Full Court Trapping

The key to a successful full court “trap” is that players act decisively and aggressively. They are unlikely to make the right decision all the time, but if they communicate well and move with purpose they are likely to be successful.

A full court “trap” is often used to change the tempo of the game, which it can do in two ways. First, if they are successful in causing the offence to commit turnovers, the defensive team will create a lot of fast break situations.

Secondly, it can also increase the tempo of the game by forcing the offence to take longer to get into their “half court” offence, then having to rush their shot.

This “stealing time” can often be as valuable as stealing the ball itself, as it may cause the offence to rush their shots or to make poor shot decisions.

(English) Many teams will beat full court “man to man” defence, by either:

  • Having four players move into the front court, leaving a 1x1 contest in the back court as there is no “help” defender in position to double team, or “jump” (switch);
  • Having a player other than the point guard bring the ball up – often a forward whose defender will be less proficient in defending in the full court.

(English) A “trapping”, or zone defence, can counter both of these strategies as players defend assigned areas, based upon the position of the ball, not individual offensive players.

Accordingly, even if four offensive players moved into the front court, there would still be 2 or 3 defenders in the back court. Similarly, even if a forward was used to dribble the ball, there would be defensive guards in the back court.

There are a number of alignments that can be used for full court “traps” (or zone presses).

The principles of each are essentially the same, although the alignments differ. Once players understand and are able to implement those principles in one alignment, they can relatively quickly adapt to a different alignment.


“2 – 2 – 1 Trap” – Initial Alignment

It is common for the two guards to play in the front line of the trap. However, if there is a forward that has good foot speed, the extra arm length can be useful.

The defence want the first pass to be caught towards the sideline and not in the middle of the court. They also want it caught close to the baseline. Accordingly x1, x2, x3 and x4 deny cutters in an attempt to influence them to receive the first pass in one of the shaded areas.


Movement After First Pass

  • x1 (or x2 on the other side of the court) immediately pressures 1. Containing the dribbler is crucial.
  • x2 moves to the middle of the court and guards the white circled area. They must not be “face cut” (i.e. an offensive player getting between them and the ball).
  • x3 moves to the sideline and must be in the passing lane – able to prevent a pass to 3, defending the blue circled area.
  • x4 moves to cover the middle of the court. Again, no face cutters – defending the green circled area.
  • x5 is the “safety”. They move to the side of the ball, but must be conscious of any offensive player moving to the basket. They defend the red circled area.

These positions are consistent with “man to man” principles, with x2 and x4 moving along the split line.


Trapping a Dribbler

Teams can look to double team the dribbler in the back court (particularly close to half way) where possible. This can be done by x1 “channelling” the dribbler towards x3 or “turning” the dribbler and x2 double teams.

  • x3 can also “help and recover” to put pressure on the dribbler. They should only trap if the dribbler is not in control.
  • x2 must stay with the “line of ball” to ensure that they are in a position to pressure any dribble to the centre of the court and to double team if necessary.
  • x4 similarly moves back toward the basket. x5 moves further to the sideline to deny any pass along the sideline, particularly as x4 moves back toward the keyway and can guard the basket.

If x3 does double team, the x5 is responsible to intercept any pass along the sideline.

(English) If x1 “turns” the dribbler toward the middle of the court, x2 can move to double team (or could “jump”, which is to switch with x1).

On this double team, x4 stays in a position to intercept any pass across the court and x5 rotates back to defend the basket.

(English) On a pass along the sideline, x3 and x5 can trap the receiver. x5 must at least move across until x3 recovers to the ball. x4 continues to rotate to the basket and x2 and x1 must get below the line of ball.


Defending Reversal Pass

If the ball is reversed, x2 moves to guard the ball, and x1 must get to the split line as quickly as possible.

x2 may hedge at 5 if they anticipate that 5 will quickly pass to 2.

x4 moves to the sideline and x3 moves into the centre of court.

(English) If 5 passes quickly to 2 and x2 had hedged but not closed out to 5, they rotate across to the ball.

x1 drops to the centre of the court to defend a pass across the court, x4 denies the sideline and x3 defends the middle of the court.

(English) Where x2 had closed out to 5, x4 (as the closest defender) would rotate to defend 2, x3 would deny the sideline and x1 again drops to defend a pass across the court.

x2 drops to defend the centre of the court.

(English) If 5 does quickly pass to 2, a double team may be viable particularly if x2 is coming from “below” Player 2 or Player 2 is not a strong dribbler.

Other defenders move into position to intercept passes.

Press Trapping
Press Defend Ball Reversal