To the untrained eye, a game of basketball is chaos involving a bunch of men or women running around, perhaps bumping into each other along the way as they look to put the ball in the basket. Unbeknownst to them, basketball is really a chess match that requires adjustments and strategies to win. Basketball strategies permeate everything in the sport, from offense to defense and even substitutions.
Before we delve into the defensive basketball strategies and offensive basketball strategies, let us first know why such strategies exist and why it’s important.
Why are Strategies and Positioning Important in the Game of Basketball?
In basketball, same as any sport, the strategies and positionings serve as the fine line between winning and losing.
But, what exactly are basketball strategies or tactics? These are coordinated measures to score (offense) and prevent the other team from scoring (defense). If you do both adequately, you have a greater chance of winning. Thus, there are generally two types of common basketball strategies– offensive and defensive tactics.
In the same vein, what is positioning in basketball, and why is it important? Positioning refers to where a particular player is positioned on the court at certain times. (It is also related to the five general positions of basketball, the lines of which are blurred in the modern basketball game.) When the coaches decide where to put their players on the floor, they try to perform their responsibilities to their best abilities. When they do, their teams have a better chance of winning.
For instance, Player A’s role or position is to set a screen to Player B, the primary ballhandler. After setting the screen, he could either roll hard to the basket or flash to the top for an open jumper, depending on what he’s good at.
Player A, on the other hand, reads the defense and positions himself to score and create. If he penetrates and both defenders help, he can kick it out to Player A spotting outside. If his primary defender goes under the screen, he can take the open outside shot himself and so on.
What are Common Strategies Used in Basketball?
As previously mentioned, basketball strategies fall under two main types: defensive basketball strategies and offensive basketball strategies.
Basketball Offensive Strategy
Dunks and three-point shots are what make fans swoon. In this modern game, those shots are exactly the bread and butter of most offensive basketball strategies.
Offensive basketball strategies are generally formulated by coaches depending on the construction of their teams. Teams who are bigger and have effective post players tend to slow the game down and dump the ball inside. On the other hand, squads with faster and athletic players generally want to play an open-court style.
Any good offensive basketball strategy is predicated on passing and spacing. The ball can move quicker when passed, and so, an excellent passing team can pick opposing teams apart using ball movement.
Spacing is also a potent offensive weapon, especially in the modern game. It refers to the amount of “space” or room to operate created by the offensive players. Spacing is maximized when there are multiple deadly long-range shooters. Because of this strategy, ballhandlers can work against their defenders one-on-one. If somebody helps off and double teams, they can just kick it outside to an open man for a three. This offensive strategy is unbelievably devastating for a team with excellent shooters.
Other common offensive strategies in basketball are the pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, the Triangle Offense, and others.
Basketball Defensive Strategy
Offensive may be fun to watch and most likely to dominate the highlight clips on sports networks, but defense is just as important. As part of their strategy, teams often change up their defense and may employ zone or man-to-man in certain situations.
Zone defenses are basketball defensive strategies that require each player to guard areas of the court rather than individual opposing players. A zone “shifts” its attention to where the ball is. They are usually effective in protecting penetrations and low post-centric offenses, but zone defenses are more susceptible to offensive rebounds and outside shooting.
Man-to-man defenses involve guarding opposing players individually. A defender is assigned to a specific player as the former follows the latter wherever he goes on the court. Man-to-man defense is a strategy often used in the NBA, which makes sense because players at that level are all great shooters. Unlike a zone defense, man-to-man effectively limits the other team’s offensive rebounding.
Other basketball defensive strategies are like a combination of both the man-to-man and zone defense. One such example is called the box-and-one and a diamond-and-one. The “one” is a defender playing man-to-man to cover a specific player while the others guard certain areas on the court.
Other types are pressure and trapping defenses like the full-court press and the half-court trap.
5 Best Basketball Defense Strategy
In this section, we are going to take a look at the top defensive strategies which fall under the two main categories– the zone and man-to-man defenses.
1. Full Court Press
A full-court pressure defense may not work for long stretches in the NBA, but it is a staple for the more athletic teams in lower competition levels. This strategy requires everyone to pick their man through the full length of the court as soon as the ball is thrown in. It can immediately turn into a trap, but the coach may choose not to if he wants to conserve energy. The purpose of the full-court press is to chop seconds off the shot clock and force turnovers.
2. Man-to-man Defense
The definition of a man-to-man defense is already described in the earlier sections. It is imperative for coaches in high school and collegiate levels to enforce man-to-man defenses to instill discipline and fundamentals in the players. This is also the primary type of defense used in professional leagues like the NBA.
3. Half Court Press
A half-court press is applied by the defense as soon as the offensive team crosses the half-court line. The goal of the half-court press is to force turnovers, make the offense expend more energy, and change the flow of the game. While the full-court press can only be used for a shorter stretch, a defensive team can employ the half-court press all game long. It is less risky and could be executed using man-to-man or zone defense schemes.
4. Set Traps
If we simplify basketball defensive strategies, it is essential to teach players how to set traps. Traps rely on the location where the ball is passed. The optimal locations are the baseline and half-court corners, where the boundary lines can be used as extra defenders.
4. Boxing Out
A defensive possession often ends when your team gets a steal, a turnover, or a rebound. Setting traps and other pressure defenses are excellent ways to force a steal or a turnover, but if that’s not enough, you have to secure the rebound. One way to ensure that is a basic defensive strategy called “boxing out.”
A box out is when the defensive player uses his body to prevent a possible rebound by an offensive player. When perfected, a box out is enough to prevent any second scoring chances for the offense.
5 Best Basketball Offense Strategy
Offensive strategies are borne out of the makeup of a team. It does not make sense to employ an offense that does not fit your personnel. The objective is to take high-quality shots by exploiting the flaws in a defense.
Here are five basic defensive basketball strategies you can use right away:
A fastbreak-centered offense is predicated on one thing: moving the ball as quickly as possible, whether a shot is made or missed. Therefore, you need quick players who can pass and dribble. If you attack the defense before it is set, the chances of getting a high-quality look increase. A fast-breaking offensive strategy is best used by teams who have multiple athletic players who don’t mind running up and down the floor all game. It also plays to be better conditioned than the other team.
As mentioned earlier, you cannot win basketball games in the modern era without spacing. The players should be skilled enough to make decisions wherever they are on the court, with an added emphasis on shooting. Any player who clogs the lane kills the offense. A spaced-out offense really puts pressure on the defense by forcing them to cover more ground.
3. Let the best shooters shoot
Coaches often preach unselfishness, but sometimes, it’s counterintuitive to winning basketball. You must allow your best scorers and shooters to get the lion’s share of attempts to win basketball games. When the defense adjusts and makes life harder for your best shooters, that is when they have to make the best decision and get rid of the ball for the open teammates. Until that’s not happening, it’s best to make it clear the offensive pecking order to avoid confusion, especially during crunch time.
4. Pick and Roll
The pick and roll is the staple of modern basketball. Even at the professional level, many teams simply give the ball to their best player and run opponents to the ground with the pick and roll. The basic idea of this simple basketball strategy is to have the offensive player setting the screen (or pick) block the path of the ballhandler’s defender.
To compensate for this, the defense could either bring the screen setter’s defender over or have the ballhandler’s defender go under the screen. If it’s the first, the screen setter could roll to the basket for a layup; if it’s the latter, the ballhandler could simply take the open jumper. The worst-case scenario or the defense is letting the ballhandler go all the way to the basket for an uncontested layup. In any case, the pick and roll is one of the simplest and most effective offensive basketball strategies.
5. Set Screens
Setting screens is a basic but effective offensive strategy in basketball. It is essentially the catalyst in the pick and roll, but even if you’re not running PNR, it is still a smart basketball play to set screens off the ball. For one, it allows the shooters to get open looks or the screener himself to get wide-open shots. In many other cases, it creates mismatches for an easy scoring opportunity.
How Important are the Game Strategies in Playing Basketball?
If you have been a fan of basketball, especially the NBA, you may have heard about certain players being described as “students of the game.” Kobe Bryant is infamous for his detailed breakdown of the tendencies of opponents. LeBron James and Rajon Rondo are notorious for calling out opponents’ plays before they even happen. Unsurprisingly, those three players combine for a total of 11 championships and 20 Finals appearances.
Why do you think Bryant, James, and Rondo are among the best winners in the history of the NBA? That’s because of their knowledge of game strategies. Yes, knowing basketball strategies could be the difference between winning and losing, especially at the pinnacle of basketball competition.
Consider these points illustrating how important game strategies are in basketball:
- In the NBA, zone defenses or full-court presses are not normally employed. High school and college competitions rarely play man-to-man. Does it pay to know strategies that are barely used in your league? Of course! If you don’t know them, how are you going to beat them?
- Winning is about 80% skill/talent and 20% strategy. You may cruise to wins on talent alone, but come playoff time, when there is more parity in terms of talent, strategy is what wins games.
- A strategy helps clarify goals and objectives. Without any understanding of basketball strategy, players may veer off from the common goal and may end up not following directions.
Wrapping Things Up: What are Common Basketball Strategies?
Basketball is a fast-paced game where you play offense and defense in the bat of an eyelash. Therefore, the list of basketball strategies is for scoring the basketball (offense) and preventing the other team from doing so (defense).
The best basketball strategies are the simple ones– they are easy to recall and do not require that much thinking. It is also largely dependent on the kind of team you have. The strategy is not rocket science for quick, athletic teams: run and push the ball up the floor before the other team can set up their defense. For bigger teams, the best strategy is to slow the game down, milk the shot clock, and dump the ball inside for easy looks.
For any offense, though, spacing is the key. In basketball strategies, spacing refers to the distance between offensive players from one another. The larger that distance is, the better. Two big guys clogging the paint takes away driving lanes from the ballhandler, which leads to poor spacing. On the other hand, one pretty good playmaker and a bunch of shooters create spacing, a lot of real estate to operate. Perfect this one basic basketball strategy, and it will cause mayhem on offense.
On the other end of the spectrum, defensive basketball strategies include simple things as boxing out, knowing how to set traps, running a zone defense, or sticking to man-to-man. Admittedly, the nuances of defense are much more intricate to familiarize than the finer points of offense (and a lot less fun, too). Still, you cannot win a basketball game if you only pick one side of the ball to play. As experts always say, defense wins championships.
Speaking of, knowledge of basketball strategies is the difference between winning and losing. If you know offensive basketball strategies and defensive basketball strategies by heart, you’d know when to stop the opposing team. Sure, you may cruise on talent for a time, but when push comes to shove, a good strategy will still put you on top every single time than talent alone.