18 Characteristics of a Good Defensive Team

1 Nov

Written by Kevin Sutton
Georgetown Men’s Basketball

Good Defensive teams have these 18 characteristics  in common.

1. They recognize their opponent’s offensive actions/tendencies while they are in the flow of the game.

2. They play defense with their voice, their eyes, their brains, their chest and their feet.

3. They are excellent in their rotations and avoid putting themselves in scramble situations. Rotations are intelligent movements in relation to the offensive players and ball movement, Whereas Scrambles are panic movements made in reaction to the ball movement, usually after there has been a defensive breakdown.   Scrambles are inevitable but they can be lessen by executing rotations properly.

4. They are constantly communicating throughout the entire possession. They are active listeners as well. This brings about a high level of trust which leads to a collective confidence.

5. They give “multiple efforts”, giving the appearance that there are ten guys on defense. Examples of  “Multiple Effort” can be: close out on the ball and then doubling post, or closing out and taking a charge as you help your teammate that has been beaten off the dribble, or hedging on a ball screen and securing the defensive rebound etc.

6. They finish every stop with a rebound.

7. They defend without fouling

8. They understand and believe that there is no such thing as “50/50 balls” . They believe that loose balls and errant passes are “100%” theirs.

9. They execute their coverages/slides based on the scouting report.

10. They take pride in stopping their opponents.

11. They wear their opponents down mentally and physically with their commitment on the defensive end.

12. They force the offense to start further from the basket than the offensive team wants to and/or is use to.

13. They keep the ball on one side of the floor. They limit the number of times the ball is reversed. They know that ball reversal hurts their defense. They “load” to the ball(mid line in college and 2.9 in the nba). Loading is a term used to describe the actions of the help side defenders. Loading also helps to shrink the floor. Limiting the operating area for which the offense has to work.

14. They do not allow “paint touches”.  They know “paint touches” hurt their defense.

15. They are very good in their “late shot clock” defense. They are disciplined to complete the stop. They are calm and their communication increases.

16. They don’t give up Transition baskets. They understand and execute the 4 parts of Transition Defense:
1. Sprint back with their chin on their shoulder.
2. They locate  and get the ball controlled.
3. They communicate to “load ” to the ball
4. They run down rebounds.

17. They play with their hands up. Average defensive teams play with their hands out.  Bad defensive teams play with their hands down.

18. They develop and chart stats that reinforce the most important elements of their defensive philosophy.  These stats are talked about constantly with players and visible for the players to see and  embrace their importance.

Defend 2 WIN!


4 Responses to “18 Characteristics of a Good Defensive Team”

  1. Mason January 7, 2014 at 3:02 PM #

    Wow. I could not agree more with these defensive tendencies Kevin Sutton has for his players, with some good players that are willing to play 100%. This could be a very successful program.

  2. Mason January 7, 2014 at 3:04 PM #

    The way that Kevin Sutton has his players play, there is no doubt in my mind that he could be a major Division 1 coach.

  3. kyleohman January 8, 2014 at 6:00 PM #

    One of the easiest things to do is number 4 communication, but for some reason it is where most teams struggle. I think basketball coaches need to make sure that they explain the value of it to their players, and then hold them accountable everyday in practice. Regardless of personality every player needs to be communicating on every possession. Thanks for the article!


  1. Basketball Coaching Digest November 2, 2013 - Justin T. Egan - November 2, 2013

    […] 18 Characteristics of a Good Defensive Team […]

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