Basketball Defensive Drills
The 3-on-2 Reaction Drill

Many basic basketball defensive drills focus on one on one skills, and while that is important, we also want to teach our players how to work with each other in a defensive situation. I have mentioned some drills that focus on this - for example, the 5-on-4 Shell Defense drill also focuses on players working together on defense. This drill offers the same focus, though it has application to stopping the fast break as well as set offensive plays.

This drill is not complex - in fact, the offensive players don't even move. But what it focuses on is quick movement on the part of the defensive players to pick up the ball or to crowd the passing lane. As such, the main emphasis on the defensive players should be to always be prepared to move, which means they must practice good defensive fundamentals - stay low with their knees bent and weight evenly distributed on the balls of their feet; back straight and head up; arms raised.

There is some offensive skills in practice here as well - offensive players need to pass proper overhead or chest passes; they can practice their ball fakes (though they can't go overboard with this as this drill needs quick passing); and they need to be quick with their passing, especially on the second pass if they are trying to move the ball before the defense reacts.

Basketball Defensive Drills
The 3 on 2 Reaction Drill

  • Players start off as in the diagram - 3 offensive players placed one at each low post block and the third at the foul line; the 2 defensive players set up in line, with one defender at the foul line and the other a few feet behind 
  • One basketball is used, starting with the offensive player at the foul line

basketball defensive drillsSet Up
  • The offensive players cannot move.
  • The offensive player at the foul line, with the ball, starts the drill by passing to one of the low post players
  • The defensive player in back (#2) immediately puts pressure defense on the receiving player
  • The defensive player at the foul line (#1) immediately drops back to cut off the pass across the key to the other low post block

basketball defensive drillsPass Inside & Defensive Movement
  • The low post player with the ball should look first to pass to the other low post player
  • Assuming defensive player #1 drops down quickly enough, the pass across the key should not be an option, and so the low post player passes the ball back to the players at the foul line
  • Defensive players adjust quickly to their original positions

basketball defensive drillsPass Back to Foul Line
  • The passing is repeated, with the offensive player at the foul line choosing which side to pass to at random (i.e., don't fall into a 'right-then-left-then-right' pattern - keep the defense on their toes)
  • In essence, the back defensive player (#2) will move back and forth along the back of the key, pressuring one post player and then the next; the front defensive player (#1) will move from the foul line to whichever post is needed and back again to the foul line.

basketball defensive drillsPass Inside & Defensive Movement

The offensive players can't move, which means they can't drive or drop into a better position. But the offensive players on the low post blocks can shoot if the defense is too slow to contest them. Note that this isn't a license for offensive players to shoot indiscriminately - they must be wide open. Basketball defensive drills, after all , should emphasize making the defense work.

Another thing to promote is communication between your defensive players - ensure they talk to each other as the ball moves from one offensive player to the next, calling the ball when they pick up the ball carrier, and when the ball is passed out. Of course, all your basketball defensive drills should do this - communication on defense is so important, but so often over-looked.

Run the drill for five minutes or so, switching players into the defense every minute or so - ensure everyone gets to play defense a few times.

This is a good drill to include when you are introducing fast break drills such as the 3 on 2 to 2 on 1 drill.

“In all the research you do as a coach, studying other coaches and championship - type situations, you find that all those teams combined talent with great defense. You’ve got to stop other teams to win.”

- Pat Riley

Looking for something more visual?

Try UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg's video package of drills