Different Types of Basketball Defenses

Written By: Lamar Hull @ Google+

Playing solid defense is a key component to the success for any basketball team or player.

Teams on the professional, college or high school level simply cannot be CONSISTENT without a solid defensive scheme.

A good coach will be able to determine which approach is best for his or her team.

Before we get in to the different types of defensive sets, it is important to understand the defensive stance.

Here’s a brief description of the basic types of defenses played on all levels (youth, college, NBA, etc.) in basketball.

Man-to-Man Defense

Man-to-Man defense is the most basic type of defense you can play in basketball.

Each defensive player is responsible for guarding their corresponding position. Point guards guard point guards, forwards guard forwards and centers guard centers, typically speaking.

This defense is best executed when a team has a clear advantage in athleticism, size or speed over their opponents.

Knowing how to play man-to-man defense is one of the basics of basketball, and every strong player becomes highly skilled at doing so over time.

Some of the better man-to-man defenders in professional basketball includes Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Tony Allen and LeBron James.

They all utilize quickness, agility and excellent instincts to essentially predict the movements of their defenders, which allows them to react quickly in order to stymie their efforts.

Studying game film on opponents that you will be covering man-to-man is also a highly beneficial endeavor if footage is available. 

This allows you to pick up on their tendencies, so that you can better prepare to guard them. 

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Zone Defense

2 3 zone defenseA zone defense can be a tough nut to crack, especially when played by a team with cohesion, size and a good awareness of each other’s abilities.

Zone defense is almost always played in a 2 – 3, which means the forwards and the center occupy three regions along the baseline while the guards split the front court into two sections and patrol that area.

A zone defense allows teams to swarm ball handlers quickly without the risk that comes with doing so in a man-to-man defense, and it simplifies the game from a mental standpoint.

Players only need to focus on guarding an area instead of guarding a person, and some players have proven to thrive in that format.

Half-Court Press

Teams with speedy players who have good hand eye coordination often like to play pressing defenses, including the half-court press.

This involves a ferocious swarming of the ball once it crosses the half-court line, basically in hopes of creating confusion and ill-advised decisions by the offense that ultimately lead to turnovers and easy points.

Teams very seldom practice against half-court presses, so coaches who flip the switch in the middle of the heat of battle are usually able to get results.

The downside of this swarming, aggressive defense is that it does leave the basket area and the key a bit vulnerable if a few precision passes can be made under the heat of the press.

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Full-Court Press

The full-court press involves the same concepts and principles of a half-court press while extending the action the entire length of the floor.

This means that the ball and dribbler are swarmed the minute the inbound pass is made.

While it gives the defense twice as much room with which to create confusion and a possible turnover, the flip-side of risk is even greater as it leaves the defense even more vulnerable to a long, well-placed pass.

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