Foundations of Team Defense in Basketball

Foundations of Team Defense in Basketball

The article was written by Emory and Henry College Men’s Basketball Coach Ben Thompson.


In basketball coaching, we hear the term “foundation” a lot. We know what foundation means, but it is often just a word, not something we embrace. Webster’s defines a foundation as the basis or groundwork that anything stands on or is supported by.

In religion, we hear about pillars, cornerstones, and tenants. These are all building blocks of what people believe. My question for you is, what do you believe, and what is your defensive foundation?

For this defensive basketball coaching article, I will give you my personal beliefs about building your team basketball defense. Many of you may feel the same way, or you may have your own thoughts.

We all know that different words have different meanings. However, numbers do as well. For instance, the number seven means perfection or completion. In my mind, a perfect or a complete team defense in basketball has seven elements.


  1. Communication
  2. Stance
  3. Ball Pressure/Fronting in the Post
  4. Help & Helping in a Stance
  5. Protect the Paint
  6. Closeout and Contest
  7. Block Out


Defensive Communication

These elements are in a specific order. I believe that everything starts with communication. You can do everything right on the defensive end of the floor, but if you do not communicate, there is very little chance of success.



Defensive Stance

Proper stances and stance work are lost in today’s game. We often see players standing straight up or not being in a proper stance to play the game. Basketball is played low to high; low man always has the advantage.

Suggested Basketball Drills: 4 Cones Defensive Basketball DrillCone Drop Defensive Slide Basketball Drill



Ball Pressure

Ball Pressure is key. I’ve worked for several coaches, but one had a quote that stated, “the ball can’t make a pass, and it can’t see.” He is right. If you are pressuring the ball/tracing, an offensive player becomes uncomfortable and may even turn their back to the play. When this occurs, the offense stymies. Ball Pressure is also a big key to defending the post. If you have ball pressure, good backside help, and a post player that works to front, you can defend the post more effectively.



Help Defense in Basketball

We all talk about help defense, but helping in a stance gives you a greater chance of success. If you are low and ready, you can help cut off the attacking offensive player and recover to your man.

Suggested Basketball Drills: 1 on 1 Help Side Wing Closeout Basketball Drill



Protecting the Paint

Protecting the paint is crucial to basketball team defense. It is the “NO FLY ZONE.” Protecting the paint has to be a focal point of your defense. Once the ball gets to the paint, breakdowns occur easier, and your defense is in scramble mode.



Closeout and Contest

Too many players fly at the ball on closeouts. To be a really good defensive team, your players have to buy-in to closing out with a hand above the ball and being on balance.



Block Out

Finish the possession. There are several ways to teach blocking out; many are effective. However, rebounding the basketball is an effort part of the game. If your team is more determined to block out than the offense is to crashing the boards, you win the battle. Every rebound is a 50/50 ball. Usually, the ones who want it the most are the ones who get it.



Foundations of Team Defense in Basketball

These are my seven foundations of team basketball defense and what I believe make a complete and perfect defense. The strategy will change on how you guard different actions and the amount of pressure you apply, but with these seven principles, you can set your team up to be a great defense.

Along with focusing on these seven defensive basketball principles, make sure you take advantage of the listed basketball drills in this article. They will help you rep out these different keys and allow your team to work on these different defensive areas.


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