Our defense is designed around three concepts: (1) the capability to adjust, (2) effective variation, and (3) player investment. We believe that those three aforementioned characteristics are the keys to having a successful defensive system. Regardless of our personnel, we will play a variety of defenses. Our personnel however, will dictate the differences in zone looks or pressing schemes. For example, we will play a 1-3-1 zone for a long and athletic lineup, but run a 2-3 zone if our personnel’s lateral mobility is limited or we want to protect the foul prone player.
The capability to adjust translates in one of two ways. It can be as simple as changing schemes with the same personnel. It is crucial to be able to do make this from the bench without having to burn a timeout. For example, change from player to a half-court zone trap off a free throw attempt. The other adjustment alternative is to substitute off the bench and run the same player-to-player scheme with different personnel. Perhaps your subs are better suited for a full court player-to-player scheme, because they apply greater defensive pressure with their length and quickness.
Effective variation affords us the latitude in options when needing to make critical game adjustments. Variation could be something as simple as giving different looks on defending an on-ball screens or something more complicated such as switching defenses based on made or missed baskets. A benefit of effective variation is greater offensive efficiency. Working on changing defenses in practice improves your team’s ability to pick up reads and different schemes. On game day, we rarely come across a defensive scheme that we have not drilled against in practice.
Player investment implies that your defensive system is one that your players believe in and want to execute. You are what you emphasize. So if one of our players takes a charge in a game, they get to dictate their minutes for that quarter. Defense that creates offense is fun, fast, and free. In turn, we will always have a full-court pressure package to increase tempo and create some easy transition baskets. Offense is fun and it sells tickets, but it’s defense that wins championships.