The Art of 1-on-1 Defense – Part 1

By FastModel Sports

We live in a basketball world where style usually gets noticed more than substance.  A player with strong 1-on-1 offensive skills (jab, shoulder fake, foot-fake, spin, pull-up jump shot) often gets rewarded with millions of dollars from an NBA contract and endorsements. While this “highlight” brand of basketball may dominate the talking points on ESPN and countless other TV/radio shows, the ability to defend this style of basketball has become incredibly important yet does not get spoken about nearly as much. For every Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Maya Moore, there is an individual assigned to guard them. There are a number of things to consider when faced with guarding a fantastic scorer:

  1. Defense in general (and particularly 1-on-1 defense) is about having the right mentality. No one scores on you!
  2. A defender must decide what baskets he/she is unwilling to allow and what baskets he/she can’t live with.
    • A great defender knows that he/she can’t keep a prolific scorer to zero points. Instead, he/she understands what shots are just too easy for their opponent to make (Examples: lay-ups & 3pters in transition) and which shots make their opponent work for their points (contested fade away jump shots & 3pters off the dribble).  Once you decide what shots you are and are not willing to give up, it allows you to tailor your defensive strategy and movements towards that goal. For example, if you aren’t giving your opponent 3pters or lay-ups but you are willing to concede pull-up jump shots, your 1-on-1 defense must focus on being ready to run the offensive player off the 3pt line while also staying in position to defend at the rim.
  3. Great defenders must know their opponent’s tendencies, such as their go-to moves and their favorite positions on the court
    • Knowing where on the court (right block, left hash mark, corner 3pters) your opponent scores from most often goes a long way to predicting and anticipating their next moves.
  4. Whether you are defending a post player or a guard, you must be in great shape to be a good defender. You must have the strength to fight off your opposition trying to push you off them and into screens. You have to have the stamina to chase them down in transition, all around the court, and through screens. And you must have the balance and power to push back physically and mentally.

See below for one drill that helps players work on their 1-on-1 defense, and be sure to check back soon for the The Art of Defense: Part 2 which will feature more 1-on-1 defensive improvement drills.

Bermuda Triangle Close Out

Start with 4 players and a coach at each basket.  Three of the players start around the three point line as the offensive team…one player on each wing and one at the top of the key. The fourth player starts on defense and is under the basket with a ball. The defensive player rolls the ball out to one of the offensive players on the wing, then they close out and defend that offensive player. The defensive player is working 1-on-1 to force a bad shot and get the defensive rebound. Once the defender secures the rebound, they move on to the next offensive player by rolling them the ball and closing out on them. The defensive player must get 3 stops in a row, one from each player on offense. This is where the defense can get “caught in the Bermuda Triangle”…if you don’t get stops you will get stuck in there! Once the defender gets all 3 stops, everyone rotates one position. The drill ends when all 4 players have made their stops as the defensive player. The coach is at the basket to call fouls, which count as a score and the defender must move on to the next offensive player.



Read Part 2 of the Art of 1 on 1 Defense here.

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