Pressure Man Tips – Selective Trapping

By Randy Sherman

Utilizing selective traps provides one of the major weapons of disruption in pressure man-to-man defense. Here are four scenarios for selective trapping. 

One of the major weapons of pressure man-to-man defense is the double team or trap. Trapping the ball can disrupt offensive flow by creating a disadvantage situation for the ball handler. An effective trap isolates the ball from the rest of the offense while disrupting the position and vision of the offensive player in the trap.

Because trapping is a high-risk/high-reward tactic it is hard to sustain for a full game or season especially against high-level teams with good spacing and adept passing. But selectively trapping for the sake of disruption in spots can be effective.

Traps must be well executed and timed. The two players on the trap are amping up the pressure to create a disadvantage and the three players off the trap must initially contain then anticipate the pass out of the trap.

Here are four scenarios in which employing some selective trapping, or going green, can disrupt the offense and potentially lead to turnovers.

Ball Screen

When setting the ball screen, the offense hopes it creates an advantage. Perhaps the advantage materializes for the ball handler, the roller or one of the players outside the ball screen. The tradeoff the offense must grapple with is by bring two players together for a ball screen the defense may disrupt the action with a trap.

In the below diagrams, the defense is trapping the ball screen with the offense in a common ball screen offense alignment. X5 and X1 must apply the “all or none” principle. Either trap hard or do not trap at all. Trapping is not for the tepid. They cannot get timid and fearful of tightening the trap. They must lock up so as not to allow the ball handler to split the trap with the drive or pass. Close space and impact the ball handlers position and vision while tracing the ball seeking deflections.


In Frame 1, X5 and X1 form the ball screen trap on Player 1. But the aggressive trap is only one critical element of the trap. The second is the helpside triangle in Frame 2.

X4 must rotate toward the near block. X3 must move inside and deeper than Player 4 and X2 must form the top of the triangle. The position of X2 is vital to combat the potential short roll from 5, a common trap counter in ball screen offense. As the trap tightens and lengthens, X2 may come off the top of the triangle to deny or intercept any threat who may come to rescue the offense.

Feature Video: Arkansas Razorbacks – Trapping The Ball Screen (Volume up for clinic experience!):

The third critical element of the trap is rotation out of the trap. Good defenses can set a good trap, but elite defenses can trap, rotate and reorganize when the trap yields no turnover. To help with rotation out of the trap, use the “Near Man” rule.


In Frame 1 above, Player 1 is able to pass out of the trap to Player 2 before X2 can deny or intercept. Defenders must rotate fast and on airtime of the pass out of the trap. X2 is the nearest player to Player 2 therefore, by following the Near Man rule they must closeout to Player 2.

The remaining defenders rotate out according to the Near Man rule. X3 is the closest defender to Player 3 when the offense reverses so he/she closes to the ball. X4 rotates over and X5 sprint releases off the trap. This returns the defense to standard positioning.

Baseline Drives

When guarding the ball on the wing, the on-the-ball defender is in baseline push and influencing toward the baseline checkpoint with their stance angle (No middle!). With the presence of two boundaries in the corner, the “base trap” can be an effective disruption.

The timing of the trap can vary. The Low I help defender can go early and aggressively on the first dribble by the wing player. Use this when wanting to be extra disruptive or when wanting to send double teams at an outstanding offensive player.

The Low I help defender may wait and go on “feel” when the drive seems threatening or passes by the checkpoint. The Low I help defender may also fake the trap.

Below X4 goes green on the first dribble and gets into a base trap with X3. It is critical that X2 cover down by dropping to replace X4 as the Low I. The teaching phrase is “bottom out, top down.”


With X4 and X3 now setting an aggressive base trap, Near Man rule will apply to the pass out of the trap. The nearest defender to the catch takes the ball as X1 does in Frame 1 below. The defense moves on airtime of the pass to return to standard positioning albeit by guarding different players than their original assignments. To be an elite trapping team these rotations and the prerequisite communication must be on point.


Use this live 4v4 Trap & Recover drill to practice base traps and and Near Man rotation.

Post Traps

There are two post traps to employ to create disruption. They are differentiated by whether or not you are fronting the post and where the trapper who goes green comes from.

In Base Go, the post defender (X5) is fronting in an ear-on-chest post front position but the bounce pass or lob makes it through. The Low I help defender (X4) goes green and traps the post with X5. The Top I defender (X2) must cover down.

In Frame 2 Player 5 makes the pass out of the trap and the defense matches out according to Near Man rule.


In Go Top (diagrammed below), the post defender (X5) is pinned behind the post. The Low I (X4) stays home and the Top I (X2) goes green and traps the post with X5. The original defender disallows the baseline turn and the trapper takes away the middle turn. X3 must deny the pass back out to the ball side wing.


Using the post trap can disrupt a team who likes to play through the post. The post trap can also be utilized by switching teams who end up with a mismatch down low as detail in the next section.

Mismatch Isolation

Switching defenses can disrupt offenses by switching to deny actions and switching to neutralize ball screens. But switching can sometimes result in undesirable mismatches the offense can exploit by isolating. Selectively trapping isolation mismatches can be an effective way to combat this.


In Frame 1 above, 5 sets a pin screen for 2 and X5 and X2 execute a contact switch to maintain pressure in the passing lane. If the ball sneaks through to Player 2, two mismatches occur – X5 guarding Player 2 on the wing and X2 guarding Player 5 in the low post. Either of these may necessitate going green to avoid an isolation of the mismatch.

In Frame 2 above, X1 recognizes the mismatch on the wing and goes green early before 2 can isolate and attack X5. X2 fronts the post while X4 and X3 form the Helpside I. If Player 2 were to enter to Player 5 in the post, use a post trap to help X2 defend the mismatch with Player 5 on the block.


With the ball in the trap and X3 and X4 on the Helpside I you see the reappearance of the Helpside Triangle (above, Frame 1). As the trap tightens and lengthens X3 may come off the top of the triangle to deny or anticipate the pass to Player 1. The hopes is the trap impacts the vision and positioning of Player 2 leading the a deflected or poor pass the defense can scoop up and turn to points off turnovers.

On airtime of pass out of the trap, defenders sprint to rotate according to the Near Man rule – the defender nearest the catch takes the ball and the defense rotates out accordingly. X5 must sprint off the trap!

Defense is a dish with two ingredients – pressure and containment. The interplay between these two ingredients is fluid. There are times to pressure and times to contain. A team will not thrive with only one ingredient.

Selective trapping adds pressure in times where it can disrupt the offense and turn a potential advantage into a disadvantage. The trap must be decisive and aggressive. The players outside the trap must offer support and be alert for steal opportunities. And lastly, all five defenders must move on airtime of the pass out of the trap to reorganize the defense.

Pick and choose times to trap from your base man-to-man defense to spice up the recipe in critical moments.

Continue the conversation:

Credits: Many of these defensive concepts and terms come from “SOS Pressure Defense” by Bob Kloppenburg and “Disruptive Pressure Basketball” by Ernie Woods

For help with practice planning and implementation of a pressure man-to-man defense, join our community of basketball coaches! Check out our online course – Pressure Man-To-Man Seminar – as well! Follow #PressureManTips on Twitter!

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
January 17, 2018 – Washington, DC, USA – 2018017 – Villanova guard DONTE DIVINCENZO (10) and Villanova guard COLIN GILLESPIE (2) apply a trap on Georgetown guard JAGAN MOSELY (4) in the first half at Capital One Arena in Washington. (Credit Image: © Chuck Myers/ZUMA Wire)

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