Coaches Pre-Season Checklist

<h3>The Nuts and Bolts of Preparation</h3>

As early October approaches, coaches at all levels are preparing for the upcoming season. Many coaches attend clinics, have staff retreats, or just meet to organize thoughts on practice, implementation of offense and defense, and general philosophy on style of play.

Following is an idea of what we do to prepare for training camp. Keep in mind that we have about one week, usually 8-10 practices, before our first exhibition game. The majority of our offense/defense will be put in. Our style of play, philosophy and overall way of doing things is established during this time. We will also establish the core of specific drills we will use during the entire season.


1. PICK/ROLL COVERAGES-This is the area of defense teams spend the majority of their time and energy practicing. Because it is such an important part of NBA offense, you must prepare for the many different P/R situations your team will encounter during the course of a game. Your staff must consider these following P/R scenarios:

a. Side b. Mid c. Angle d. Step Up e. Drag f. Flat g. Corner h. Elbow/Horns

Special P/R Situations

a. Double Drag b. Twists (same big re-picks) c. Wiper (opposite big re-picks)

Check List:

1. What are your calls for each coverage?
2. Are you a multiple coverage team? (most are)
3. What is your pick up point for the point guard?
4. Where do you want your Bigs to meet his man?
5. What is your call for a short clock, and what is your defense for that situation?

2. TRANSITION– Transition defense is only as good as your offense. The two are interchangeable. Bad shot selection and poor floor balance affects FG percent defense more that your actual half court set defense. Keep in mind it is very important that your team understands who is back on the shot, who goes in
for an offensive rebound, and the specific areas on the floor which determine whether to “crash” or get back. Most teams in our league will send the 4 and 5 to the boards and get back the 1, 2, and 3. In case the 3 does crash, it is more imperative that 1 and 2 sprint back to set the defense.

Check List:

1. How many players are you sending to the offensive glass? What areas of the court are they not encouraged to crash from?
2. How many players are you getting back on the raise of the shot?
3. What is the pick up point for your point guard?
4. Are you loading the first Big down to the ball?

3. POST UPS– It is important for your players to know exactly how you are going to defend the post. They need to understand the technique you want, which players to full front, which players to play on the side with a ¾ front, and which players you will play behind.

Check List:

1. Where do you meet the Bigs? (3 point line, top of key, FT line?)
2. When do you want a hard ¾ front?
3. When and whom do you want to full front?
4. What technique will you teach for getting around the post player when the ball moves from wing to corner? (X Step, Umbrella)
5. Once the offensive player has the ball, what is your plan? No middle drives? Base Go?
6. When do you double the Post? On pass? On dribble?
7. Who do you double with? Top? Cutter (snap back)? Other Big?
8. How will you defend a mid-post player that has faced up? Space? Jam? Personnel decision?

4. CUTTING/SCREENING ACTIONS-Defending screens and cuts off the ball are very difficult. We want our players to be in a great stance, ready to be physical, in a ball-you- man position, and most importantly, AWARE and ready to ANTICIPATE the action. Players must be ready to bump or tag cutters, let a defender through, switch, and lastly, ready to “Hit and Fetch”…make contact before going for the rebound. Following is a list of screening actions you must be ready to defend, and decide on how to defend them:

Check List

1. Flex Cuts (war over or send baseline?)
2. Wide Pin Downs (war over or Top?)
3. Pick the Picker (elbow switch or stay?)
4. Floppy (switch 2/3’s or stay? When and how to shoot the gap?)
5. Are there any situations where you want your players to switch?
6. Dribble Hand Offs?
7. Individual on the Ball (no middle or funnel middle?)

5. ISOLATIONS– Against a great offensive player, (and most teams have at least one), what is your philosophy? Understand that he will probably “get his” and hold every one else in check? To get the ball out of his hands? To double on the catch? On the dribble? All out denial? (Almost impossible to do. A great player will get the ball). Many times these situations occur with the game on the line. They should be practiced to give your players the confidence to know that they can get that all important stop.

Check List

1. Elbow isolation. Force him one way to help? Play it straight up? Force to baseline?
2. Wing/Mid Post Isolation. Same questions.
3. Top isolation (1-4 flat) Force weak hand? Run a double at him? Play the drive, give up jump shot?

6. ZONE– If playing zone is part of your philosophy, you must put it in early and give it time to grow. It MUST be sold as an important part of you defensive package, not as a gimmick when you can’t stop a team. If you decide that your personnel, and probably more importantly, your experience are suited for a zone, (experienced players tend to communicate better) consider the following:

Check List

1. 1 or 2 Guard front?
2. Will you bump down?
3. How will you handle a P/R in the zone?
4. How will you handle baseline cutters?
5. Who covers the Hi Post flash?
6. Late Clock?

7. SPECIAL SITUATIONS– Be prepared to practice these situations for a few minutes each day in your first month of practice. Many times these will determine whether you win or lose. Among the many you should cover, here are the most common.

Check List

1. Free Throw Box Out.
2. Full Court Press, ¾ Court Press, Half Court Press.
3. SOB end of game defense. What is your personnel?
4. Switching before the ball is thrown in? After it is inbounded?
5. What is your philosophy about fouling when you are up by 3 at the end of the game?
6. Full court defense with the ball on the opposite baseline. (Man on the ball or not?)
7. Teach HOW to foul. (up 3)
8. SOB defense. (pre-switch or not?)


1. FAST BREAK– Do you want to emphasize a break neck pace, or a more controlled tempo? Either way, it is important for your point guard to know when you want the ball in the operating area. (20 seconds on clock? 18?) It is also important for your Bigs to know where you want them to run on makes and misses. In addition, are you going to run a numbered break? Do you want your wings to cross? Do you want the wings in the deep corner? There are several things to consider when teaching your fast break.

Check List

1. Which Big inbounds the ball on a make?
2. Loop cut or back to the sideline by the point guard on outlet pass?
3. Designated lanes for the wings? Do you want them to cross?
4. Do you want the middle of the court open for the point guard, or will you teach running a Big down the middle for early seal?
5. When do you want the advance pass by the point guard?
6. On a Drag screen, do you want the Bigs to Roll/Replace, Pop the screener, bottom Big mirror the ball?
7. On a Double Drag, do you have a designated “Popper” and “Diver” ?

2. EARLY OFFENSE– After a made basket, what is your philosophy of what happens in the next 6-10 seconds? In high school and college, you may have an Early Offense to try and score within the first few seconds of the clock before getting into a “Set” offense. Here are some things to consider.

Check List

1. Drag/Double Drags.
2. A “Through” action, where the point guards hits ahead and gets the ball back on the opposite side.
3. Early Post Ups….hit the wing and directly in to the post. (What are your Post Spacing/Cutting Rules?)
4. 3 Out or 4 Out, Drive and Kick game.
5. 5 man motion.
6. Numbered Break or Turnout Game.

3. SET OFFENSE– This is highly personnel driven. Are you a good 3 point shooting team? Do you have a dominate post game? Do you have a great P/R guard? Do you have several players of the same size? Are you a good driving that draws a lot of draw fouls? In any case, here are some thoughts to consider when developing a game plan for set offense.

Check List

1. SOB, BOB plays.
2. Press Offense.
3. Jump Ball play.
4. Full Court end of game play.
5. SOB end of game plays. (need 2, need 3)
6. On a low post feed, what are your cutting and spacing rules?
7. Small on Big screening.
8. Switch attack.
9. Hi-Low attack on low post front.
10. Continuity Offense.
11. Hi-Low Offense.
12. 4 Out Motion and Drive/Kick game.
13. 3 Out, 2 In Motion.
14. Delay Game (in situations with no shot clock).
15. End of Shot Clock Offense (1-4 flat, Hi P/R, Weave, Open?) (When do you attack?)
16. Isolation plays for a post player, wing or point guard.
17. P/R Offense.

Just a few things to think about when preparing for the season. Good Luck, and more importantly, Good Effort…..