Three Easy Keys to Improve Your Defense

In case you missed my last article, learn three easy keys to improve your offensive game here.

Now, let’s move to the other side of the ball. We all know the old saying, “defense wins championships.” It may sound corny, but it’s true. That being said, I have a different mantra, which is much more applicable to this article.

Defense gets you on the floor. 

Unless you are an NBA-level scorer, you still need to do your part on defense. No coach will keep you on the floor for extended time as a defensive liability. Luckily, improving your defense is much easier than becoming a better offensive player. 

It just takes effort. Here are three easy keys to help you become a lockdown defender.

Improve your conditioning

This isn’t going to be fun. 

Conditioning is a grind, and it will take time for your body to build up the necessary stamina to defend at a high level. That being said, once you get there, you’ll become your opponent’s worst nightmare. 

If you have the time, watch Marcus Smart’s highlights from last year’s Defensive Player of the Year campaign. What immediately jumps out isn’t Smart’s athleticism or length, but his hustle. 

Smart gives 100% on every. single. defensive. possession. 

Whether it’s picking up full-court, diving on the floor for loose balls, or ensuring his rotations are concise and correct, he never takes a play off. That type of dedication takes an incredible amount of stamina.

If you are willing to commit to improving your conditioning, here is a basic routine you can follow:

  • 2-mile run twice a week (time yourself and track the results)
  • Personalized ab circuit (planks, crunches, mountain climbers, etc) three times a week
  • Two rest days

You know what works for your body, so these are just loose guidelines to follow. 

Fix your positioning

This goes hand-in-hand with the first key. Without the necessary conditioning, you won’t be able to make the most of your improved positioning, and vice versa.

The most important aspect of fixing your defensive stance is staying low. 

It is quite easy to blow by a defender who is standing straight up. Not only is their balance much shakier, but their reach is limited. You want to get down into a squat and engage your quadriceps/hip flexors. From there, you’ll want to work on quick, horizontal shuffle steps as your main form of movement while keeping your chest straight facing the ball handler.

Check out the image below for reference:

Study Film 

If you can film your practices and games, I would highly recommend it. The most effective way to improve as a defender is to examine your mistakes in the run of play and determine how they could have been avoided. 

If you have the option, guard your team’s best offensive player in practice. Not only will that help you improve on a day-to-day basis, but it will also give you the best film during these study sessions. 

Outside of your film, check out highlight tapes from the best NBA defenders. I mentioned Marcus Smart earlier. If you are a guard, check out his film along with Gary Payton and Tony Allen. If you’re a wing, watch Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan. If you’re a big man, check out Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon. Highlight tactics that you see those players use and try to implement them in your practices and games. 

Those are three easy keys to help improve your defense! Utilizing these tips and dedicating yourself to the craft will take your game to the next level.