20 Basketball Defense Drills for Motivated Beginners

When you think about winning basketball games, what you think about first? Most of us would assume that you win games by scoring points. Therefore, shooting, passing and ball handling would be the top skills your motivated beginner should work on to improve their game. But according to some of the best coaches, mastering your defensive skills through basketball defense drills is how you become a better player.

What Is a Basketball Defense Drill?

Basketball defense drills help to train your players to be great defensive players. Defensive players don’t just block shots; they force their opponents to take the most difficult shots possible.
These drills teach players defensive technique and an understanding of where they should be on the court depending on whom they are guarding.
Basketball defense drills can be run by the coach, the parent, and even the player. All you need is the right motivation and work ethic to become a better athlete.

Is There a Need for Learning Defense Drills?

Learning defensive skills through basketball defense drills is the only way to become a well-rounded player.
The same goes for any basketball coach. You can only push your team so far by focusing on the offensive. By learning these defense drills can run them with your team repeatedly. Once your players see how much they improve, they will be much more willing to put in the time needed to train with these drills.
And the best way to accomplish this is by using proven basketball defense drills during your team practices.

How to Learn Basketball Defense Drills

There are plenty of informational videos and tutorials online for coaches to learn basketball defense drills. While some coaches may have drills they prefer, newer coaches should try out several drills to see which ones work for their current team’s skill levels.  

20 Basketball Defense Drills

One-on-One Continuous

This drill requires your players to form a line at the top of the key and fill the wing spots. One offensive and one defensive player start playing one-on-one from the wing. Once there is a score, or the defense player takes possession, the top line passes to the opposite wing and then fills the free wing. The offensive player from the previous game immediately closes out, and they play compete until a score or change of possession.
This process of the offensive player immediately transitioning to defending the opposite wing continues for the however long you have determined the drill should last.
This is a competitive drill that teaches players how to attack the defender off a close out and how to guard the opposition in isolation.

Four-Point Closeouts

This drill requires four offensive players to spread out around the three-point arc. The rest of the players should be positioned under the basket. Each of the offensive players must have a basketball.
The first player in the line sprints to the first offensive player in a clockwise direction to close out the ball. They put pressure on the offensive player for a few seconds before backpedaling until they are within the charge circle and then sprint out to the next player.
The next player in line can begin once the first player has closed out, retreated to the charge circle and started sprinting to the next player.
After closing out each of the four offensive players, the player joins the end of the line and starts the drill again when it is their turn.
The goal of this drill is to help players work on their footwork, staying on balance and closeout technique.

Defensive Specialist

This basketball defense drill requires the use of cones. Players will complete the course one at a time. All players will begin on the baseline in a straight line. The first player will sprint and then close out to the cone in front. They will then backpedal around the cone directly behind them and then slide across to the other side of the court.
The next player can start the course when the first slides past the line.
The first player will slide around the cone on the other side of the court and then sprint to close out and slide once again to the opposite side of the court. They will then return to the end of the line.
You should run this drill for three to five minutes.
The goal of this drill is to work on different defensive movements including closeouts, defensive sliding, backpedaling and sprinting.

Mass Sliding

Depending on the number of players you have, you will have them spread out in the half or full court. You will then stand in front of them where they can all see you.
The drill starts with all players in a low stance, moving their feet quickly. You will then use both visual and verbal cues to instruct the players to perform a number of defensive movements. You can select from the following movements:
?       Lateral slides
?       Drop step slides
?       Close-outs
?       Charge
?       Rebound
?       Back-pedal
?       sprint
This drill is usually run for two to three minutes.
The goal of this drill is to focus on the fundamentals of individual defense while also incorporating conditioning.

Pass Denial

This drill involves two players competing one-on-one from the wing. The offensive player walks the defender in and explodes out looking to receive the pass from the other player in the slot. The defender tries to deny the pass to the offensive player. Every time the offensive player catches the basketball, they will pass it back to the players in the slot, and the drill will continue. After the third catch, the two players switch positions.
This drill helps players practice their positioning and learn how to deny the pass to their opponent, which is an important skill in a man-to-man defense.

Five on Three Two

This drill involves five defensive players and five offensives. You will pass the ball to one of the offensive players and then yell out the name of one of the defensive players. The player whose name was called and the player whose man received the ball both have to touch the baseline and then chase.
The other three defensive players immediately sprint back. The first to run back yells “I got hole!” The player closest to the ball yells “I got ball!”

The third defender takes the first pass. The three defenders must slow the offense until the other two defenders can recover and it becomes a five-on-five game.

The purpose of this drill is to make the defense get two consecutive stops or a three-stop total before they rotate out. It helps your team work on their defense, communication, and positioning.

Pick and Roll Defense – Fighting Over

This basketball defense drill teaches players how to fight over the ball and properly defend it.
You will split your team into groups of four – two on offense and two on defense. Each group has their basket. The screener sets pick for the ball handler. The screener’s defender calls out screen location to their teammate. The ball handler uses screen, forcing the ball defender to fight over the screen. The screener’s defender in drop coverage stays a few feet below the free throw line protects the hoop.

Transition Offense: The Hockey Drill

This full court transition offense drill is played with 3-on-3. Players are instructed that they are not allowed to pass the ball until they cross the half-court line. This helps teach your players how to use their bodies to protect and advance the ball.
Also, this drill helps encourage players to get the defensive rebounds, get the steals and more comfortably get the outlet passes.

Wing Denial Drill

This drill helps demonstrate aggressive attack defense, which can be used to deny passage out of the wings.
You will set the team up with the guards on top, the points on the right side and the shooting guard on the left side. Both of your wing players will be at the foul line. Your center will be standing on the right side elbow.
Your center will flash up to the three point line and take a pass from the point guard. Once the point guard gives up the ball, the guards must sprint straight down to the baseline, run underneath the hoop and run a wide loop out to the wing on the opposite side of the court that they were just on.
The forwards will set toward the key to set two down screens, and the center will be free to hit who they want before they head down to the elbow area.
The forward on the ball side will slide down the block, and the forward on the other side will clash up top to the three-point line, ready to swing the ball through to the other wide of play safety on defense.
This defense drill helps teach your team about timing and execution.

Half-Court Half-Court Drill

This defense drill is for two players – one is offense, and one is defense. It is called half-court half-court because the players have to stay within the half-court and within half of the court width wise so they are not running into each other.

The drill starts with both players going at the same time with a partner. On the way back, they will change assignments so the one who was offensive will be defensive, and that one who was defensive is offensive.

The players will have to get out of their shuffle step. They may even need to run to regain their position between the other player.

Defending the Dribble Drill

This defensive drill has the goal of the player taking the ball as hard as they can to the basket while the defensive player tries to defend the dribble for eight seconds. This typically creates quite the battle between the two players.

If the offensive player can get through, instead of shooting, the player will take the ball back out again.

The Bowl Drill

This is one of the basketball defense drills that is quite grueling. The offensive players are pushing to get to the basket as hard as they can, and the defensive players must make sure they don’t get there.

The offensive players begin the cut and the player with ball prepares to pass to that player. The defensive player is instructed to mirror and cover the offense player. This drill focuses on intensity and learning how to put the pressure on the defense.

The Shell Drill

This is one of the most common basketball defense drills. The goal of this drill is for players to learn how to anticipate where they should be, depending on how many passes away the ball is.

To start, four players line up along the three-point line, two up top and two on the wing; as the coach, you should be at the top of the key. Four defenders line up along the baseline.

The basketball is passed to the top of the key, and the defenders will all sprint and close out their men. The coach at the top of the key will pass the ball to one of the two players on top, and all the defenders will need to slide accordingly. The directions are:

  • Guarding the ball – close out and force away from the middle
  • One pass away – full denial
  • Two passes away – help side
  • Three passes away – aggressive help side

The players continue to pass the ball around the perimeter to force the defense to move from position to position. Once the players understand the rhythm, you can allow the offense to try to score.
Run this drill for 10 to 12 minutes at every practice to see results.

Super Drum Defense Drill

This drill involves a three-on-three defensive game. The only players that can score are the defense.

After assembling teams of three, place the defensive team at the baseline and everyone else in three lines behind the three point line. The coach will then roll the ball to the player in front of one of the lines.
As we mentioned before, the only team that can score if the defensive team. They earn a point by getting a steal, creating a turnover or getting a defensive rebound. If the offensive team scores, they don’t get points. Instead, they replace someone on the defense, and that person goes to the end of the line, and the drill starts over.

This drill should be run for six minutes.


This drill is run with three players positioned along the baseline within the key area. When the whistle sounds, players sprint to the opposite baseline, touch the line and sprint back. As they touch the line, you will toss the ball and yell. The players must turn around and race to get the ball.

The player that gets to the ball first must run to the basket and plays the other two players. If the shooter misses, all three players must go after the rebound, and the play continues until someone scores.

The player who scores steps off the court and the remaining two players must sprint to the opposite baseline, touch the line and sprint back. You will throw the ball out again, and the players will play a one-on-one game. The player that scores will step off the court and the final player will make one final sprint up and back. The drill will then continue with three new players.

1000 MPH Recovery

The goal of this basketball defense drill teaches players how to change between slide steps and sprint steps.

Two lines of players start this drill standing under the basket; one line is positioned on each side of the free throw line. On the whistle, the first player from each line sprints straight ahead to the elbow of the free throw line on the other side and turns to face the lines under the basket where they started. They then begin fast feet until they hear the next blow of a whistle.

On the second whistle, the next two players in line sprint to the elbow of the free throw line where the previous players had been standing. The players who were standing at the elbow make a drop step toward the sideline they are closest to, make two diagonal slide steps, crossover, and sprint toward the point where the mid-court line and sideline interact. Two steps before reaching the point, the players will convert back from the sprint steps and make two slide steps. Once they reach the point, they will patter their feet until they hear the next whistle.

On the third whistle, the first players who are now at the intersection should make a drop step toward the elbow of the far free throw line and repeat the two slide steps, two sprint steps, two slide step pattern. They will end facing the baseline where they began the drill.
On the fourth whistle, the first two players repeat the pattern back to the intersection of the far baseline and patter until they hear the fifth whistle.
At every whistle, a new pair of players will begin sprinting and follow the pattern of the pair before them.

Two Man Loose Ball Drill

This drill teachers players how to get after a loose ball by getting to the floor instead of reaching for the ball.

To complete this drill, you will have your players form two lines under the basket at each side of the backboard. You will stand in the middle with the ball and roll the ball into the half court.
The two players at the front of each line are then released to go after the ball. The player who grabs the ball can come back to the basket, and the one without the ball becomes the defense and must try to stop the other player from scoring.

Three on two Pressback

This drill set up like a traditional three-on-three pregame warmup. Two players are defense, and the rest are in three lines at half court.

The three offensive players attack and try to score. After a turnover or a score, the two defensive players become the offensive players and try to advance the ball to half court. If they make a basket, they take the ball out of bounds with one trying to receive the ball against three defensive players.

The defense then tries to trap and steal the ball. If they succeed and get a steal or turnover, they get the ball back and try to score again.

The drill is over when the two offensive players can advance to half court.
This defensive drill helps players master passing, shooting and rebounding.

Two on One Denial

This final basketball defense drill is used to help teach players how to deny the ball.

Players are placed around the three-point line, and three players are selected to go inside the three-point line. Two of these players are asked to deny the other players the ball.

The players on the outside are trying to get the ball to the player being guarded. If they cannot get the ball to the said player, they must throw the ball to another teammate who is behind the three-point line.

The defensive players are trying to get three steals. Once this happens, one of the three becomes the offensive player.

The drill continues until everyone has been both offense and defense.


Learning these basketball defense drills can help you train your team to be better and more well-rounded players. Try incorporating some of these drills in your next practice and see what happens.


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