Keeping the offense out of the paint should always be your first priority on defense, and while good communication and help rotations are key for maintaining this, it all starts with the on ball defender. His ability to keep his man in front of him and out of the key is crucial if you want to have a strong defense.
While some players will have a natural defensive aggression, you will have to teach most of your players to bring that intensity game in, game out. And there is no better way to do that, than a little bit of in practice competition.
Kick The Can Drill
Put a can, or pylon if that’s more convenient, and put it in the middle of the key. You can use a basketball, but personally I find that to be an injury risk. Then have your players set up with two lines, one on each wing. Have one player from each side step out and get into defensive stance.
The defensive player will stay low and prevent the offensive player from beating him to the can for as long as he can. The offensive player should be working the defensive player hard, and trying to kick the can as quickly as possible. For a quicker rotation, flip back and forth from wing to wing.
Setting a time limit and awarding a point to either the offensive or defensive player based on the result of each possession is a great way to crank up the intensity in your practice, and will really get the players going.
- Emphasize sliding with your feet and not using your hands or arms to stop the offensive player. Punish defensive players for fouls
- Mix up the rotation so that you don’t always have the same players being guard by each other all the time. It is important for your big men to get practice guarding little guys, and vice versa.
For a similarly competitive drill with a focus on rebounding, check out the animal drill!