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  3. How to Break a Trap in Basketball

How to Break a Trap in Basketball

ByQueen Ballers Club| November 22, 2023If you buy something from a link on our site, Queen Ballers Club may earn a commission.

OK so at some point it’s going to happen to you: the dreaded trap. Whether you’re bringing the ball up through a full-court press in the last few minutes of the game, or it gets sprung on you after you’ve crossed half court, you’re going to be forced to make instant decisions about how to break a trap. No big deal, it happens to everyone, you’ve done nothing wrong – and you got this! So today we’ll prepare you with some ways to defeat this sneaky effective defense, a few examples of NBA and WNBA players navigating traps well (and poorly!), and some drills to practice handling the pressure. So say goodbye to turnovers and hello to taking advantage of a trap for an easy bucket!

Ways to Break a Trap in Basketball

First things first: If you’ve already picked up your dribble be sure to secure the ball. Don’t hold it over your head. If your dribble is still live, beware of where you are on the court, try to get to open space rather than heading toward a corner. Now here are some options:

1. Step through pass

One of the most effective ways to get through a trap is to hold the ball around waist-level and aggressively step between the two defenders. This keeps the ball protected, while giving you the vision you need to get off a strong pass.

2. Dribble escape

There are a couple ways to dribble out of a trap including attacking the weaker defender (who’s smaller? – go at them to go through and split the defenders, or who’s slower (this tends to be the big or the player thats momentum is rushing at you)? – go at them, if you’re going around attacking their outside hip). Be sure to shield the ball as you’re dribbling by keeping your body or off arm between you and the defenders as best as possible, and don’t over dribble – make your decision and go after it swiftly.

Examples of Breaking a Trap in Basketball

NBA great Chris Paul uses his high IQ to quickly read the defense and dribbling skills to break traps all the time, while back-to-back WNBA Champion Kelsey Plum uses her speed and exceptional passing . Here are their keys:

  1. Recognition: The best way to beat a trap is to never get trapped at all! The sooner you see a trap, the more time you have to react. So keep your eyes up. Both of these players excel at recognizing when a trap is coming, identifying defenders closing in and anticipating their movements.
  2. Ball Protection: Both keep the ball low and close to their body, using their body and off arm to shield the ball, making it difficult for defenders to strip it.
  3. Fakes: Once trapped, they make rapid decisions. Chris might use a ball fake (fake the overhead pass to get the defenders to jump so he can pass through), quick change of direction like using a seal spin and half spin, or execute a hesitation move.
  4. Passing Accuracy: Both are outstanding passers, and when trapped, they often find the open teammate with accurate and timely passes. Pro tip: it’s a good idea to look weak side first, since teams tend to overload on strong side. This helps move the ball out of the trapping situation and initiate offensive plays quickly, often leading to an offensive advantage.
  5. Court Vision: Their exceptional court vision allows them to see the entire floor even when trapped, so they can locate open teammates and make smart decisions to exploit defensive weaknesses.

Watch Chris Paul break a trap in the corner:

Watch Kelsey Plum break a trap at the top of the half court:

It’s probably helpful to see unsuccessful trap breaks as well, so here are a few turnovers by the three-point contest winner Sabrina Ionescu. Notice both times she tries to send the ball over both defenders (it’s better to pass through or around them).

Alright let’s put your new basketball IQ in action a few ways so you can get comfortable.

Effective Drills to Practice Breaking a Trap

Unfortunately this one is a little tough to practice on your own, so grab a few friends. Things you can work on solo that will help are doing drills to practice using your off arm and developing your awareness of it (the arm without the ball) and handling drills. OK back to breaking a trap: the key is to get so used to this type of pressure that you’re excited about the opportunity of breaking a trap. So here are a few fun trap breaking drills to try.

1. Full court pressure

For this drill you need three players. One player has the ball and their goal is to dribble to the other side of the court without it getting stolen by two defenders on them. The player with the ball starts at the baseline out of bounds and the two defenders start facing them about four feet out. Imagine the court is split into three sections length-wise, they can only stay in one of those three areas as they make their way down the court. If a defender gets a steal, they get a point, of the offensive player makes it to the other side safely, they get a point. Play until the first player to get five points. This drill should be much harder than something you’d encounter in a game, so is a great way to experiment and build more comfort.

Full court pressure drill to break a trap

2. Trap 2 vs 3

For this drill you’ll need five players. Play a game of half court basketball up to five points (all ones). There’s a team with two people and a team with three people. The team with three people’s goal is to trap or double every one of the other team’s possessions. Their points only count if they’ve gotten the ball from a successful double team, so the team with two players always starts with the ball, and gets it back after every scored basket by either team.

3. Trap Points 5 vs 5

Now you’re ready to graduate to full court five on five. However, each team can score a point by either setting an effective trap that leads to a turnover (one point), or by scoring (one point). Play until a team earns ten points.

Break a Trap in Basketball

Now you’re ready to break a trap, no sweat. Up next, learn how basketball mindfulness can also make your play even stronger.

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