Defensive transition occurs when the other team get possession of the ball and move the ball quickly toward their basket without an opportunity for the defence to establish the defensive positions discussed earlier.

There are three other principles for good defensive transition.

Early Preparation – Defence Starts With a Shot

A team must prepare to play defence the moment that they shoot the ball. It may be a mistake for all players to pursue the rebound as that can leave a fast break open.

Accordingly, players should move to one of two positions:

  • • Into the keyway to contest the rebound;
  • • To the top of the key to be ready to defend any fast break.

Coaches may designate specific roles for players or may simply require players to make a judgment of where they should go. This can be best practiced by not having activities stop with a shot being taken, but have it move to the next stage – transition.

The Principle of “Basket” and ”Ball”

Whenever a team loses possession (whether from a turnover, a score or the other team rebound their missed shot) They are now on defence and must first defend the basket.

As is shown in the diagrams below, if the last defender simply runs toward the person that has the ball, this will allow a simple pass over their head to an opponent to score a lay-up.

Accordingly, a player should not commit to guarding the player with the ball, until someone is guarding the basket.

It can be effective though for them to hedge towards the ball, forcing them to think they have committed, and then retreating to the basket to possibly intercept the pass or to defend the lay-up.

By x1 and x2 first moving to a “safety” position when the shot is taken, they are then in a position to move to the basket.

The person guarding the basket (x1) then has the opportunity of seeing the floor and can direct the movement of other players. Because the basket is defended, x2 may move to defend Player 2.

Contest the Outlet Pass

One player who contested the rebound, should “jam” the rebounder, stepping close to them, with arms outstretched. The goal is to slow the pass, rather than steal the ball. The player should resist the temptation to reach for the ball as this often results in a foul being called.

If the basket is guarded, perimeter players may also contest the outlet pass and then place pressure on the ball handler.

1 defender against 2

When faced against two offensive players, the defender should move back to the basket as quickly as possible. From there they must try to put doubt into the minds of the offensive players – are they guarding the dribbler or are they guarding the player without the ball?

To do this the defender must be active – moving their feet into the “driving lane” and then back toward the basket. Having active hands can also help. The offence has the advantage and should score - if the defender can slow them down it gives time for another defender to arrive.

2 defenders against 3

Two defenders should adopt a tandem or “I” formation, the first defender at the inside the 3 point line, the second defender at the basket. This defender must be outside the “no charge” circle.

Their primary goal should be to not allow any lay-up, forcing an outside shot or delaying the offence until more defenders recover.

Generally, as the ball is passed to the wing, the basket defender will move out to guard that player and the top defender will rotate down to guard the basket. The defender moving to the perimeter may initially “hedge”, particularly if they do not believe the player is capable of shooting from that position.

If the basket defender “hedges” or fakes moving to the perimeter, this can give time for the other defender to move to the basket while the defender moves to the perimeter. Alternatively they may continue guarding inside the key. Whilst this can give up an outside shot, that is preferable to giving up a lay-up.

The basket defender “hedging” can also give an opportunity for the top defender to move to defend the ball on the perimeter.