[Train Your Game] Which Defense is Best?

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[Train Your Game] December 18, 2014 
New Article: Which Defense is Best?
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ISSN 1948-0725
December 18, 2014
Volume 7, Issue 49
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How do you determine what defense you'll run?
This week's article explains 3 specific things each coach should take into consieration when deciding what defense to run against
each team they face.
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The HoopSkils Team


Which Defense is Best for Your Team?

by Coach Dave Stricklin
When deciding which defense is best for your team there are three things to take into consideration: your personnel, your overall philosophy
and style of play, and your opponent's personnel. Let's take a look at each one.
1. Personnel
When evaluating the personnel of your own team there are again three things to consider: athleticism, size, and depth.
Athleticism. If as a group your players have above average athleticism (speed, quickness, agility, and jumping ability) then you can pretty much play any defense you desire. Not only can you play either man to man or zone but you can also use a variety of full court and half court presses to either speed up your opponents or to slow them down. Defensively, the sky's the limit if you have the most athletic team on the floor!
However, if your squad is lacking in overall athleticism then you might need to think about playing some type of zone or sagging, switching man to man in order to prevent getting beat off the dribble.
Size. Both individual and team size often dictates which defense you should use. Teams with one big player often use a 2-1-2 zone or a 2-3 zone in order to keep their only size close to the basket. Of course, if that player happens to be extremely athletic as well then man to man is still a viable option.
Size, like athleticism, is often relative. You can be bigger and slower than your Tuesday opponent so choose to play zone but are the same size yet quicker than your Friday opponent so man to man would be more effective.
Depth. How many players can you realistically use effectively? If you can go 10 deep on your bench without any significant drop off then you can play more aggressively without worrying about foul trouble or wearing your players out. However, if you only have four and a half kids who can legitimately play then you probably need to sit back in a pack line zone and stay out of foul trouble. Then if you need to you can play more man to man in the second half when you don't have to worry about conserving energy or fouling out.
2. Opponent's Personnel
When evaluating your opponent's personnel you need to look at the exact same three areas - athleticism, size, and depth. Too many coaches make all their defensive decisions based entirely on their own roster. Sure, you might not be as quick, tall, or fast as you were last year but you still might be all those things when compared to the other teams on your schedule. Likewise, just because you're quicker than you were last year doesn't necessarily mean you're quick enough to pressure this year's opponents.
3. Program Philosophy
The third thing to consider when deciding which defense to use is your overall program philosophy. For example, say you want to keep our opponent's off the free throw line and out of the paint. Let's reason that you also want to keep our best scorer and best overall post player out of foul trouble and that you hardly ever have backups as good as those two players so you want them at your disposal for the entire game if necessary. When all those requirements are combined the result is probably some type of zone defense. Now this might not be your philosophy and that is okay but whatever you decide should be aligned with how you want to play on both ends of the court.
If you were expecting me to tell you exactly which specific defense is better than the rest and/or which one you should use with your team then you are possibly disappointed with this article. The truth of the matter is that only you have enough insider information to know what's best for your team in their current situation.
However, if you consciously consider your own personnel, your opponent's personnel, and your overall program philosophy then the exact answer you're looking for will soon become crystal clear.
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