Based on the Scout

Once a team has a good understanding of fundamental skills (both team and individual), it may be possible to alter your game plan in response to how you expect an opponent to play.

Sometimes, you may have prepared more than one way of playing (e.g. practising both full court and half court defences) and you simply choose which style of play to emphasise for a particular opponent.

Other times, you may want to devise a particular system for playing against an opponent. In doing this you must:

  1. be clear about the circumstance when the “new” system will be used;
  2. give the team ample opportunity to practice the “new” system in contested situations – “walk through” can be valuable but a team (particularly a junior team) is unlikely to be able to execute it under game pressure unless they have practiced it in “game-like” conditions;
  3. focus on what you want your team to do and don’t dwell on what the opponent is doing. A common mistake is to spend too much time describing what the opponent is doing and not enough time on what your team is going to do.

An example of this approach is to look at defensive rotations on dribble penetration and, in particular, at the rotation when the dribble has been stopped and is then passed.

When 1 beats their player off the dribble, x4 rotates across to stop any penetration into the key.

Initially we teach how x3 made a “secondary” rotation, and now assumes responsibility for guarding 4. Whilst. x2 also rotates into the key, having responsibility for both 3 and 2.

These responsibilities are shown here – with x2 and x1 potentially guarding either 3 or 2, depending upon where a pass is made.

If the ball is passed to 3, x2 takes the ball and x1 moves to 2.

Similarly, if the ball is passed to 2, x2 defends them and x1 rotates to defend 3. x3 continues to defend 3.

One problem with the traditional rotation is that x1 does not have good vision of the perimeter offensive players – effectively facing the baseline.

x3 has good vision of all perimeter players as they have their back to the baseline.

Commonly, offensive teams will quickly pass the ball on the perimeter, with the team looking to get an open outside shot. This “second pass” can be very effective to get a shot, particularly if x1 has responsibility for moving to 3.

Rotation against perimeter shooting team

An alternative rotation (when the ball is passed to 2), which provides better coverage of shooters is if x3 moves to 3 and x1 moves across to 4.

This will defend a shot and a quick pass to 3 more effectively than if x1 moved to defend 3.

Importantly, x1 still has a good angle to stop any penetration by 4 if they receive the ball.

Another issue that can arise for x1 is that they have poor position to defend dribble penetration by 3 if they move as soon as they receive the pass.

x3 is in a better position to stop this penetration, as they are in the “driving lane” between 3 and the basket.

When the ball is passed from the double team to 3, x3 can move to player 2, x2 moves to defend Player 3 with x1 moving to guard 4.

This rotation assumes that 2 is a greater threat from the perimeter than 4. If 4 was the greater threat, x3 could rotate to defend them and x1 would rotate to defend 2.

Another rotation that can be considered is that x2 is responsible for whoever gets the ball between 4, 3 and 2 (as they are closer than either x3 or x1 is to them).

x3 rotates to the next “threat” and x1 rotates to the remaining player. Communication is critical to this working, and x3 must be decisive and communicate early which player they will defend.

The risk in having x3 rotate away from the basket (rather than defend Player 4), is that 4 may move to the basket and get there before x1 can get into a position to stop them. If an offensive team is likely to do that, then the initial rotation should be used.

A team may also have one outstanding shooter, in which case the coach may designate who rotates to them (either x2 or x3).

When designing and implementing a defensive scheme, the most important factors to consider are:

  1. players need to know what system they are using in any given situation;
  2. if defenders communicate effectively with each other, then almost any rotation can succeed;
  3. players need time to practice the scheme before expecting they do it in a game.