Good team defence starts with good individual defence, which is the ability of a player to contain his opponent or restrict him from influencing the game. In almost all situations, the coach will instruct players to apply pressure to the ball-handler to prevent him passing the ball or making it difficult to dribble.
When practicing one-on-one situations, the defender should decide how to make his opponent move in one direction or another, forcing him to change direction or stop his dribble. These moves are difficult and require a commitment to achieve maximum fitness and many repetitive drills to develop sound technique.
Most players will prefer to dribble with their right or left hand and have favourite moves to get open for their favourite shots. Prior knowledge about these preferences is helpful, but coaches and players should identify these moves early in a game and adjust their strategies accordingly. At the higher levels, most players have a wide range of skills, which makes it more difficult to prevent them doing what they want to in one-on-one situations, so a team approach to defence is necessary.
It is not uncommon for coaches to call for players to push your opponent to the sideline or push your opponent to the centre or don’t allow your man to drive toward the baseline. The coach wants his players to apply sufficient defensive pressure to the offensive players to influence them to do what the defenders prefer.
When there is strong pressure on the ball-handler, the defenders guarding players away from the ball will make decisions about preventing their opponents from receiving a pass or helping their team-mate who is defending the ball. They will be unable to do this successfully unless they ALWAYS see the ball and their opponent and they communicate.
Coaches regularly call for their players to talk. This does not mean chatter, but to communicate important information to help their teammates play defence. On defence, most of the talk involves alerting the on-ball defender to screens being set by the offence and letting him know there is help available on the left or right or to fight over or through a screen or to switch on the screen. In other words, the defender can make adjustments to his positioning and how he deals with his player according to the information being fed by his teammates. As easy as it might sound, it is not so easy to get players to communicate constantly. They must be reminded frequently to talk to get maximum benefit from their efforts.
Coaches will usually give pre-game instructions to players about how to deal with screens. Does he want them fighting over or switching? Does he want them to slide under screens and stay with their men? Does he want a double-team on the dribbler if he picks up the ball? These instructions depend on the skills of the opponents and the coach’s philosophy. In any case, it is desirable all the players understand the various options available and they execute the team plan. It can be very frustrating for players and coaches when players do not execute the team instructions.