Transition Defense

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Create your Transition Defense philosophy by establishing clear rules for offensive rebounding and who is responsible for getting back on defense.


Transition Defense is one of the four main phases of the game, but it is perhaps the least discussed of the four. Coaches almost unanimously agree that getting out and running in transition is a critical component to offensive efficiency. If we agree on that fact then we should also agree that limiting those moments on the defensive end is equally important. Over the course of the last two years, I have spent quite a bit of time in the offseason researching different philosophies on this aspect of the game. These philosophies can be drastically different, but all of them essentially contain a mixture of offensive rebounding and getting back on defense.



I - Transition Philosophy

What I wanted to do with this post was to discuss the transition defense strategy that I have arrived at and the specific teaching points that accompany it. Like I mentioned in the intro our philosophy will contain its own mixture of offensive rebounding strategy and a plan to get back on the defensive end. Most of the professional teams that I have observed have arrived at the philosophical belief that getting back on defense is of much greater importance than offensive rebounding.


At the high school level, I believe there are other factors at play, such as talent, lower shooting percentages, and smaller courts. Because of those factors, I tend to lean towards placing greater importance on offensive rebounding vs getting back on defense. Last summer I took a deeper look at our offensive rebounding performance and decided we needed to make a bigger commitment to the glass this past season. Some of my statistical takeaways from our 2019-20 numbers were:

  • We saw OREB%, OREB Totals, & OREB Per Game all spike dramatically

  • Our Offensive Efficiency (PPP) Improved as a Result

  • Our Second Chance Points (SCP) were down, but our eFG% was the cause


Main Concept -

We believe there is tremendous value in accumulating offensive rebounds and so we need to place a priority on getting them, while also making sure we are not burned by leak outs.


The essential idea behind our philosophy is that we need one player focused on defensive balance - and three crashing the glass. 

Roles -

Shooter - the person shooting the basketball should not also be asked to get back or get the offensive rebound. He should be focused on making the shot.


Balance - one perimeter player needs to be sprinting back towards half-court in case there are leak outs. We usually do not designate that person.


Crashers - we will get into teaching points later but we need three bodies heading the 'Rebounding Zone' hunting offensive rebounds.



II. Off Rebounding Strategies

For those players who will be crashing the offensive glass, we want to provide some general rebounding technique to their attack. The general concept behind our offensive rebounding techniques is to provide our crashers with a chance of getting the rebound while also lessening the likelihood that we will get burned in transition. Regardless of where the crashers are coming from we would like to teach these two techniques.


Rebounding Technique #1

"Getting to the High Side" - all crashers should be attacking the side of their defender that is closest to half court.


This technique allows us to compete for the offensive rebound but also be in a much better position to get back on defense if we do not get the rebound.


Teaching Points:

  • Set up your Crash by Faking Baseline then Going to the High Side

  • Keep an Arm Free for Tips

  • Maintain Contact with your Defender

  • If on Baseline, "Get to the Front of the Rim"


Video Clips - These are clips of our Post Player "Getting to the High Side".


Video Clips - These are clips of Perimeter Players "Getting to the High Side".



Rebounding Technique #2

"Fight to 50/50" - we do not want to stay behind our defender, we would at least like to be 'shoulder to shoulder' with him.


Similar to technique #1, by fighting to 50/50 position we give ourselves a good chance to rebound, while not giving our opponent a free run at the basket if we don't.


Teaching Points:

  • Get to the High Side

  • Do Not Sit Behind Defenders

  • Looking for Shoulder to Shoulder Position

  • Keep a Hand Free for Tips

  • Maintain Contact with Defender


Video Clips: These are clips of players fighting to "50/50 Position".


Video Clips: These are clips of players looking for "Tip Outs" as a last resort.




III - Getting Back on Defense

Offensive rebounding is the focal point of our transition defense philosophy, but we also need to have a strategy in place to make sure we're not giving up baskets on the other end. The term we designate for someone to take responsibility for getting back is the word balance.


Who's in Balance?

The closest player to the top of the key at the time of a shot must call balance.


Jump Shots vs Lay-Ups -

As you could see in some of the video clips above there is a bit of a decision to be made for players at the top of the key. Traditionally speaking we have a much better chance to get the offensive rebound when we are taking a jump shot then when we are taking a lay-up.


2018-19 OREB Study:

  • RIM (28.6 OREB%)

  • 3FGA (34.0 OREB%)

Lay-Up Attempts -

On shots at the rim someone should be calling balance and sprinting to half court.


Jump Shots -

Given the extra opportunities that long rebounds give us we will allow our perimeter players a chance to make a choice to crash or get to balance. Players at the top of the key can crash if they see no leak out or a chance to snag a long rebound.


Photo Breakdown -

  • #22 is the Shooter in the Corner

  • #23 at the top of the key has Balance responsibility

  • #2 #24 will crash, working to the High Side

  • #10 will look to crash from the Backside


To me, this is a great snapshot of what we want to see in transition defense, a big advantage shot, three players on the glass, and one getting to balance.



IV - Concluding Thoughts

Having a well-defined transition defense philosophy will make it easier for you to hold your players accountable, and easier for your players to make clean decisions. Many coaches will develop doubts about whether or not their philosophy is the correct one, and having done so myself we have to realize is that there really is no "right answer". Your philosophy simply needs to be something you have deeply examined and are completely confident in teaching. Once that philosophy is established and articulated all that is left is to reinforce it with a combination of statistics, film, and praise.


Here are some helpful resources that I have posted previously along with clinic notes that I've accumulated on this subject:


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Coach Lynch Contact Info:

Email - mflynch21@yahoo.com

Twitter - @CoachLynch_21

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