When you are watching a game of basketball on television, it can sometimes seem like there are just a bunch of players out there dribbling the ball around and chucking it for a goal. The game can appear chaotic. But basketball is a very strategic game. Teams are in fact running sophisticated defenses and setting up and running multiple offensive plays. Coaches on the sideline are constantly studying the game, making sure they have the right players in the game, making adjustments, and trying to outsmart the other team.
Basketball Defensive Strategy
Although scoring is exciting, fun to watch, and fun to do; defense is a key to winning any basketball game. Teams often change up defenses and change who is guarding who during the game. There are two main types of defenses: zone defense and man-to-man defense.
The zone defense is where each player has a specific area of the court they are responsible to defend. The zone shifts and moves depending on where the offensive players are standing and where the ball is. Zone defenses are great for stopping inside scoring as multiple players can surround or “collapse” on a player getting the ball on the inside. They are not as good at stopping outside or long shots. So zone defenses are often deployed against offensive basketball teams that have a strong inside offensive game, but a weak outside game.
Man-to-man defense is where each player is assigned to cover a specific offensive player. The player guards the offensive player wherever they go on the court. Man-to-man defense can be very affective against a strong outside shooting team. Man-to-man can also help with rebounding as each defender can block out the person they are guarding and no one can slip into open zones like they can on zone defense.
Sometimes teams run a combination of zone and man-to-man. One example of this is the box-and-one. In this defense four players play zone (in a box shape) and one player plays man-to-man usually on the offensive team’s best player.
Other basketball defensive strategies include:
Full court press – where a team will play defense over the entire court hoping to trap or steal the ball.
Double Team – where two players will cover the player with the ball
Offensive Basketball Strategy
Offensive basketball strategies may include designed plays to a style of play. Teams tend to want to play an up-tempo fast break game or they want to slow the game down and get into their half court offense. Teams with athletic and fast players may want to play a fast paced game where they can take advantage of their speed in the open court. Other teams may feel they can excel in a half court game taking advantage of their designed plays, outside shooting, or post up play.
The key to any good offensive strategy is passing. The ball can be passed faster and more effectively than it can be dribbled. By passing the ball around quickly an offensive basketball team can cause the defensive team to move and make adjustments. Enough good passes and eventually an offensive player will get a good open shot.
One of the staples to most any basketball offensive game is the pick-and-roll. This is when one offensive player will stand in the way of a player defending another offensive player who has the ball. The player with the ball will then start to make a move. At the same time the player setting the pick will roll to the basket. The defenders now have to make a choice on whom to cover. They can often get confused and, in the confusion, either the player with the ball will have an open shot, or the player setting the pick will be wide open for an easy layup.