Double-teaming poorly is nothing other than very stupid basketball. Committing two defenders to the player with the ball of course leaves three teammates to guard four offensive players, an easy scoring situation if the ball is allowed to be passed to the open man.
That “if” is crucial to the two players double-teaming the ball, and it gives them one critical assignment. They must make the player with the ball feel intense pressure, so that he is not free to look around and decide who he would like to throw the ball to. To apply intense pressure, keep your feet wide apart so that the player with the ball cannot step by and beat the double-team. Keep your arms up and waving to distract a pass, but do not jump to block it. Stay on your feet, ready to recover quickly if a successful pass is made.
Although coaches teach the double-team differently (and most don’t teach it at all; they simply say, “Get on him. Get all over him. Pressure him. Make it tough.”), there are some considerations which are useful if your coach has not specified how he wants it done.
In the backcourt, it is possible to get many steals by allowing the player with the ball to split the double-team and then steal the dribble. Your thinking here is, “Be sure his only possible movement is toward the other double-teamer, and be ready immediately to run with him when he splits the double-team and dribbles up the court.” Players in the backcourt are likely to be thinking “dribble” if they are able to split the double-team.
If the split comes as a surprise to you and your defending teammate, you are in trouble, and the other team has a 5-on-3 break. However, if you both force the player with the ball toward each other, knowing that a split is the only possible way he can get out, and if you both are ready to run alongside him, he will have to be much faster than you to be able to dribble out. In most cases one of you will have an excellent chance of stealing the ball as it is dribbled up court between you.
Here, a dribbler may be allowed to split the two defenders, a risky play for the offense, with the ball still 80 feet from the basket.
In the frontcourt, when you are in a half-court trap, or simply double- teaming out of a man-to-man, you might alter your thinking to this: “Be sure his only possible movement is toward the nearest sideline. He may not split the double-team, but must have only the possibility of dribbling around it, toward the sideline.”
If the trap occurs very near the sideline, the double-team is even more effective, since the sideline acts as a third defender. Also, when there is only a half-court to work with, three defenders have a better chance of defending four offensive players, especially when they know that they only have to defend the narrow side of the court. When all five defenders know in advance where the ball will be forced, the defense is easier to play effectively.
In the frontcourt, a split is more dangerous and may lead to an immediate score. It is better to force the ball to the nearest sideline.
When there is a trap near the sideline, the three others must know that the double-teamers will not let the player with the ball turn back to the middle. By knowing this, they can leave a man open on the other side of the court without worrying that he will be the eventual receiver.
If you are on defense but not double-teaming, know where the ball is being forced. Prevent the most logical outlet passes, and don’t allow a pass for an immediate layup.
A double-team is not something an individual player can pull off effectively just by leaving his man and rushing the ball. The double- teamers must know what they are trying to accomplish, and the three other defenders must be prepared to react accordingly.
From Dick’s book Stuff