-to-person.

Zone Defense

In this defensive strategy, the players are assigned specific areas to guard on the court. When planned with respect to each player's abilities, these zones can be incredibly tough for the opposing offenders to crack. Zone basketball defense can take different arrangements. The most common is the 2-3 zone, where two players patrol the top of the paint while the other three guard the baseline. Other variations of this defense structure include 2-1-2, 1-2-2, 3-2, 1-3-1, and match-up zones.

Combination Defense

These are hybrid strategies that combine two defense techniquesin a basketball game. Some of the players put up a man-to-man defense, and the rest are assigned zone defense. Combination defense isn't the go-to defense scheme for most coaches. But it's necessary, for instance, when there's a need to add more pressure to individual offensive players, when you want to force turnovers, and when the team needs to change momentum. We recommend these basketball defense plays only if your players are experienced at person-to-person maneuvers and can retreat quickly enough if and when necessary.

6 Basketball Defense Plays

1. One on One Defensive Basketball Drills

These are multipurpose basketball closeout drills that you can use to develop both offense and defense. When added to your basketball workouts & drills, they provide a fun way for your team to work on their agility, rebounding, defense, finishing, ball-handling, and toughness, all from one activity.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Start by splitting the court into two halves lengthwise from one rim to the other.
  2. Divide your players into two groups of 5 players max. Assign each of the players in both groups a number (1-5).
  3. Each group stays on their designated side of the court till they cross the three-point line.
  4. At the coach's call, one team moves full court with the ball trying to score. Each player guards against the corresponding opposing player. For instance, player 3 from one group guards player 3x of the other group.
  5. Put a coach (extra player) under each basket and keep track of each team's points in line with the scoring system below;
  • Basket 1 point
  • Defensive stop 1 point
  • Turnover -1 point
  • Not boxing out -1 point
  • Fouling -1 point
6.The drill continues for 10-25 minutes before determining the winning team.

To make these close-out defense drills a success, motivate your players to perform at a high level. Also, alternate the players frequently so that no player guards the same player twice in a row.

2. 4 on 3 Overload Drill

The 4-3 is an advanced defensive basketball drill that's meant to toughen your players. In this drill, you have 3 defenders trying to stop 4 offenders. By playing with one less player, the defending team is forced to utilize their scrambling, communication, and rotating skills to the maximum to have an edge. Thus, this is a great workout to practice alongside your basketball shooting drills if your players need to learn how to talk and help each other during the game.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. To set up, have 4 offensive players along the arc and 3 defensive players in the paint. The coach stands near the basketball goal.
  2. The coach starts the drill by passing the ball to any of the offensive players along the perimeter.
  3. The defenders have to sprint immediately and match up with an opposing player.
  4. The offense team tries to score. The defenders have to make quick decisions for on-ball and help defense.
  5. The coach determines how long the drill lasts per session.

The nature of this drill makes it great for both person-to-person and zone defense. It makes a normal 5 on 5 defense setup look easier by forcing the defenders to work harder during practice.

3. 10-Second No Paint Closeouts Defensive Drill

Most coaches consider the no-paint drill as one of the best workouts when training basketball players on defensive closeouts, guarding the ball, and catching drives. Also, these are good basketball defensive positioning drills for keeping the ball off the lane.

As the name suggests, this drill's objective is to prevent the ball from entering the paint for 10 seconds. It fine-tunes your players' closeout performance by training their footwork, balance, and coordination.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Have 4 offensive players line up along the arc line and 4 others inside the paint as defenders.
  2. The drill starts when the coach passes the ball to the offensive team.
  3. The 10 seconds begin as soon as the offense dribbles. If they shoot after, let's say, 4 seconds and miss the shot and the defenders rebound, the timer stops, and the offense will have 6 seconds remaining for their next possession.
  4. If the offense scores before the 10 seconds are over, the defense goes another round and has to continue defending until they successfully keep the ball off the paint for 10 seconds straight.

You can make changes to the rules, timing, and techniques you deem necessary for your team's needs. For instance, if you notice excessive defense fouls, you may impose a 2-second penalty so that the next round lasts 2 seconds longer.

4. 5 on 4 to 5 on 5 Transition Drill

This workout is an excellent recommendation to add to your team's basketball transition defense drills list. You'll appreciate this drill a lot, especially if your defensive approach involves driving the ball handler out of the middle of the floor. This defensive technique involves forcing the ball handler to head towards the baseline midway between the arc and the lane line.

This is one of the best basketball defensive positioning drills because it works on your players' scrambling and communication skills.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Divide your team into two groups of 5 players each; one group plays defense while the second plays offense.
  2. Let the offense team stand outside of the three-point line. The defense should stand inside the three-point line, each player guarding the corresponding offensive player.
  3. To start, the coach passes the ball to one of the offensive players. The offense passes the ball until it gets to the player closest to the end line. The defender guarding that offensive player is beat baseline on purpose.
  4. At this point, help should come from the bottom help side to prevent penetration outside the lane as the other defenders rotate into position.
  5. If the offense player successfully penetrates and scores a lay-up, the entire team should give you 10 pushups at the end of the practice session.
  6. On the pass, the defenders scramble back to their positions.

This is a great activity if you want to take your basketball youth shell defense drill to the next level. If your team is struggling on defense, this drill will train them on the fundamentals required to play at a competitive level, including interrupting passing lanes, protecting the paint, and helping on defense.

5. Five on Five Whistle Change

Next up is another drill that you should consider for your switching man-to-man defense basketball techniques. This drill trains your defenders to scramble and guard a different player in situations that force them to do so. One of the main points of emphasis for this activity is communication. It forces them to keep talking and make split-second decisions on their feet. Of course, this drill creates a slightly more difficult situation than your players may experience on the court, but that's the point. If they can perfect it in a drill, they are going to have a competitive edge in the game.

This drill also stresses the need for help defense to remain alert. The goal is to remain alert always and stop the ball or force the offense to make a difficult shot.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Have your team split into 2 groups of five players each; defense and offense.
  2. The offense lines up along the 3-point line with the corresponding defenders on the inside of the arc.
  3. The ball starts with one of the offensive players.
  4. At the whistle, the offensive player with the ball sets it down on the floor.
  5. Next, a defender other than the one who was guarding the ball must pick up the ball.
  6. When the defender picks up the ball, the defensive team now becomes the offense.
  7. The new defenders (the team that set the ball down originally) scrambles to guard someone. However, they have to guard someone other than the one who was guarding them.

During the youth basketball defense plays,the coach should emphasize key defense fundamentals. Ensure that the players are always in the correct position and encourage proper closeouts.

6. Mass Sliding Defense Drill

Mass sliding is a staple in most professional coaches ' drill books. This activity involves many repetitions, making it perfect for your junior players to practice a variety of the techniques they have learned so far. When mixed with other basketball dribbling drills, or passing, and shooting drills, this activity also offers a perfect opportunity to draw your senior players to an issue that needs to be addressed in their gameplay.

Get your BlazePod®


Set-Up and Execution

  1. Let the players spread out in the court with enough space between them. They may utilize half or full court depending on the number of players in the practice session.
  2. The coach stands with the ball in front of the players. All the players need to have a good viewpoint of the coach.
  3. Before beginning the drill, the coach starts by explaining the verbal and visual cues that will be used in the drill. For instance;
    • When the coach dribbles, the players should slide with the ball and call "ball."
    • When you dribble and pick up the ball, the players may close out and mimic the movement of the ball and then shout "dead.
  1. To start, the coach slaps the ball signaling the players to start pitter-pattering as they wait for the next instruction.
  2. The coach decides on which defensive movements to include in the activity. Here are a few suggestions; sprint, back-pedal, rebound, closeout, drop step slides, charge, lateral slides (east and west).

Blazepod is revolutionizing the way athletics train by focusing on their reflex and reaction timing. These are fundamental skills that your team needs to possess to remain competitive. Blazepod is a series of smash-proof and weatherproof Bluetooth-enabled pods that are powered by the Blazepod App. The system comes preloaded with workout exercises, but you can also add customized activities for the best results.