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How Defensive Rotations Apply Across Sports

On Thursday, I explained what beating the first man off the dribble does to the defense. Let’s revisit the example I gave, but this time look at it from a defensive perspective.

Diagram A

In Diagram A, X1 beats their man off the bounce to the right. The three defenders in the area – O2, O3 and O4 – have decisions to make. Someone needs to slide over to help on the ball, but it needs to be the right person or else the offense will have a clean look at the basket immediately.

If O2 helps, it will clog the lane and leave X2 wide open for a three. If O5 helps, X5 will be alone next to the basket. More help likely wouldn’t be able to come in time to cover for either of those defenders if they provided the secondary defense. O4 is who needs to rotate, then O3 also has to come down to fill in behind and cover X4 while O1 moves to take X3.

Diagram C

The ability to rotate properly is one of the most important aspects of playing success team defense. It requires awareness, discipline and communication, but if done right, your team will smother offenses in the half court.

In lacrosse, the defense must also use precisely rotations within its structure to defend as the ball and offensive players cycle and move around the field.

Using all the same principles as in basketball, lacrosse yet again mirrors its hardwood counterpart. It becomes especially apparent in man-down situations where the defense is dealing with being behind the play through the penalty’s duration. That means rotations will be coming, and if they’re not crisp, the offense will capitalize.

Ideally, a defense would never have to rotate, because its primary defenders would never get beat. But it doesn’t work like that, and the defensive side of the ball is often more of a team effort than offense. If you don’t have your communication and intuition operating at a high level, you can expect to give up easy offense, and that applies to basketball and lacrosse.

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