Use These 3 Principles to Improve Your Basketball Defense

Shut down your opponent on the basketball court with three defensive principles from STACK Expert John Cissik.

Playing solid defense is an important part of anyone's basketball game. Besides limiting your opponent's ability to score, good defense creates opportunities for your offense. A smart coach once told me that every opposing possession should end in a turnover or a rebound.

To improve your defensive game, here are three principles that I've used successfully as a basketball coach.

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1. Stay Out of the Red Zone

You want to keep the ball out of the paint and away from the basket. In other words, you want to deny your opponent easy points. You do this by pushing your opponent to the corners, to the sidelines or back to half court. If you do this properly, you set things up for an offensive player to go out of bounds or back over half court, or get frustrated, make a mistake and turn the ball over.

How do you do this?

  • First, get between the player who has the ball and the basket. This denies him or her an easy approach to the hoop. If s/he moves, you move. Always stay between the player and the basket.
  • Second, adopt an aggressive on-the-ball defensive style. Move into your defensive stance with your eyes even with your opponent's chest. Your hands need to be active. The palm of the hand nearest the ball should face the ball. The other hand should be up to deflect passes and shots, or just to obstruct your opponent's view.

2. Deny Passes

It's difficult for a team to score if they cannot get the ball to their best players. This is a man-to-man defensive situation. If the player you are guarding is one pass away from the ball, go into denial defense. Move into your defensive stance (eyes even with your opponent's chest), place your body between your opponent and the ball and assume a "Stop!" position.

In the "stop" position, one side of your body faces your opponent and the other faces the ball. Lift both arms straight out, making a "Stop" sign with your hands. One hand should be at your opponent's chest, the other toward the ball. From this position, you can see your opponent, you can see the ball, and you can deflect any pass attempts. Remember to move with your opponent and stay between him and the ball.

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3. Get the Rebound

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to give your opponents numerous attempts to make a basket. Allow them enough tries and eventually they'll score. When a shot goes up, immediately move into position to grab the rebound. This denies the other team another chance to score and sets up your next offensive possession.

There are two parts to this.

  • Quickly read where the shot is going. Most of you have played long enough that you can sense which direction a missed shot will bounce.
  • Position yourself where the ball is going and box out your opponent. You need to play physical under the basket to get in position for the rebound.
Become a better defender with these one-on-one basketball defensive drills.

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