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How To Defend & Stop The Dribble Drive Offense – The Breakthrough Basketball Blog

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How To Defend & Stop The Dribble Drive Offense

The dribble drive has been quite the craze over the last few years. Due to its success, we often receive questions on how to defend the dribble drive offense.

The coaches that I have been talking to regarding defending the dribble drive are saying….

  • PRESSURE the heck out of the ball.
  • Switch all hand offs.
  • Have GREAT help D.
  • Or play a 3-2 zone.

As for me ( not ever playing against it ) my brain tells me to..

  • Pressure the ball.
  • Play them as physical as they will allow.
  • Force the ball to one side and keep it there.
  • Trap any hand offs to disrupt the flow of the offense.
  • Have GREAT help defense and force them to beat you from the perimeter.

My Plan B would be to play our match up, not allowing penetration and forcing them to beat me with the 3 ball.

We want to share and learn from each other. So please let us know your experiences, suggestions, & thoughts for defending the dribble drive offense.

45 thoughts on “How To Defend & Stop The Dribble Drive Offense

  1. I agree with the 3-2 and aggressive ball pressure, it seems that since I have flipped the zone defense from the old 2-3 to 3-2 I have reduced the amount of guard penetration (while coaching AAU 13U/and Biddy ball). I am a strong proponent of man-to-man, I have adjusted to the players I have each year. I have athletic post players, so the 3-2 really works for me, also allows me to match up in the zone..

  2. I agree with agressive ball pressure, I am reluctant to use the 3-2 based on my personel. pressuring the ball on the wings in the 3-2 opens the middle and allows for even more of an inside-out game by the opponent getting them good looks at 3’s from the corners and allowing for weak side rebounds.

  3. I coach a 7th grade girls’ team where about half of our opponents have that revolves around a high pick for their star one guard or a dribble drive and dish offense. We play a base man defense with an emphasis of jumping the pick and trapping the ball with help D underneath. We also use a 1-2-2 trap. Communication is the key.

  4. My plan B was a 1-3-1 match up allowing them to do what they wanted on the perimeter…. and challenging all 3 point shooters. A lot of the teams I have seen cant shoot the 3 ball very well so I would not allow them to break me down by driving to the basket.
    You could always play a pack style m2m if that fits your personnel better. Our two Ds were m2m on/up the line and the match up – so for us, it was the best of both worlds.
    As for younger kids, stick with the m2m with a lot of HELP D……

  5. My experience is when you pressure consequently the dribbler on his best hand, to force him to use his weak hand, the penetration stops with 40% at least. When there still is penetration the ballhandler has to go back to his strong hand, where the defense is, for a shot.
    It is a simple approach and for all my youth teams it works. Next benefit is that we are forced, in practice, to work with our own off-hands.
    The help, if necessary, comes always from the helpside despite that the ballhandler goes inside or baseline on his penetration.

  6. I have found that the best way to stop the dribble drive is to not allow it in the first place. Since I coach on the youth level tht does not allow full court pressure until the second half of the game. I teach my guards to close out and force the ball handler to pick up their dribble at half court. I also use a player that is quicker than the ball handler this helps in makeing the ballhandler pick up the dribble. I teach them to close out the ballhandler by using an arms distance drill and not allowing the ballhandler to get inside them (beyond the arms distance) and PLAY M2M AND NOT ZONES!!! I have found that players tend to get complacent in zone especially at the youth age

  7. Also if you attack the strong hand of the ballhandler and force them to dribble with their weak hand will cause them to give the ball up. As well as using jump traps on their strong side will also force the ballhandler to pick up his/her dribble

  8. I agree with the pressure on the ball (also forcing them to their weak hand) and trap the hand offs with weakside help. I would give no help off ballside (because of penetration and dishing) but bring help from the weakside with the weakside wing defender dropping to cover backside. The thing you will give up is the opposite wing and that would take a good pass. Your players need to communicate and rotate.

  9. That is true however I teach all of my teams to play m2m and to let the man that is two passes away go and play up the line from them and cover everyone else up that is one pass away when trapping. I have found that most of the time teams have to make a very very long pass across court and we should be able to cover it before it get there

  10. We play a hybrid 1/2/2 man/zone due to our personnel and the skill level of our 3rd graders, we have three excellent ball defenders and two really tall post rebounders so we press at halfcourt and trap on the wings with our 3 man defenders while our two post players play a two man zone in the paint…I think you have to adjust your defense to your personnel. Our two post players do not have the footwork to play man to man yet so we let them defend an area and let our 3 ball defenders create turnovers and lead the break. 12-0 so far this season and two tournament trophies so it’s working well.

  11. Ronnie,

    Sorry that I have to disagree with you on this…. 3rd graders should be playing stictly m2m…. NO traps etc. Kids of this age cant handle that – thus your 12-0 record. You would be doing them more of a service by teaching them all how to play m2m……

  12. I have to agree if you don’t teach them how to play m2m once they reach the higher grades they have no idea how to stop the ball. I don’t play zone very often however when we do press or play zone we are capable of stopping the ball. This year my 4th and 5th grade girls ended up with a final season record of 9 and 4 we dropped games that we should have won in the begining of the season because we were just getting our floor chemistry down and trully learning how to play m2m. Once we got it down our defensive pressure was relentless and we played without committing stupid fouls by getting all over the offensive players. We got turn over after turn over from straight in your face m2m pressure defense

  13. Ronnie, 3rd graders playing a hybird zone and you leave 2 tall post players in the lane? Is it about the kids learning and having fun or about you getting another trophy for your wall? M2M,,, the kids can’t even shoot a three at that age.

  14. Larry there is no need to blast Ronnie for his coaching style everyone coaches differently, and everyone has different objectives and goals that they want to achieve. Until we all came to the realization that it was more about teaching than winning at this age, we have all believed that winning is the most important thing. Yes it is about the kids learning to play the game but let’s not decieve ourselves there is absolutely no fun loosing

  15. I coach 3 through 8th grade and if we face a team that likes to penetrate we use a man to man defense with helpside defense. If the defender on the ball handler is slower then I drop her below the three point line. Also we observe the strong hand and pressure the ball to the weak hand. We also like to force the ball away from the center by chesting the player on the drive forcing the ball to the outside.

  16. Larry, We have 4 players that can shoot 3 pointers on our team(maybe the kids aren’t as strong where you live but the farm boys here in OK are) everyone on our team scores every game and every team in our league plays a zone defense..we are the only team that uses any man to man defense…we teach m2m defense every practice (which is why our 3 ball defenders are so good at it) the two post players are in their first year of basketball and couldn’t even dribble the ball the first practice but they are improving dramatically and will probably be playing straight m2m by the end of this month! I am very proud of our boys winning trophies(btw they go into our school trophy case not my wall). The reason the other teams don’t play m2m is because they don’t teach defensive fundamentals and our ball handlers(yes we have 3rd graders that use flip flops, between the legs, and wicked cross-overs and in’n’outs) would blow them out. I also find that your players and their parents tend to listen to you a lot more when you are 12-0 and they actually will work on their mundane ball handling and defensive drills when they are at home if you tell them to because they realize it is making our whole team better which is the reason I coach! So not sure what your problem is with my coaching style but I assure you that teaching the game of basketball is priority #1 or why else would my bottom 5 be playing in the 2nd and 3rd OT of a tournament championship game which we won 22-21 in 3OT…they played lights out because they didn’t want to let the team down!

  17. Ronnie,

    I was laughing a little at the comments between you and Larry … it sure is easy to judge someone isn’t it? I know that from your first post I didn’t think that you were spending that much time on m2m fundamentals… so you are to be commended for that.

    But I still don’t like any type of zone for the younger kids… 3rd graders etc…… IF you teach good help D its as good as a zone, maybe better. Good luck and I wish you well.

  18. Also a disclaimer, I have two players that have never played before(and they are in our starting 5) but the other 5 all have at least 3 years and some as much as 6 years experience. Also, my players attend basketball camps regularly and we practice hour and a half two to three times a week and scrimmage our 4th grade team all the time (and yes we beat them every time) so we earn our 12-0 record with hard work! IMO the way to stop a penetrating ball handler is to keep your nose on the ball, shuffle your feet quickly to keep your nose on the ball and keep your hands out!

  19. Thanks Ken, I guess I needed to provide a little more info on why we use that defense, but if I used my top 5 players on the floor at the same time(and the two new post players on the bench) and ran m2m the other team wouldn’t stand a chance. My 3 ball handlers that I rotate in are from that group of 5 and they all can play excellent m2m and are very good at trapping and stealing the ball. I will sometimes use a 3-2 zone or a 2-1-2 zone just to let the other team get a chance to bring the ball up.

  20. I coach U21 in Denmark, and we play the Dribble Drive (Wahlberg, Calipari)

    besides the zones and the switches and the immense help we see, I think, so far, the best defensive adjustments against us, are these:

    – Helping with active hands. DD is set up, to give the players an opportunity to pass to all other positions on the court at any time – so when you help, pinch, stunt or whatever, you try and take the passing lanes away at the same time, or chances are you´ll get outplayed.
    – There´s team we´ve played against a couple of years in a row, who have specialized against us 🙂 They do use different schemes – they drop their weakside perimeter defender, on the inside of our BIG, as a PHSYICAL “coverdown” – BEFORE the dd begins. This of course frees up the 3man (ws) within the offense, but also give them one more body to help with, and it still comes down to a precision pass from a guard, over the help (drag/Open window), a shot that is even without much offensive movement before the release – thereby establishing good defensive rebounding positioning allover. We of course want to switch sides, before we start, but it´s not always easy to recognize for a pg, who is under pressure out top.
    – On “kick-ups” (the dribble weave on the sideline), they try to “get through” the kick-ups, to contain the ball on that side, while also maintaing positioning, and if the refs are up for it, a little contact, with the reciever, which again takes away our best backdoors or “drops” – no direct line to the basket.
    – Against any offense, but especially dd i recommend you use a little switching defenses to acommodate the adjustments. an even, an odd, maybe a hybrid and m2m – and the dribble drive just might collapse. TO gallore.

    With that being said, we are still sticking to the dribble drive for a couple of years. We are not losing many games, and my players are loving it, and also learning a lot of fundamental basketball. We do mix it up with the passing game, and the triangle as well, though…

  21. Ronnie,

    I still wouldn’t run a zone of trap with this age group…. Keep teaching/coaching. 🙂

  22. Ronnie, I have the same issues with parents. However, there have been studies done that actually show parents number one concern isn’t winning.

    In an original survey (1994), Stewart, a Montana State professor, found that the parents of high school athletes wanted a coach who was:

    * fair and honest in dealing with athletes,
    * committed to having players enjoy their sport, and
    * dedicated to the development of sportsmanship.

    Here is the rest of the article:

    I think if you explain things to the parents via email or a meeting, it helps tremendously. I have done this several times and it works wonders. Not to mention, parents really enjoy hearing what your philosophies are and why you do things a certain way.

    I’ve watched a 3rd grade group all the way up to varsity. 3rd grade through 8th grade they killed everybody using zones and traps. 9th grade still went undefeated. 10th grade… uh oh… this is when their bad habits caught up with them. Going for the steals, lunging out of position… things that worked at the lower levels didn’t work any more and they were getting beat. They finsihed 14-7.

    Now after creating these habits for 7 years, it was nearly impossible to break. Senior year they got knocked out first round of districts.

    Just four years ago that same team… a small town team in Iowa finished 4th in the state against select teams and big schools at the state AAU tournament.

    From coaching everything from 3rd grade to varsity and all of the more experienced coaches I consult with, our advice is to play man to man.

    Also, try reading these articles if you have not already. They will explain the why in more detail:

  23. Good stuff, coaches. I know where I’ll come to if we play a dribble drive this year. However, in the Kansas City area, we don’t play too many teams that use the DDM on the varsity level.

  24. By the end of this month, my entire team will be playing m2m defense and we will be the only team in our league doing it, we will have to play zone against some teams just from a competitive standpoint(to let them have a chance at least to bring the ball up). I assure you we are not 12-0 because we play zone, actually quite the opposite, I use the zone to give the opposing team a chance to at least bring the ball up. We are 12-0 because we play as a team and practice very hard and try to get better every day, and that includes working on fundamentals every day at home. I have an excellent relationship with my parents and we have fun and always show excellent sportsmanship. I look forward to letting you know years from now how our team does but I don’t believe we will have the same situation as your team in Iowa unless our High School program starts using a zone, but since my players will have experience in using m2m as well as zone, they will be ready! Thank you for the articles Coach Joe I already have them in my coaching book and I look forward to many more great articles from you and your staff.

  25. I also have a Kindergarten and 1st grade team I coach where we play 4 on 4 don’t keep score and play all m2m on an 8ft rim…it’s fun and that is why our players stick with it and continue to improve year after year. I try to read all your articles and implement most of them so keep them coming!

  26. Glad to hear that you got the young teams heading in the right direction, Ronnie! You better not have the same experience as that team in Iowa. 🙂


  28. Alan my 4th and 5th grade boys & girls teams also run the R&R offense and it does cause the other teams to have trouble defending against it. Especially if you are fortunate enough to have 3 point shooters as I do. We also us dribble drive penetration as well as basket cutting from this offense. I have run into the combination defense that Ronnie has used and it is effective if you do not have a team that passes the ball well or move to the pass. The team that we played in the championship game used the exact same defense with the three guards chasing or forcing the ball and two big players standing in the paint. We went to a 50 set which is a spread offensive set and it ended up being a layup clinic all evening they were not able to keep up with the passing, that was all because we took care of the ball and made good passes to cutting wings and post. We have one main belief on offense and that is this “BAD PASSES MAKE BAD THINGS HAPPEN”

  29. Regardless to what defense you run whether it be zone or m2m if your people do no have patience, a patient team that moves and passes well will beat you everytime

  30. Alan and Coach Bolden, I would like to know more about the read and react offense you use, do you have any resources you can recommend? Thank you for your help, I am always looking for things I can implement to help our players learn.

  31. About judging…many volunteer parent-coaches in our area play zone not to gain unfair advantage, but because they lack confidence teaching man/man. You can drill your 10-year-old girls in a zone for 10 minutes at practice and have 60 minutes left to teach layins, pick and roll or fast-break passing. That said, better to teach m/m anyway.

  32. Mike that is really a shame because believe it or not at that age girls have better hand and eye coordination than boys and they tend to pick it up faster than the boys at that age. In the school league that I coach in here in east TN you find a great deal of coaches that lack the understanding of how a m2m works anyway. They also do not realize that zones hinge on the player knowing how to stop the ball in the first place. Many of them are also practicing zone defense for only 10 minutes. Sadly these teams have very bad defensive games, they tend to end up in a great deal of foul trouble early because the weak side players in the zone do not understand how to rotate to the ball, or they step over too late. Mike I have found that most of these types of teams fall to the bottom of the league because they come up against teams that spend more time teaching good defensive habits, that end up with a lot of easy shot attempts off of steals and fast breaks. They tend to get scored on very easily and out rebounded on both ends of the floor. The old adage holds true at any age level “offense wins games but defense wins championships”

  33. Due to the proliferation of dribble penetration to threaten the basket to either score the high percentage layup or draw help to set up a catch-and-shoot 3, the most important skill to practice is on-the-ball defense. When there is very little driving, there is very little effective use of the dribble-drive offense.

    What will be needed to defend the drive well will be an on ball technique where the defender absolutely knows when he is out of position to stop the dribble penetration. When he gets out of position, he must always move toward recovering that position which he lost. He will either be in good position or trying to get back to good position. Nothing else matters.
    There are on ball techniques used today where good defensive position (the exact spot on the floor the defender needs to be in relation to the dribble)is not clear or not known. Those man techniques have no chance of stopping the dribble-drive.

    The second thing you must do is practice your well-conceived on ball technique every single day with drills that stress good positoning and constant recovery of good position immediately when good position is lost. You must spend the time. This can be done.

    Again, no dribble penetration, no dribble-drive offense.

  34. Bob what you describe works really well when you have players that know and understand the game of basketball. However when your players are 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders that barley understand the game it becomes a different world. I believed as you when I first started coaching 4th and 5th graders that have never played the game beyond their own courts that mom and dad have put in the field or drive way. Bob I was used to coaching inner city kids that eat, sleep, and live on the basketball court. Was I in for a rude awakening that is when I realized that teaching proper m2m techniques would pay off in the long run. For the last four seasons my decision has paid off tremendously not only for the schools win/loss record but for the kids that come from that program making the middle school teams in more frequent numbers. Bob this has come about because I have chosen to teach the game of basketball, and I have found that the best place to start is on the defensive end of things because if you only score two points and the other team scores none then you still win even if it is only by two points. As I said in my original post the best way to stop “dribble drive” penetration is to not allow it to start in the first place.

  35. Bolden, by principle I like your philosophy. I would like to think, that my own group´s succes in DK derives from the very same principle, and it also tells me something about the struggles we had early this year, when the younger generations that moved up to my agegroup this year, couldn´t defend as well, or as intelligently, as I´d hoped. (My original group is from 1990, but this is their 3rd and final year, so we are now actually two teams in one.)

    At the same time, I can also promise you, that no team will be able to stop the dribble drive 1o1, not the way we run it anyway. At best, it´s a matter of maybe being able to influence to one side, but with the enhanced spacing and “gaps” concepts, that calipari have figured out in UK, even that can be difficult at times. Just as a small example – in a two guard front, you´d put the current ballhandler 4-5ft out from the 3p line, and just to the inside of the elbow, openening up the middle a lot more, than with your regular symmetric spacing.

    So, in addition to your 1o1 principle, which will lay the fundamental mentality for the defense – stop your man, I´d like to emphazize these other options, as possible solutions to “stopping the dribble drive”.

    1. 1o1 principles, as described by Bolden.
    2. early help, -maybe even pro actively. (see post #21) + active hands
    3. Getting “through” on “kick-ups”. playing “Ball U Man”, as Bolden played his “on ball” – taking away middle drive AND straightline backdoors, BEFORE the offense reads.

    4. Full Court or 3/4 defensive schemes – to take away the timing of the dribble driving, “blurry reads”
    5. Concealed zones (match-up) – “is this man, or is it zone?”
    6. Changing of zones (odd/even), same outcome as 4. momentum changer. stressfactor.
    7. Defensive rebounding positioning and balance – They only get 1 shot! (Fastbreak, to make them run home, would be next level)
    8. NOT FOULING. Especially against jumpshooters!

    again, this all depends on agegroup and varies with level of exp and talent. We have worked our way through U14, U16, U18 and are near the completion of U21. And it all started with man defense for us!

  36. Amen!! yes we did have problems stopping the dribble drive and gave up a few layups learning to play m2m, however once we learned the prinicpal of not covering the man 2 passes away weakside help became much easier and taking away the baseline became much easier. I must admit at the age I coach really good ball handlers and defenders are far few and in between. I take advantage of this fact by making all my players dribble and shoot lay ups with both hands. Yet as I have stated it is not so much about me winning a bunch of games that mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. But teaching the young people that I have the opportunity to coach how to play the game of basketball

  37. Hi coaches, I don’t coach anywhere, though I’d love to 🙂
    Lately I’ve been watching lots of UK bball and reading more and more about the DDM offense. Here is what I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong:
    1. A well taught “sagging m2m defense” would stop the dribble penetration. Most 3pt shots in the offense come from inside-out, so if the passes start coming from around the perimeter, this might disrupt the shooters’ rhythm.
    2. If the handler beats his defender 1o1, the help should come immediately from nearest player and the one beaten automatically sprints to cover (switching). Of course, NOT get beaten is preferable 🙂
    3. An early pressure on the point guard (half or even 3/4 court will probably do) would disrupt the rhythm of the offense. It only works for a few possessions though, I suppose.
    4. In Calipari’s Defense DVD, he shows very strong individual one-on-one defensive drills. Ironically, they would be very helpful against DDM, I believe.
    5. As mentioned before me here, not covering the 2 passes away player tightly will give you another defender to help against the penetration.
    6. Opposite to my first point, if you don’t play “sagging m2m”, you should be running the ball handler to the sidelines AND baseline. The main principles of DDM are to drive for a lay-up from the middle. Well, take that away! This might be the best way to do it, but you’ll have to switch on drive-at hand-offs and push back to the sideline or the opposite sideline. Beware of the back door cuts. Practice, practice, practice…
    7. Last, I never enjoyed watching or playing zone D. Lately, though I’ve been paying attention to Syracuse and, frankly, IMO if a team learns to execute it the way they do…who knows… I can’t wait to see them play Kentucky. I guess that will decide whether zone can be successful against DDM or not. Until then I wouldn’t recommend it, mainly because of the way the offense is designed to dump off to the center and to kick out for open 3’s. Basically if you pass the ball inside the zone or penetrate it, you’ll break it down, cause it to contract and if you kick out, it’ll expand and give an opportunity for another drive or, if it doesn’t expand (recover) quick enough, its an open 3. The vast majority of teams try to pass the ball in the paint, but IMO it’d be easier to drive it there, especially if that is your bread and butter.

  38. First of all, KUDOS to all the coaches teaching m2m defense at the youth level. YOU are really doing your kids a favor, you are preparing them to play at the next level with proper fundamentals, which is what your main goal should be along with them having FUN.

    I have no problem laying zones in college or at the Varsity level in high school, in some cases its about keeping your job and in others its just a personal philosophy. Colleges recruit the players that fit into their system, but you can bet somewhere along the line they were taught proper m2m fundamentals. Regardless of the D you use, you still have to cover someone at some point in the game.

    When we talk about running different offenses – DD, R&R etc. most of the time it all boils down to who has the better players. I think it was Creighton Burns who always says this…. ” IF your Jimmy and Joes are better than my Xs and 0s, you will win the battles. ”

    So, you can pressure, trap, switch, gimmick etc and if the other players are better than yours, you are going to be in for a long night defensively. Like I said before, we ran m2m on/up the line and a 1-3-1 match up zone which gave us the best of both worlds… my goal was to confuse the 0 into thinking we were running the zone and they would run the zone offense while we were playing m2m. It worked a lot, not as much as I would have liked. 🙂

    My philosophy was that I was going to pick my own poison.. meaning, I would decide how or who we were going to let try and beat us. We wanted to take away the best part of their game and see if they could beat us with plan B.


  39. I have always used a box and one defense. I use my best defender to harass the ball wherever it goes. Since most team only have one good ball handler I usually end up with a boatload of steals, and the other team ends up with a very frustrated dribbler.

  40. hey, we play aggressive defense to the hilt M2M, ball pressure hard, talk, all over the court, trap ect, We play D with our feet not our hands. We are a 7th grade team, how do I, we stop the read and react offense, we’ve beat them once, but lost by 6 last time, I was thinking a hard aggressive 2-3 zone, because basically the RR is just pass and cut and fill designated spots on the court? That may take away the constant back door cut lay-ups, or is man ok just constantly deny open up, and of course deny cutters for the back doors?

  41. Storm, I would concentrate on getting in the cutters path and make the cutter take rounded paths… no straight cuts.

    I would also provide heavy helpside defense. Weakside should be in the lane.

  42. Against the dribble, I use the 2-2-1 half court zone defense with a few minor variations. 1 and 4 up top 2 and 3 at the mid post and 5 in the hole traveling only from block to block. Any questions please feel free to ask away.

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