The team without the ball is on defense and must defend their side of the court to prevent the other team from scoring. There is a popular saying in sports; offense wins games, defense wins championships. That is true for basketball as it is very important for teams to have a well-organized defense if their goal is to win it all. A team with great defense and offense can become unstoppable; however, some teams may not have a lot of offensive talent. In those cases, a solid defense can even help improve scoring by generating more fast breaks and easy shots.
The goal on defense is to prevent the opponent from scoring, but also to get the ball back. The defense must force the offense's players to take difficult, hard to make shots, but also force turnovers, steal the ball, block shots, and grab defensive rebounds, as well as worrying about the transition and fast-break opportunities.
Teams are constantly switching from offense to defense in a basketball game. Teams transition from offense to defense or vice versa after scores, turnovers, and changes of possession. Players have to be constantly focused in order to transition correctly in order to score or prevent the other team from scoring on the fast break. In a good transition defense, the players closer to the backcourt will run fast as soon as the opponent has its hands on the ball. The first thing about transition defense is hustling back to stop an easy basket.
REMEMBER: The same five players on the court transition from offense to defense and vice versa.
There are lots of defenses in basketball. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses, and some coaches may prefer some over the other. However, all types of defenses can be used during the same game, as coaches can adapt defensive systems to players on the opposing teams, movement of the game, and game trends. Here is a list of the types of defenses you should know.
A good defensive player will also master the following skills to help the team:
Zone defense is a type of defensive formation that assigns each defensive player an area on the court to defend. When creating a zone defense, you can position your players anywhere on the court, but most zones are in the corners, paint, top of the key, or near the three-point line and midcourt line. Coaches come up with different types of zone coverages, however, a classic zone defense is a 2-3 zone. In a 2-3 zone, the point guard and shooting guard play up top while the small forward, center, and power forward play down low and each of those players is responsible for covering their zones. A 2-3 makes it difficult for teams to penetrate and to get easy shots like layups. The 2-3 zone is illustrated in the image below.
You can learn more about zone defense in Basketball Zone Formation.
Man defense is a type of defensive formation where each defensive player is assigned an offensive player to defend. When playing man defense, your team should practice defending against screens and cuts. They should also practice staying with their man and being quick to him. Unlike the zone defense, a man defense is very easy to understand and to teach. Teams with very talented defensive players will often use a man coverage.
You can learn more about man to man defense in Basketball Man To Man Defense.
A press defense is a type of defensive formation where teams apply pressure either in the half-court or full-court. Press defenses are designed to force turnovers by setting traps and applying constant pressure forcing mistakes. You may have heard of a half-court press or full-court press which describes where on the court defensive players will start applying pressure on the dribbler. Press defenses are used when defenses want to get the ball back quicker than usual and do not want to give the offense a chance to score. It can be used both in desperation and strategically throughout a game. A press defense requires a lot physically from players, and so it can't be used throughout the whole basketball game. Also, while a well-executed press leads to turnovers, a badly executed press defense will lead to easy an point for the opponent.
You can learn more about press defense in Basketball Press.