Learning basketball for the first time is quite easy. It may simply involve knowing how to dribble with one hand and getting close enough to the basket to score. However, as you get better and perhaps play organized basketball, you’d have to learn basic basketball strategy to increase the team’s chances of winning. How does basketball strategy work?
What are the Common Strategies Used in Basketball?
Basketball involves playing offense and defense. “Offense” is the scoring part, while “defense” is about stopping opponents from scoring. First, let’s talk about the most common offensive tactics used in basketball.
The most common offensive strategy used in basketball is the fast break. As if the name isn’t a dead giveaway, it involves beating your opponents every time down the court for easy looks. Regardless of any level, the teams that execute the fast break to perfection are almost guaranteed to score.
To be an effective fast-breaking team, you must have quick and athletic players to run the wings, excellent rebounders to start the break, and ballhandlers that can pass and dribble. In the best-case scenario, if all of your best players can do a little bit of everything, you may be able to get away with just fast breaks all game along.
On defense, the most common strategy in the lowest competition level is the zone defense, particularly the 2-3 zone. Zone defense is one of the two most common defensive strategies, along with the man-to-man defense. A zone is when the coach has his wards guard an area of the court instead of a particular offensive player. (Conversely, man-to-man defense is when individual defensive players are assigned to guard a specific opponent.)
Let’s go back to the 2-3 zone defense. The “2-3” is a formation that involves two players guarding the free-throw line area while three defend the area in front of the basket, near the sideline. This defense effectively prevents shots in the paint and encourages offensive teams to shoot from the outside. These are the reasons why most youth and college teams employ the 2-3 zone.
We will talk about more offensive and defensive tactics used in basketball in the next sections. Before that, it would probably help if we go through the basic terminologies first.
Basic Basketball Terminologies
- The Paint. The paint is the rectangular area near the basket and extends to the free-throw line. Shots in the paint are considered high-quality attempts because of how near it is to the basket. Most teams emphasize the paint as a point of attack, while defense look to keep the offense away from that area.
- Ballhandler. A player on the team who is primarily tasked to bring the ball up, set up the offense, and make decisions. A ballhandler is often a point guard, but in the modern basketball game, any position can be a ballhandler if he’s reliable enough.
- Screen. Also called a “pick,” it is a legal maneuver that attempts to free up a teammate from his defender. The one setting the screen uses his body to block the path of the defender.
- Positions. Traditional basketball assigns positions to the five players on a team. There are two guards (a point guard and shooting guard), two forwards (small forward and power forward), and a center. In this era of positionless basketball, the lines are blurred, but guards are still required to pass and shoot, while “bigs” still have to be good rebounders and defenders.
What are Offensive Strategies in Basketball?
After the fast break, there are countless offensive or attacking strategies in basketball. Let’s start with the very basic strategies used on offense.
A cut is when an offensive player without the ball quickly moves in a different direction to get open. Most cuts happen toward the basket because it will be an easy layup every time if the defender is not looking. However, some cuts aim to free up players on the perimeter.
We have already talked about what a screen is in basketball. The player setting the screen looks to open up a teammate by using his body as a roadblock to impede the defender. However, the screen setter could also open himself up for opportunities by running towards the rim or spotting up for a jump shot.
Spacing is the space created by the offensive players. Offensive players must be at an optimal distance to give each other room to operate.
For example, if you have a guy like James Harden or Kevin Durant who can work against defenders one-on-one, their teammates should give them proper spacing or room to operate. If teammates are clogging the lane or standing in the driving lane, their defenders could easily help on Harden or KD, thus providing additional resistance.
Spacing is also very vital if you are running this next offensive strategy.
A “pick” and a “screen” may be used interchangeably, but there is one significant difference. A pick comes to the offensive player while on a screen, it’s the offensive player that comes to it. The pick-and-roll is a two-man action that puts so much pressure on the defense, especially if the ballhandler can finish in the paint, shoot a jumper, and pass.
The idea is for a teammate to set a pick to the ballhandler. In turn, the ballhandler reads what the defense does. If the ballhandler’s defender gets caught in the pick, he could go all the way to the basket for a layup. Now, if the ballhandler’s defender goes under the screen. He could just rise up and shoot the J. But if the pick setter’s defender goes over and helps, the ballhandler may decide to pass the ball to the roll man for an easy layup. (The roll man is the pick setter running straight toward the basket.
The pick-and-pop is a variation of the pick and roll with one major difference. Instead of rolling to the basket, the one setting the pick spots up to an open area in the perimeter for a jump shot. If the pick setter’s defender helps cut off the ballhandler, the latter has that open jumper available to him all day.
What Defensive Strategies are Used in Basketball?
We have talked about what a zone defense is and what a man-to-man defense is. Now, let’s discuss the defensive strategies in basketball starting with the most basic.
1. Boxing out
Boxing out is a defensive maneuver where the defender puts his body in front of the player he is guarding to prevent a rebound. A rebound ends a possession, so it’s no wonder why good defensive teams are also good rebounding teams. In turn, you can’t be an effective rebounder if you don’t box out your man.
2. Taking charges
Some athletes like to establish their aerial superiority by blocking shots, but some also use positioning to defend. Taking a charge falls into the latter category. Taking charges in the lane is a science, but it can swing the game’s momentum in your team’s favor if done correctly.
Hedging is a defensive strategy used in guarding pick-and-rolls. As mentioned in the previous section, the pick-and-roll is a potent offensive play, but hedging can stop it. In this defensive strategy, the defender of the pick-setter shows up high (or hedge) to allow enough time for his teammate to recover. As soon as the ballhandler’s defender recovers, the defender of the pick-setter goes back to his man to prevent the roll or the pop.
The purpose of a trap in basketball is to force a turnover. The things, you can’t just go trap the offense around all day. You have to realize where and when to trap. The best areas to trap are in the baseline and sideline corners, where the boundary lines serve as an extra defender.
5. Red Zone
Another basic defensive strategy is employing what is called the red zone. The concept is fairly simple. An imaginary red zone runs in the middle of the length of the court. Defensive players must keep their men out of the red zone and push them into the corners where the defense can pressure and trap the ballhandler.
How Does Basketball Tactics Work in Basketball?
While basketball is a highly physical sport, it is also virtually a chess match. When all the players on the court work together for a tactic to work, it can be devastating to the opponents.
For basketball strategies to work in an actual game, practice is essential. A coach must see to it that his players are prepared in case the defense adjusts. He must also familiarize his players and discuss the defensive strategies in basketball so the team could satisfactorily execute them during games.
If the coach does his homework beforehand and prepares his players physically and mentally, then the team has a good chance of pulling off a W.
How Important is the Game Strategy in Basketball?
Because basketball is a highly tactical game, it’s not a stretch to say that game strategy differentiates between winning and losing. Sure, if the talent disparity is oceans apart, the superior team can get by with a few common defensive strategies and a couple of attacking strategies in basketball.
However, when talent disparity is minimal, the more prepared team most often wins. Of course, the higher the competition level, the more complex and sophisticated strategies get. But when the smoke clears, you can bet that the more strategically prepared team comes out as the victor.
Wrapping Things Up: How Does Basketball Strategy Work?
Basketball strategies are offensive and defensive tactics that are applied in a basketball game. The goal for a team is to score more than their opponents and stop their opponents from outscoring them.
All sophisticated tactics used in basketball spawned from simple concepts. What are some defensive strategies in basketball? These are box-outs, taking charges, hedging, knowing how to trap, getting out of the red zone, and more. Some common offensive strategies are maximizing spacing, cutting hard, and setting screens. Plays such as the pick-and-roll and the pick-and-pop are also strategies stemming from pretty simple concepts.
We hope that this article explained how important strategy is in the game of basketball. By all accounts, strategy spells the difference between winning and losing. If somebody asks, “How does basketball strategy work?” it all boils down to preparedness. The more effort the team puts in practicing offensive and defensive tactics used in basketball, the more effective these will be in actual games.