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Offense vs. Junk

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Your team is facing a "junk defense." Not a bad defense but a "junk defense," a term usually attached to a non-traditional defense, such as the box and 1 or triangle and 2. How do you play against it?

If you are going to look here for special plays to use against a box-and-1 or triangle-and 2 you are looking in the wrong place. I believe that creating a special offense to play against a situation that you might see for a few minutes per year will be damaging to your team as a whole. Preparing for unusual situations will rob you of valuable practice time and eventually have you less prepared for your everyday games. However, I hope to give you some simple thoughts that will make you a more effective team if you do see one.

team 3I think in order to play against it, you have to understand it. Why are "junk defenses" effective? When played properly, they are very effective, but only for a period of time. They get figured out which is why teams to play them all the time.


Let's look at how they get broken down Junk defenses take players out of their regular defensive scheme, which leaves holes. They leave holes in shooting areas, passing lanes and driving lanes. Attacked with consistency and patience, those holes will be exposed and teams will take advantage of them. Pretty simple.


Why do they work? That is a little more involved. Rarely do junk defenses prevent the player it is designed to shut down from getting the ball. There are other forces at work.

Junk defenses work because they are different. When you prepare for you season, you spend the most time on what you want to do with your team and then you spend time preparing for what you believe other teams are going to do. It stands to reason that you will spend the most time on the things you believe you will play against most. Preparing for junk defense comes at the cost of preparation for your season in general. The more time you spend on it, the less time you have for your regular offenses and defenses. Even if you think you might see some junk defenses along the way, most coaches believe it is too time consuming to put into their master plan in relation to the amount of time they will have o use it. I agree with that. The reason why the fabled "Princeton Offense" is so effective is that it is so different. Teams try to prepare for it in 1 day because they don't see it enough to work on it for an entire season. Invariably, teams are unprepared when they see something different.

team 5The next reason they work is that they are confusing. These defenses are basically zones. However, the player who is being defended sees a man-to-man. Many times the player trying to pass to the defended player sees a man-to-man. No matter how you emphasize it, emotionally, players are going to believe what they see. So, you have some of your players playing against a zone and 1 or 2 players playing against a man-to-man. The two concepts don't mix. Your offense breaks down.

The next reason they work is that they force the player being defended to look at his game differently. He doesn't get the same looks, he doesn't handle the ball in the same situations as he is used to. This is usually due to the breakdowns in your offense rather than the defense. Think about it, if you have a player that is good enough to be junked, he is used to seeing tough defense. But when they toughen up in a man-to-man, you don't change your offense because of it. When you see a box-and-1, everything changes. Your player starts to pressure himself, starts to force shot, tries to make moves he is not good at and your team spirals down the drain.

Your other players start to fixate on the player being defended that they concentrate on getting him the ball and they ignore other opportunities. The offense loses its pace and its focus. They start taking bad shots and forcing the ball. Combine that with the problems your defended player is having, there is good reason for the defense to be effective.


Often the purpose of the defense is misunderstood. Commonly, coaches believe it is to deny or shut down a great scorer, but there are many other reasons. Junk defenses can change tempo, they can hide poor defensive players, I have always had great success with playing the point guard and forcing others to handle the ball, commonly called "cutting the head off the snake." Often, you cannot get into the other coach's head and you don't know what his purpose is. Emphasizing the wrong thing on offense only helps the defense even more.


team 6So what do you do against a junk defense? I believe you play as normally as you can. Try to make your players as comfortable as possible. If you run a motion offense, that is what I would stick with. Having the ball switch sides, running screens and creating a lot of movement will break down the defense quickly. This is one of the situations that I run the "Get Series" that is referred to in book, "Motion Offense," available through Spend more time on the mental reasons that the defense is successful than the physical. Teach your players to understand what they are facing and if you have taught them well, they will respond. Help them to understand that possessions
will be longer due to the fact that it takes a little while for the weaknesses of the defense to show up.

If you don't run a motion but have a zone offense with a lot of movement, which would be my first line of offense. Remember, most of these defenses are zones as a basic defense. Taking a man out of the defense to play your player man-to-man will weaken the zone and create opportunities. Within your offense, make a concerted effort to get the ball inside, even if you don't have an inside scorer. All defenses break down when the ball goes inside. Once the ball goes inside, you will get scoring opportunities. Once they defend the post, your perimeter players will open up. Play inside out for perimeter play. This will even open up the defended player. The ball will spend a lot of time behind the defender and his concentration level can only last but so long before it breaks down.

I would not put in anything special for the defense though. I might make some adjustment, based on what I see in the defense but those adjustments will be inside of what they already know. It is very difficult to get players to execute their everyday offenses. To give them something new or special due to this situation would be a very tough task


How do you prepare for a junk defense? Obviously, you have to practice against it. Previously I stated that spending time on junk defenses might weaken your team as a whole. However, I think you can practice against it but making some small adjustments within what you normally practice. Just to give you an example, in my defensive progressions I do a lot of "defensive disadvantage" drills, or drills that are stacked against the defense having success. I do a lot of 4 on 3 (4 offense, 3 defense) and 5 on 4 drills. We probably spent more time in 5 on 4 drills than 5 on 5. Inside of those drills, it is easy to add 1 more defensive player and tell him to defend 1 particular player. The emphasis is not on the one player playing man-to-man. The emphasis of the drill is still 4 on 3 or 5 on 4 so the players are still comfortable playing the defense. However, the offense must adjust to 1 player under pressure. They are all in a drill they are comfortable and don't
feel that they have to learn anything new, they feel that they have to do whatever they are doing, just a little better.

I, also, have never played a box-and-1 or triangle-and-2. I try to use things that are inside my regular defense. My basic man to man defense has ball side pressure and very heavy weak side help. We do a lot of switching in the back. In games, we will play a "chaser." We will take one player and tell him he has no help responsibilities. His job is to keep one particular player from getting the ball. Sometimes we will play with 2 chasers. Practicing this, because we use it, is an everyday occurrence. Should we face a junk defense, our players have seen it so often that they have no issues with it. In addition or defense has gotten better because of the work we do.

teams 4The purpose of the above is not to blow my own horn, but to illustrate that you probably have things that you do already that will prepare you to play against a junk defense and improve your team at the same time. Remember the things that make "junks" effective (see section above). If you expect to face a junk defense I don't believe you should take 20 minutes out of your practice and put your 2nd team into a box-and-1. They won't play it as well as your opponents; they won't be excited about it. I would not install anything special because, given the limited preparation time; you won't be good at it. You could have used the time to get better at what YOU do and opposed to what THEY do. Spend your time getting better and getting your players comfortable with what you do instead of being concerned about what they do.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.

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