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Three Methods - Guarding Drives

In this week's Three Methods Series installment, we are looking at how we teach players to guard drives, and how to work on it in practice.

In the past few weeks, we have detailed how we want the ball guarded on the perimeter and how we can use denials to disrupt the offense. By employing ball pressure and perimeter denial we are all leaving ourselves open to dribble drives from the perimeter. It's important for us to remember that the dribble drive in itself is not always a net negative. If we are allowing straight lines drives, clean finishes at the rim, or blow-bys, then that's another story, but if we can teach our players to eliminate those options and funnel these drives to a desired location then we are still in good shape.

In this post we are going to look at the two most common perimeter dribble drive occasions; the rooftop drive and the wing drive. I think it's good practice to have a clear plan about how we want to funnel these drives and what teaching points we want to employ in these scenarios. In both scenarios, there will be common teaching points where we want to encourage our players to force the opponent to take tough contested shots, that are taken outside of the painted area. If we can accomplish that then we will be able to reap the benefits of ball pressure & denial without the consequence of available driving lanes.

If you are looking for other topics in my Three Methods Series check out these links:

Rooftop Drives -

The typical scenario for these drives would have the wings being denied by perimeter defenders and any post player being 3/4 fronted. With nowhere to go with the basketball your man now is forced to improvise. He puts his head down and begins his drive to the rim. As we said in the introduction this drive in itself is not necessarily harmful, but we need to make sure that it is being funneled properly. We need to drive home to our players the importance of not making this a straight-line drive or a trip to the free-throw line.

Teaching Points -

When these Rooftop Drives are occurring we want to make sure that our players are squaring up the player with the basketball. Where there is a lot of common sense in coaches preferring guys force players to their weak had in these scenarios I think there is a bit of danger embedded in this. One thing that is unique about Rooftop Drives compared to Wing Drives is that our backside help defense is not as easily defined. If we are opening our hips and allowing a drive to a preferred side then we are in trouble at the rim. My preference is to square the ball up and force them to take a pull-up jumper or a drive that we can funnel.

Our teaching points are going to start there:

1. No Straight Lines Drives - Under no circumstances can we afford to give up blow-bys or straight-line drives in these scenarios. We will never reap the benefits of ball pressure and denial if we are not defending drives in a physical manner.

  • Square Up

  • Give Ground

  • Make Contact with the Chest

  • Hot Stoves Hand Checks

2. No Open Hips - It is essential that players do not open their hips and grant the offensive player a clear path to the rim. We are squaring up the basketball at the point and not allowing these drives to get into the paint.

3. Force to the Short Corner - The goal is to chase the offensive player down the rooftop to the short corner. Ideally, any shot the offensive player gets from this location will be difficult and contested. I do think there are some preferred outcomes for the defense here:

  1. Force the offense to change directions - making the finish more challenging

  2. Contesting the shot with high hands, not needing the Backside Help

  3. Contesting the shot with the help of Backside Help

4. Hands High & Contest - Getting help on these drives is challenging, the angles are not good and denials take away ball-side options. Because of these we need to make sure that we are getting our chest out, our hands high, and contesting the shot without fouling.

Wing Drives -

As we detailed in previous posts our hope is that we deny the wing entry pass altogether, and if that pass is made that we force it to be completed further away from the basket. The scenario for Wing Drives to typically occur usually looks like this; Despite our best attempts to deny the basketball to the wing, the pass there was made. The pass back to the point is being denied, and the post player is 3/4 fronted on the block. With nowhere to go with the ball on the ball side, our man looks to drive.

Teaching Points -

On the catch, we want our players to play on the top side of the offensive player's back foot. This means that we are placing our lead foot above that of the offensive player, ultimately not allowing him to go middle and only giving him the baseline drive option. This is slightly different from guarding the ball on the rooftop, where we are completely square to the ballhandler. Although we are not opening up our hips we are clearly shading him to a certain area. Knowing that he can only go baseline, we now have a singular goal of shutting his drive off before he gets to the paint.

The teaching points would boil down to these:

1. No Straight Line Drives - We can not give up a straight line drive to the rim. Under no circumstances can we get beat in this way. We are in a slide/sprint to make sure that we are meeting the drive with our chest at some point before the ball gets to the short corner.

2. No Open Hips - Although we are shading the basketball to the sideline/baseline area it does not mean that we are opening up our hip to the rim. This can be a difficult task, but we need to make sure that players know the difference between the two. We are aiming that back foot (nearest to the rim) toward the short corner, with the goal of beating him there.

3. Force to the Short Corner - The Short Corner is our key location. This is an area on the floor that will make the shot off the dribble difficult to finish and will provide our players with a visual to reference. Although we are getting our backside defense ready to rally to the drive, it would greatly benefit our defense if they were not needed at all. Our ideal outcome would be that the driver is forced to pick up his dribble here.

4. Hands Highs & Contest - In those scenarios where we do not beat our man completely to the short corner and force him to pick up his dribble we need to be able to contest the shot without fouling. Getting our chest into the offensive player while getting our hands in the air is a good way to increase the difficulty of the shot while keeping the referees from making a foul call.

1/1 Options -

In my opinion, guarding drives is something that needs to be drilled in 1/1 scenarios. Although we discussed the importance of help defense, both on the ballside and backside, keeping the basketball out of the paint truly does boil down to 1/1 defense. We need to consistently force our players to guard the basketball 1/1 in practice with our desired teaching points and locations in mind. In these two concepts, we are just simply asking our guys to play 1/1 from the locations we suggest and then find small ways to increase the advantage to make it more difficult on the defense.

Rooftop 1/1 -

Almost all drives from the rooftop are going to come off a triple threat "catch & rip" or a dribble attack from beyond the three-point arc. So with that being said let's put our guys in these scenarios and coach them up.

Off the Check:

To work on those scenarios where guys are catching the basketball off of a swing pass and then just ripping the basketball toward the rim we will do just that.

  • check the ball up

  • immediately rip right or left

  • force the offense to change direction

  • contest with high hands

Off the Bounce:

The more difficult of the two scenarios is when the offensive player has the chance to attack toward the rim off the dribble. I like the idea of giving the offense a bit of a head start with the basketball and then. challenging our defensive player to funnel his drive toward the short corner & contest it.

Wing Drive 1/1 -

Our wing drive scenarios can occur from any one of four spots; the right and left wing, and the right and left corner. So in this concept, we are just going to give our players the chance to attack from these positions.


Our main teaching points from these parts of the floor are:

  1. Do not give up the Middle

  2. Send them to the Short Corner

Whether we are working from the corners or from the wings we want to stress these two points.


I like the idea of starting on one of the wings and then working a rotation of wing, wing, corner, corner. We can organize the guys into pairs or create 3-4 man groups to work on this.

  • Pairs would alternate turns on defense

  • 3-4 Man Groups could work a scenario where one guy must stop all four before switching locations

  • Let's Get Winners!

Concluding Thoughts -

Guarding the basketball is such an important element of good defense, we need to make sure that we are placing an emphasis on this daily. How we will apply ball pressure on the basketball and knowing how we'll guard drivers are probably the two scenarios that we need to really need to hash our philosophy on. These are going to occur on nearly every single possession of the game and if we do not have a clear plan then they will most likely be one of the reasons we get beat.

Some questions we need to consider:

  • Where are we sending the drive?

  • What are the teaching points we want to stress?

  • Do we want to pack the driving lanes or use denial?

Three Methods - Guarding Drives
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