Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

Spurs shift & close

Jim Boylen
FIBA (YouTube)
See YouTube video - How to build a defensive system, also Jr. NBA - Defence.

The San Antonio Spurs force sideline-baseline, closing out in no-middle stance. They want to stay connected and shrink the floor (shift and close), keep attackers in front of them, and play up the floor, not from behind the play. The most important player is the one with the ball.

1) Two-man shift and close


1 and 2 are in the slots, and here start with the ball (coach can pass to them, see below).

X1 calls "ball". His stance on the ball is no-middle, but is not allowing a blow-by. His top (right leg) is on top of 1's top leg, chest bone to shoulder bone, inside (right) hand up to challenge a shot, outside hand down for passing, mirroring, and he wants to force sideline-baseline, and must be able to slide in that direction (once in a while get up, mirror and pressure).

X1 would take a fake with his back (left) foot, in the direction he is forcing (don't jump over on a fake outside, 1 would cross and go by in the middle). Step forward (here right-left) if 1 brings the ball up (creep in and shot challenge), step backward (left-right) if he brings it back down into a driving position (as a warm-up, do ball-up ball-down with a partner).

X2 calls "help" and is in a shift position, one big step off the line of the ball (from the ball to next attacker 2), and two steps away from 2. His inside (left) foot is up, always want to have your high foot to help, stunt up the floor (go up the floor to help). X2 has his hands out, be long.

See Defending - 1 on 1 wing, Duke mirror.

1 and 2 jump to the ball on a pass (move on the pass).

1 and 2 play catch.

Progression - 1 and 2 can drive the ball (middle), one or two dribbles (see below).
(Other progression - live, e.g. on a return pass to 1)

See Defending - Izzo jump to the ball, Schepp closeouts, Skip pass 2 on 2.

Here coach starts with the ball, X1 and X2 are both in shift positions, coach can pass or drive and kick.


Can also do shift and close with 2 in the corner.

In the corner, X2 can be a little higher on the hip and influence a little bit more because he has help from the sideline, baseline and backboard (you want them to play behind it).

On a drive by 2, X1 stunts at him, he's responsible to help but 2 is not his man, he doesn't want to turn and take him, creating an open shot for 1. Make 2 think that X1 is helping and leaving his check, but he's really not. X1 is supporting, buying X2 a second to get back.

The closeout to 1 is the hardest in the game, X1 is supposed to get to the middle side.

2) 3-on-3 closeout

Defenders hold hands in front of the rim, coach can pass from the perimeter (shown) or from under the basket, defenders "spray out", one closes out, the other two recover to shift positions.

X3 is in a help position, can see ball and man, and honours the line of the ball (one big step off).

The Spurs sprint to close out with high early hand, they don't chop their feet or fly by. Close out to the ballhandler's chest, try to eliminate the shot attempt, or make him bounce it. You can't guard with your nose on a closeout (with both hands out), be active with your hands.

See Defending - Izzo close-outs, Dick Bennett 3 on 3 closeout.

With ball pressure, any skip pass should have a hump in it.

Any time a guy has the ball up and wants to pass, got to have hand pressure on it.


a) Pass and cut opposite from the top

X1 jumps to the ball, keeps vision on man and ball. supports X2 if 2 drives middle, or if 2 drives baseline. X1 is not worried about 1, X3 has his back and is worried about 1. Defence is all about trust and communication.

Weakside X3 gets a shoulder on the cutter, gives him a little chug as he is cutting through the lane, then recovers to a shift position.

Dwane Casey - flooding the lane - send defenders to the middle of the lane. X1 sprints to the elbow, then backpedals slowly, like a football free safety, and is there to help if 2 drives baseline, trusting that X3 has his back on the weakside. Weakside X3 comes in and tags the cutter.

See Defending - Procopio 3 on 3 shrink.


Coach can call "drive" for a baseline drive. X1 helps, X3 gets even with the ball if he can.

You always want to seek the level of the ball, play up-the-floor defending, not be behind the play.

X3 has first pass, helper X1 recovers to a shift position.

Seth Weakley - if 3 fills behind the drive, one of the trappers takes him, X2 is probably closer.

See Defending - Fratello 3 on 3 drive and kick.

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2007-23 Eric Johannsen