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The Perfect Guide to Close-Out Defense

Posted by Coach Chris on Mar 07, 2019

Being able to close-out on offensive players is vital to the success of your defense. If your team is constantly getting beat by the offense because you can’t close-out and defend then your team’s success is at risk. Until your team can take care of business on defense, offenses will continue to take advantage of this weakness.

With this in mind, it’s time to go to the drawing board and we are here to help. In this article, NBA Assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers, Dan Burke, shares seven defensive drills to become a better close-out defense team.

Drill #1

Basketball Defensive Drills

Drill #1 starts with four players on offense (black) and four players on defense (red). The offensive players are spread on the perimeter with two on the wings and two in the corners. Every player has a basketball. The defense is in a box formation with two on the low blocks and two on the elbows.

Basketball Defensive Position

Coach yells "Go" and the defensive players are going to slide into the middle and of the lane and slip hands with the teammate across from them. Player 1 and Player 2 will slap hands and Player 3 and Player 4 will slap hands.

Defensive Positioning Drills Basketball

After slapping hands, each defender sprints out to the offensive player closing out to guard them. The offense should move the ball around forcing the defense to shadow the ball and apply pressure.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and a new group of four defenders gets into box formation.

Here's a clip of the full drill...


Drill #2

Basketball Closeout Technique

Drill #2 starts with four players on offense (black) and four players on defense (red). The offensive players are spread on the perimeter with two on the wings and two in the corners. The defense has all four players in the lane within the restricted area, or no-charge circle. Each player has a basketball.

Defensive Basketball Position

Coach yells "Go" and the defensive players are going to pass the basketball to their assigned offensive player. After passing, each defender is going to follow their pass and sprint out of the restricted area and to their offensive player, closing out to guard them.

Closeout Defense Drill

The offense should move the ball around forcing the defense to shadow the ball and apply pressure.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and a new group of four defenders gets into box formation.

Here's a clip of the full drill...



Drill #3

3 on 3 closeout drill

Drill #3 starts with three players on offense (black) and three players on defense (red). The offense is on the perimeter with two on the wings and one at the top of the key. The defense is on the baseline with the rest of the team divided evenly into three lines: one line on the right side, one in the middle of the lane, and one on the left side of the court. The basketball (orange circle) starts with the first defender in the right line.

3 line closeout drill

Coach yells "Go" and the first defender in the right line (x1) passes the ball to the middle line (x2) then starts sprinting towards the offensive player on the opposite wing (3). As that happens, x2 passes to the left line (x3) then sprints out to deny the offensive player at the top of the key. When x3 gets the ball, they pass the ball to the offense on the wing (3), and sprint to help-side defense.

With the defense in the right positions, the offense now moves the ball around the perimeter to make the defense shift and work on correct rotations. The offense needs to use reversal passes and skip passes.

basketball defense position

Next, follow this passing sequence: 3 passes to 2 at the top of the key who reverses the ball to 1 on the opposite wing then the ball is skipped across the court back to 3 who skips it back to 1 followed by the ball reversed from 1 to 2 and finally back to 3.

For this entire sequence, the defense will be making defensive rotations from on-ball, to denial, to help-side. When a skip pass happens, the defender going from help-side defense to on-ball defense is be closing out on the offense.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and the next three defenders on the baseline starts the drill over.

Here's a clip of the full drill...


Drill #4

basketball closeout technique

Drill #4 starts with three players on offense (black) and three players on defense (red). The offense is on the perimeter with two on the wings and one at the top of the key. The defense is on the baseline with the rest of the team divided evenly into three lines: one line on the right side, one in the middle of the lane, and one on the left side of the court. The basketball (orange circle) starts with the first defender in the right line.

closeout 3 line drill

Coach yells "Go" and the first defender in the right line (x1) passes the ball to the middle line (x2) then starts sprinting towards the offensive player on the opposite wing (3). As that happens, x2 passes to the left line (x3) then sprints out to deny the offensive player at the top of the key. When x3 gets the ball, they pass the ball to the offense on the wing (3), and sprint to help-side defense.

With the defense in the right positions, the offense now moves the ball around the perimeter to make the defense shift and work on correct rotations. The offense needs to use reversal passes and skip passes. After several passes, the offense is going to incorporate basket cuts when passes are made from the top to the wing. Again, the defense will be shifting and working on correct rotations.

closeout 3 on 3 drill

Next, follow this passing sequence: 3 skip passes to 1 on the opposite wing who skips the ball right back to 3. Then 3 passes to 2 at the top of the key who quickly reverses the ball to 1 on the wing. After this reverse pass, 2 basket cuts down the lane. On the cut, 3 moves to fill the top of the key and 2 will relocate to the opposite wing.

basketball defensive drills

Followed by this sequence: 1 passes the ball back to the top of the key to 3 who reverses the ball to 2 on the opposite wing. After this reverse pass, 3 basket cuts down the lane. On the cut, 1 moves to fill the top of the key and 3 will relocate to the opposite wing.

For this entire sequence, the defense will be making defensive rotations from on-ball, to denial, to help-side. When a skip pass happens, the defender going from help-side defense to on-ball defense is be closing out on the offense.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and the next three defenders on the baseline starts the drill over.

Here's a clip of the full drill...



Drill #5

defensive closeout technique

Drill #5 starts with four players on offense (black) and four players on defense (red). The offensive players are spread on the perimeter with two on the wings and two in the corners. Every player has a basketball. The defense is in a box formation with two on the low blocks and two on the elbows. There is one Coach on the perimeter with a basketball and one Coach (C) in the middle of the lane.

basketball defense position

The Coach on the perimeter will pass the ball to Coach in the lane. When this happens, the four defenders will swarm the basketball. After a few seconds, Coach will choose an offensive player on the perimeter and make a pass. In our example, Coach passes to Player 3.

On the pass, the defense turns and sprints out to their defensive positions. Depending on where Coach made the pass will determine each defensive position. In our example, 3 receive the first pass which mean their defender x2 will close-out on them. While x1 and x4 will be in denial and x1 will be help side. Be sure Coach switches up who they pass to on the perimeter.

Once the ball is on the perimeter, the offense can pass it around to make the defense work on defensive rotations from on-ball, to denial, to help-side. When a skip pass happens, the defender going from help-side defense to on-ball defense is be closing out on the offense.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and a new group of four defenders gets into box formation.

Here's a clip of the full drill...


Drill #6

1 on 2 closeout drill

Drill #6 starts with three players on offense (black) and one player on defense (red). The offense is on the perimeter with two on the top and one in the opposite corner. The defender is in the middle of the lane in high help-side position with a Coach (C) below them in low help-side position. The offensive player in the top position opposite the corner has the basketball.

basketball closeout technique

The offensive player with the ball (1) is going to start the drill by dribbling like they are attacking the basket. As they are getting close, Coach (C) is going to rotate over to stop the ball which alerts the defender (x1) to drop into low help-side position.

As the defense is rotating, 1 is going to pass the ball out to a perimeter player. 1 can pass to either offensive player. In our example, 1 passes to 2.

defensive positioning drills basketball

On the pass, x1 has to sprint out of low help-side position and close-out on the offense. From there, they play one-on-one.

Once offense scores, defense makes a stop, or Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups.

Here's a clip of the full drill...


Drill #7

basketball defensive drills

Drill #7 starts with four players on offense (black) and four players on defense (red). The offense has three on the perimeter with two at the top and one in the opposite corner along with a post player on the ball-side low block. The defense is matched up with the offensive and in the correct defensive positions: top defenders on-ball or in denial, corner defender is in help-side, and post defender is half fronting. The basketball starts with the top right offensive player (1).

defense drills for basketball

The offensive player with the ball (1) is going to signal the start by dribbling. As 1 dribbles, the post player (4) comes to set a ball screen and then rolls back to the low block. 1 comes off the ball screen with two dribbles then steps back and makes a cross pass to 2 who swings it to 3 in the corner. After passing, 2 follows the ball to set a ball screen.

closeout defense drills

As 3 comes off the ball screen and looks to pass back to 2 who has relocated back to the corner after setting the ball screen. 2 throws a skip pass across the court to 1 at the top of the key. Again, 4 comes up to set a ball screen and rolls back down to the block.

closeout technique basketball

1 comes off the ball screen with a couple of dribbles then passes to 3 on the wing. When 3 catches it on the wing, 2 comes up from the corner to set a ball screen. As 3 is coming off the ball screen, 2 slips to the low block which signals 4 to break out to the opposite corner.

defense position drills

3 throws a skip pass to 4 in the opposite corner who reverses the ball back to 1 at the top spot.

For this entire sequence, the defense will be making defensive rotations from on-ball, to denial, to help-side. When a skip passes happen, the defender going from help-side defense to on-ball defense is closing out on the offense.

Once Coach is happy with the defensive effort, switch groups. Offense goes off the court, defense goes to offense, and the next four defenders come on the court.

Here's a clip of the full drill...


Learn More

This Close-Out Defense guide should give you seven STRONG drills to use in practice. These drills will not only help your team improve on close-outs, but also on your defensive rotations. Seven drills is a good start, but there's always room to grow. To learn more start browsing through our vast selection of Coaching DVDs right now.

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