This is one of the toughest things to teach, but one of the most rewarding when you can see a player finally get it down and their confidence grow. A couple thoughts come to mind for me:
1) Their mentality is half the battle. We’ve noticed that the more confident our players are the better defenders they become. We encourage them to get a step closer than they think they need to be as it helps them do a better job of directing the first dribble (take away 2, battle for the 3rd). As they start to get over the hurdle that they need to be further away because they may lack foot speed, you can really see them start to improve and challenge themselves. It really helps from preventing the offensive player getting downhill at maximum speed.
2) We work a ton on first step footwork and really emphasizing a reach step and trying to force the defender to go east and west. We usually start this process with a 3 cone drill where we set the cones a distance a part that we feel the player should be able to reach step and still get back in front (It’s slightly at an angle- so one come on each side of the center cone is slightly behind the other). We have them start at the cone in the middle and then point a direction and have them reach step to cut off, show shot and they close back out to the center cone and we repeat for a total of 30 seconds (length of our shot clock, but could be any time period).
Secondly we play a lot of one on one from the wing that starts with a close out (we do this both out of a gap close out and a skip close out). We start with one dribble, progress to two dribbles and eventually three. To encourage our defensive principles we don’t give them a point for stop if they get beat to the middle of the floor. It’s during this process we begin to introduce turning to sprint to cut players off at an angle, but not until we’ve really drilled and emphasized their first reach step. We want to try and prevent them from bailing out too early.
Hope this helps. If you’d like to talk about some of our other footwork drills we use, I’d be more than happy to. We also force baseline within our system.