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Top Tips on Improving Your Defensive Game in Basketball

By Kaitlyn Fedor

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Basketball defense is often overlooked when players are learning the basics of the game. They learn how to shoot, dribble, and pass in a dozen different ways. On defense, they may receive a command to guard one particular player or an area of the court. But defense can make a marginal player considerably better. A team with a strong defense can win games even on nights when offense is lacking. Learning a handful of tips and then honing in on a player's defense through basketball skills training can turn almost any player into an elite defender.

Look at your stance

Good defenders need the right stance. The best defensive stances bring a player low with their hand raised high and their legs wide. They need to stay as steady as possible and be flexible. Knees should be bent and the defender should be on the balls of their feet. This stance can be done with agility and flexibility training at basketball clinics. Talented ball-handlers know how to take advantage of an opponent’s rigid stance and easily take control. Having a flexible stance can be critical in competing with a ball-handler who may otherwise be faster and more talented.

Watch out for fakes and stutter steps

Basketball is a game of constant deception and trickery when one has possession of the ball. A fake or a stutter step can ruin any good attempt at defense. These common moves can embarrass a defender while also leaving a shooter wide open to make any shot. The primary way to combat a potential fake is to think before acting. Even stopping a fraction of a second and processing an event can make all the difference. Processing an event can prevent a defender from acting based off of a gut reaction or the slightest hint of movement. A defender can use careful consideration to take advantage of fakes and stutter steps and create a block or turnover.

Move on the pass

Most defenders begin to move when their target catches the ball. This maneuver leaves them a second behind and allows the ball-handler to make a drive or take an uncontested shot. Such an omission can lead to an open shot. Therefore, defenders need to train themselves to always move to the pass. They should look at where the pass is headed and start following the ball the moment it leaves the handler's hand. Practicing speed and agility can help strengthen this ability. Moving off of the pass and getting to ball-handlers as soon as possible will increase the chance of a contested shot, blocked shot, or a turnover.


Learning tips about stances and when to move is helpful, but it is only half of building a successful defensive game. Basketball skills training will help a player practice their defense against several other players. Successful basketball clinics are necessary to help turn ideas, tricks, and suggestions into stunning defensive plays on the court.