There are many different situations where a defensive team may use a “double team” (where two defenders will defend the player with the ball) . Generally situations fall into three categories:

  • Double team a player as they catch the ball;
  • Double team a moving dribbler;
  • Double team the dribbler in a ball screen.

Teams will commonly double team a low post player as they receive a pass.

In both zone and man-to-man defences, teams often double team players when they receive the ball in the corner.

When applying full court pressure, teams may double team as the ball is passed into the court. Here, x1 forces 1 toward the sideline and then moves from beside them to behind them. This movement is important as it allows a space for x4 to move across and set the double team.

A double team can also be used to help a defender that has been beaten, with x4 moving from the split line to stop 3 from penetrating in the key. Although beaten, x3 runs beside 3 to form a double team.

When defending full court the dribbler may be forced toward a sideline by x1 and then “turned” (made to change direction). A second defender (x3) may move from the split line to “trap” or double team the dribbler as they attempt to change direction.

This is most effective when the dribbler uses a “reverse spin” dribble, momentarily losing sight of the help defender.

Another technique utilised in full court defence is to the “channel” the dribbler along a sideline and for a help defender (x4) to move up the court to double team them.

Again, the double team might be effective if the dribbler is looking down and does not see x4.

x4 must move quickly to set the double team. Teams will often “trap” (or double team) near the half way line, as this places additional pressure on the dribbler (as they cannot move back).

Many teams opt to double team a dribbler as they use a ball screen which can negate their ability to shoot, penetrate or pass.

The most important thing when setting a double team is for the two defenders to move decisively and in unison. A double team against a player receiving a pass is most effective when it is set as they catch the ball, which requires the defenders to move into position as the ball is in the air. This prevents the offensive player from taking “evasive” action (e.g. passing, dribbling or shooting).

Similarly, when setting a double team against a dribbler, the defender must move quickly to get to position, otherwise the dribbler can change direction or pass the ball.

One of the most effective passes that an offensive player can make when they see that a double team is coming, is to pass to their team that was being defended by the defender now moving to double team.

Double teams are often most effective when set near the sideline, baseline or half-way line as this can act as another defender restricting where the player with the ball can move. The two defenders should stand close enough to each other so that the offensive player cannot step through any gap.

The defenders should also keep their hands high and active, but not reaching for the ball. If they reach for the ball it will often result in a foul being called on the defender. The purpose of a double team is to apply pressure on the defence and possibly create a turnover through the offensive player:

  • committing a 5 or 8 second violation;
  • throwing a pass that is intercepted (by one of the other defenders, not the defenders in the double team);
  • stepping out of bounds or committing a backcourt violation (if the double team is near half way).

If the offensive player does dribble away from the double team it is important that both defenders move because if only one defender moves it can create a gap that the offensive player can move through.

Similarly, the defenders setting a double team must ensure that they remain close to each other, so that the offensive player cannot “split” them or step between them

Whenever a team double teams it leaves one offensive player undefended or a situation where a defender is responsible for defending two offensive players.

The coach must ensure that the players clearly understand the rotations required.