basketball defence

How To Play Defensive In Basketball? A Complete Guideline

Did you know that you can prove to be a REAL treasure to your basketball team without necessarily scoring points?

It all lies in playing the defense and knowing how to play it well.

That said, anyone can learn to play basketball defense regardless of their skill level. You don’t have to be a multi-talented player to shine in this part of the court.

You just need to master the basic techniques, and you’ll get better easily and quickly.

In today’s post, we’ll walk you through 9 powerful TIPS for playing defense in basketball as explained by experienced players.

Let’s get into the details right away:

1. Learn proper defensive stance

The first thing you need to know when playing defense in basketball is to always assume the correct defensive stance.

The MAIN advantage of staying in this position is that it keeps you fully prepared to take action whenever the need arises.

Proper defensive stance involves positioning your feet forward and separated a distance wider than your shoulder width (this builds a stronger base, making you more stable), with your back flat, and slightly arched (not completely straight).

Above all, your hands should spread out to the sides, loose, and active at all times.

You should not only be in this stance when playing on-ball defense but also off-ball defense. Make a point of maintaining the posture throughout the session.

2. Keep adjusting your position throughout the game

If you look at how the greatest basketball defensive players of all time play, you’ll quickly note that they don’t remain stationed in one area in the court.

Instead, they keep changing their position throughout the possession.

If you want to become a better defensive player, learn to move with the ball or your opponent to ensure you’re always in the best possible defensive position.

Failure to continually change your position will give room for you getting easily caught out and giving your opponent a nice, wide-open jump shot or quick backdoor layup.

DON’T let down your down by being a lazy defensive player!

3. Communication is KEY

Communicating with your teammates during the defensive possession.

But what exactly should you tell them? Well, just keep them alert of your position and keep them informed on what’s happening in a ground they might not be able to see.

That said, the communication process can either be verbal or non-verbal, depending on the situation.

For the verbal part, you’ll often heat defensive players using phrases like:

  • “Ball, ball, ball”use this whenever you’re rushing forward to guard the ball
  • “Help, help, help” use this when you’re 2 passes away to alert your teammates that they can assist on a drive
  • “Deny, deny, deny”use this when you’re a pass away from the ball
  • “Cutters coming through” use this to let others know that an opponent is cutting through a lane
  • “Screen right” or “Screen left” use this to inform a teammate that a screen is coming and what side it’ll come through

Non-verbal communication can be made using eyes, hands, or even target hand.

Efficient communication with your teammates on the court will win you more games than you can imagine.

4. Maintain consistent pressure on the ball

By putting constant pressure on the ball, you’ll make them uncomfortable, and this leads to turnovers and deflections most of the times.

When the opponent gets uncomfortable, they’ll avoid dribbling the ball most of the times, for the fear that one of their passes will easily get deflected. They won’t think about shooting.

However, keep in mind that this trick usually works when your teammates are playing excellent help defense—such that, if the opponent manages to beat you, they can quickly rotate and stop the ball.

5. Keep whack eye on your opponent waist or chest

Another crucial tip that will make you a better basketball defensive player is keeping your eyes on your opponent’s wait or chest at all times.

Most beginner players will argue that looking at your opponent’s eye will help you decide their next move. But the real truth is that your opponent can fake with the ball or eyes and easily offset your balance.

To avoid such an ugly scenario, learn to focus on your opponent mid-section (i.e., from the chest to waist). Why? Because it’s not as easy for the offensive player to fake their mid-section as it is for the other parts.

6. How close should you be to your opponent?

Just how far or close should you stay from your opponent? This is one of the most asked questions by new defensive players.

As a high school or youth basketball player, you should observe an average distance equivalent of arm length from your opponent—such that, if you were to stretch out your hands, you’d be able to touch the opponent using your fingertips.

This is a perfect distance for you to easily block a shot or steal the ball while making it easy for you to adjust your position or react if the player you’re guarding against attempts to drive.

As you advance your game and skills, you can then vary the distance depending on your opponent’s abilities and tendencies.

7. Make a habit of jumping up the ball after a pass

Whenever you’re guarding against a player and he/she manages to pass the ball to their teammate, it’s always advisable for you to jump toward the ball in flight.


Unknown to many defensive players, this simple action can go a long way in removing your opponent’s ability to cut ball-side. And this will force them to cut behind—a more challenging pass to make.

What’s more, jumping puts you in a suitable position to intercept the pass if the opponent attempts it.

8. Work on your close-outs

Many defensive players will agree that close-out is one of the trickiest skills to master for defensive play.

For those who don’t know, close-out in basketball refers to the movement a defensive player takes so as to close the distance between them and the opponent on a perimeter.

Needless to mention, such a move will make it easy for you to prevent a pass, drive or even disrupt a shot.

Here’s the secret to correctly closing out:

Sprint approx. 2/3 of the distance to your opponent and then take short, choppy steps to complete the movement.

As you move closer, be sure to maintain a low profile with your weight back to efficiently absorb the drive. And make sure you’ve got one of your hands up to contest or block the shot.

9. Remember the defensive triangle rule

You can forget all the other defensive rules but never ignore the defensive triangle rule!

If you’re wondering what the rule is all about, it involves positioning yourself between your opponent and the ball. This makes it easy for you to see both of them with your peripheral vision.

Make sure one of your hands is pointed to your opponent and the other to the ball, and your vision is in between them.

The defensive triangle helps you get close enough to the ball and player. This way, if you skip pass gets passed to the opponent, you’d easily close-out and guard the player.

Final verdict

These are some of the most practical tips and tricks that all defensive players need to put into practice when playing the defense position.

Remember that your primary job is to guard and prevent the offensive player from scoring points. If you incorporate your full hustle and determination, and lots of practice, you’ll eventually become a pro basketball defensive player and help your team win more games than ever before.

Good luck!

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