4 Exclusive Tips for Defensive Positioning in Basketball [5 Min Read]

Morgan Wolf

“ Positioning is everything in defense. You can have all the athleticism in the world, but if you’re out of position, you won’t be effective.” – Alonzo Mourning

Imagine, the sport basketball has two hands. If one of them is team offense, another one will be defense.

Without a tight defense, the sport of basketball is nothing! Even though defense can be an easily perceived concept by players, implementing it on the court can be quite hard. 

It requires a fully detailed knowledge of defensive skills, positioning, and other movements involved. Plus, players also need a combination of power, speed, body control, and sharpness to become great defenders on the court.

Hence today, we will keep the spotlight on the defensive positioning only! Yes, our article today will thoroughly focus on defensive positioning in basketball.  Hop in to learn more. 

In short, 

  • Defensive positioning in basketball is fundamental to getting the defenders in the correct position and measuring their movement.
  • It’s not about one single position in basketball, instead promotes the overall alignment of defenders in basketball.
  • Proper defensive positioning requires you to hone the defensive stance better at first. Learn more about defensive stance.
  • Effective defensive positioning can weaken the offense, and lead to fast-break opportunities for your team.
  • It is a combination of physical skills, basketball IQ, and communication among teammates.
  • NBA awards the ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ honor annually, to bring out the defender with exceptional defensive skills, positioning, and impact on the team’s success.  

What Is Defensive Positioning in Basketball? 

What Is Defensive Positioning in Basketball

Source: basketballforcoaches

Defense is all about heart and hustle. You have to be willing to put in the effort and be in the right position at all times.” – Kawhi Leonard

Here are 10 Tips for Remarkable Basketball Defense  

Select A Proper Defensive Stance for Yourself

If you are a coach, explain and teach your team the importance of developing a proper defensive stance. And as a player, discuss what defensive stances are to your teammates. 

Repeat the moves throughout the drills and don’t forget to regularly practice the stances.  

Defensive stances point at these things below, 

  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart to make room for smooth lateral mobility. 
  • Bend your knees in a relaxed stance to develop better body control.
  • A low stance is faster and more stable. To perform this, lower your buttock but keep your chest upright. And face the opponent. 
  • Raise your hands and keep them active. It will disrupt the opponent’s passing and shooting lanes. 
  • To ensure you cover as much ground as your opponent, slide toward your opponent. Remember, it’s slide, not cross-step. 
  • Keep your eyes on the chest of the offensive player or “head on the ball”. 

Here are the few major defensive stances you can follow on the court. Other defensive stances include extended and slightly bent arms to the side, and open hands so the palms face the offensive player. 

You can learn more about the defensive stance here

2) Improve Your Defensive Stance 

Improve Your Defensive Stance

Source: thedreamshake

It’s interesting how holding the defensive stance stationary is more difficult than holding the stance in motion. 

A defensive stance in motion is essential to increase the efficiency of playing defense in the game. 

The primary objective of this stance is to make things difficult for the offensive player. By no means, the offense shall be able to score or make successful plays frequently. 

The stance allows the defender to behave fast in response to the offensive actions. 

To deliver a powerful defense, you must develop both of the strategies – a defensive stance in motion and a stationary defensive stance.  

Different drills can help you improve and develop the posture for your defensive stance. 

3) Practice Drills Hard

Practice Drills Hard

Source: fastmodelsports

First, it’s important to understand why we need the right defensive stance. Drills can help you improve and be focused on the defensive stance you are adopting. 

Three defensive drills can be useful in this case, 

(I) Defensive Slides Drill  

This is how this drill works, 

Focus on the player’s feet sliding, instead of hopping or skipping. Advise them to remain at least 4-5 feet apart from each other and spread at the court area. 

Allow the players to become the handle of their drill. Let them shout out ‘defense’ and freeze at their own defensive stance. 

Then the coach can show some signal, either by hand or verbally, and the players will slide right, left, back, and up. 

The drill should last 20-30 seconds.  And it’s a fun exercise!  

(II) Stagger Drill 

Another effective “head on the ball” drill is the stagger drill. It requires the widest zone of the practice area with two players about five feet apart. This is how it works,  

Players will keep their “head on the ball” and maintain the ball/you/basket principle. Players will pair up and coaches shall assign one player to the defense and one on the offense. 

The offensive player should dribble the basketball left and right. He will stay on the same side of the imaginary line and maintain a steady but random pattern. 

On the other hand, the defensive player must get in the proper defensive stance and slide as needed toward the offensive player. 

(III) Zigzag Drill 

The zigzag drill in basketball heavily focuses on improving the player’s defensive footwork, lateral movement, and speed.  

Even though there are some variations to this drill, the fundamentals are as followed, 

It starts with forming the lineup of players on one side of the practice zone. Find some cones or chairs and set them up in a zigzag pattern, approximately 10-12 feet apart from each other.  

The first player in line will take the right defensive posture and slide in a zigzag pattern set up by the cones or chairs. The second player in line will follow the first one as he leaves his spot. 

Eventually, the last player will reach the end spot. And they will run back to the beginning. 

Two popular variations of zigzag drills are no-ball partner zigzag, and partner zigzag with ball. 

4) Change of Direction 

Change of Direction 

Source: fastmodelsports

A defensive player, on the court, can quickly change his movement path in response to the offensive player’s actions. It is called the “change of direction” strategy in basketball. 

This strategy allows the defender to stay in front of the offensive player. By changing direction, he can easily compete for shots, and interrupt passing lanes effectively.

It is an essential strategy to maintain defensive positioning, and also prevent any offensive player from passing or reducing the scoring opportunities.  

To practice it hard, there is only one drill you should try and leverage from. It is the slide, backpedal, and square drill. Play them with speed and complete them with efficiency to improve your defensive position.  

Remember, a strong defense not only requires side-to-side movement but you also have to race to the ball and backpedal with your hands on the highest of the very top of defensive slides.

Whatever tips you are guarding to improve your defensive stance, balance is the key to delivering powerful blows from your side. It is crucial that you remember this! 

Need More Tips on Basketball? 

Want to get more tips like this on basketball? There’s a lot to know about basketball. We are here to lead you on the right path. 

Every player, whether playing offensive or defensive, must learn defensive positioning in basketball. Don’t take the pressure alone. You need an experienced coach to get the easy way. 

Practice all the tips we mentioned above. Also, don’t forget to find out yourself, and figure out whether the role really suits you or not. If yes, that’s great for you.

If not, you can try the other side to become a great offensive player. But the opportunities are endless. 

Share this article with your friends who are struggling with defensive stances. Our article is an excellent point to start from and build a career in basketball defense. 

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Morgan Wolf

Journalist with experience covering the intersection of sports with business. Demonstrated expertise in digital, video and social media content covering major sports including soccer, NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and Olympic sports. But basketball is his passion. Specialties: expert for sports related content management LinkedIn