The Basketball Defensive X-Out: A Sure Fire Fundamental Guaranteed to Improve your Team’s Defense

I get asked a lot about what things I teach that are under-utilized by many basketball coaches. My answer is consistently the same…the basketball defensive x-out.

A defensive x-out is when two players on the weak side of the floor switch checks in a defensive recovery situation.

Why is an X-Out Important?

The defensive x-out allows your players to help and recover faster. It also addresses two issues when deciding the defensive tactics and philosophy you will use for your team.

  1. How do you want to get beat on defense? Your opponent is going to score. This is a fact. The question is, if you could influence where they score from, where would that be? We want to get scored on by the last spot on the weak side of the floor. 
  2. Will you give up the ball side wing on defense? Personally, I feel the ball side wing is the worst shot to give up. We want to deny the ball side wing and force our opponent to score on the weak side of the floor. Whether you do this or not, you can think about the defensive x-out as it relates to your defensive philosophy.

The x-out addresses both those issues for us as it allows us to cover the ball side of the floor, while increasing our potential recovery on the weak side of the floor.

Weak Side Shot

The “IN” or “OUT” Weak Side Defenders

We use the terms “in” and “out” to help our players understand their help side responsibilities on defense. The defender who is “out” or farther away from the ball is responsible for the first pass. The defender who is “in” or closer to the ball is responsible for help on the drive, and the second pass.

Three Player Rotation on an Defensive X-Out

If the “in” defender must commit in helping to stop the drive than often a three player defensive rotation is initiated. The “out” defender covers the first pass. The player who got beat off the dribble covers the second pass. The “in” player stays on the offensive player they stopped when they helped.

The player who got beat rotates to the second pass because:

  1. They got beat off the dribble so they need to do the extra work in recovering. This concept builds individual responsibility in stopping the ball, or you will have to do extra work.
  2. They are usually moving in a direction towards the second pass. The defender who helps is moving towards the ball so it is more difficult for them to help and recover in the opposite direction.

Individual Decisions in Closeouts

The defensive x-out is important, but it’s not all about team tactics. If you teach an x-out, or don’t teach an x-out, the decisions a defensive player makes in a closeout situation will determine your defense’s success more than anything. Examples of individual decisions in closeouts are should you closeout short or long, should you fly by, what angle should you take away, what hand should you closeout to, what is your reaction after the catch by the offensive player. The defensive x-out helps put your players in better closeout decision making situations. Teach the x-out, but then emphasize the closeout.

Drills to Teach the Defensive X-Out

We practice with a games approach to coaching basketball. This means that every drill we do in practice puts offense vs. defense, so every drill becomes an opportunity to work on the x-out. If our defense does its job, then they are forcing the shooting opportunity for the offense to the weak side of the floor. This means that they will be using the x-out throughout a practice in live, unscripted, and thus game-like, practice situations.

If you are not a member yet check out this blog How to Increase Player Learning by Creating Game-Like Situations to learn one of the small-sided games called Blind Hand-Off that we use to work on this competitive situation.

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