1.1.1 Pack line defence
Whilst the term “pack line defence” is relatively new, the concept of “sagging” defence is certainly not.
However, the “pack line defence” is not designed to be a passive or soft defence. Instead, its effectiveness relies upon:
- The player defending the ball doing so with a high degree of pressure;
- If a player has a “dead ball” (i.e. they have already dribbled and cannot dribble again) all defenders moving into position looking to steal a pass;
- Defenders being able to contain the ball and not get beaten off the dribble;
- Post defenders using a 3⁄4 position on the high side to deny the post player the ball. Post defenders trying to move the post player so that they are not able to establish position in the post. Some coaches will front a low post player when the ball is at the wing, and in this alignment may allow them to have position “on the block”.
The “Pack Line” is simply an area inside the 3 point line (approximately 16 feet / 4.9 metres) from the basket. When defending a player that does not have the ball, the defender must have both feet within the “pack line”, positioned approximately half way between their direct opponent and the player with the ball.
The difference between this sagging position and defence that incorporates “denial” positioning is shown below:
Advantages of Pack Line Defence
Key advantages of utilizing the pack line defence are:
- It prevents dribble penetration as the sagging defenders are in a position to help, making it hard for offensive players to find a “gap” to penetrate. This should also give the on-ball defender confidence to be aggressive, knowing that there is help if they are beaten.
- It provides protection against back door cuts and flash cuts, with sagging defenders being in a position to help.
- An effective pack line defence is likely to cause an opponent to take more shots from the perimeter and those shots should be contested. This can result in the opponent shooting a lower percentage, particularly if the defensive team rebound well and do not allow the opponent to score “second chance” points.
Weaknesses of Pack Line Defence
Relative weaknesses of the Pack Line Defence are:
- When used with young players, on ball defenders may not develop the ability to contain the dribbler, instead relying upon the help that is inherent in the defence.
- The defence requires defenders to constantly “close-out”, which is a difficult defensive skill to master. If it is not done well, the opponent may have opportunities to penetrate creating higher percentage shots.
- An opponent that shoots well from the perimeter may do well against the defence.
- If there is no shot clock, the opponent may be able to run significant time off the clock before shooting.
Having regard to these weaknesses, it is not recommended that young teams use the Pack Line defence. It should not be used until all players are proficient at closing out and containing perimeter dribblers.
Practicing Fundamentals of Pack Line Defence
Two key skills should be practiced regularly to implement the Pack Line Defence:
- Close-out – moving from an off ball defensive position to defending the player with the ball.
- Positioning – adjusting position every time the ball or their opponent moves.
3 Out, 1 In, 1 Defender
3 perimeter players pass the ball, and x4 adjusts position to defend the low post.
When 2 has the ball, x4 either plays 3⁄4 or fully front, depending upon coach preference.
When the ball is at the point position (with 1) x4 must play “on the line, up the line” to deny any pass to 4.