Basketball Defensive Stance: What is It and How to Get Into It?

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Would you like to know the keys to a strong basketball defensive stance? Are you a player that recognizes the importance of defense and is trying to improve your defensive game? We understand it is vital that players work on their defense so that they can impact the game positively.

Today’s basketball game seems to be geared only towards the offensive end of the court, but true players know the importance of being able to excel on defense. We want to help you improve your game, so today we are going to thoroughly review ways to improve your basketball defensive stance.

Why Is Defense Important in BasketballWhy Is Defense Important in Basketball?

Many players do not want to sacrifice their bodies to play defense simply because they do not entirely understand how it affects the game. We are going to be discussing how defense can help you to win basketball games. Let’s break it down together.

Controls the Pace of the Game

A team that excels on defense can control the pace of the game. If you control the pace of the game, you control the momentum of the game. So, how can defense control the pace of a basketball game? Whenever you are in a basketball game and your team can get steals, forced turnovers, block shots, and force misses, your team can control what happens next and how fast it happens.
You do not want to be playing in the game and your team turns over the ball repeatedly due to the amazing defense of your opponents. If this happens, your team will be bombarded with fast breaks, and these are quite difficult to contain.

Reduces Opponents Chances of Winning Due to Low ScoreWhy Is Defense Important in Basketball

The aim of the defensive end of basketball will always be to prevent your opponents from scoring at well. The better you are able to do this, the fewer chances your opponents will have at scoring the basketball.
If your opponents can’t score then, they can’t win. Playing proper defense for the entire game will prevent some scoring opportunities for your opponents, and this will result in offensive possessions that your team can take advantage of. 

Frustrates Opponents Into Making Bad Plays

When we say Patrick Beverley, what comes to mind? Pat Beverley is one of the most tenacious defenders in the history of the NBA. Pat Beverley can frustrate his opponents while he is playing defense in a way that few other players can do. When most players are frustrated they do not make the best play.

Being able to frustrate your opponents into ill-advised plays can result in turnovers that your team can take advantage of. Playing proper defense will make any team, no matter how good, make mistakes due to frustration.

What are the Fundamentals of Defensive StanceWhat are the Fundamentals of Defensive Stance?

If you would like to play proper defense, you must first work on your defensive stance and learn basketball defense fundamentals. We are now going to go through the best practices when it comes on to your defensive stance.

A good defensive stance will allow you to stay on balance while you keep up with your mark. Having a good defensive stance will help you prevent your mark from going by you and be ready to contest shots.

What are the Fundamentals of Defensive Stance


Your feet are just as important as your arms when you are playing defense. The positioning of your feet is key to staying balanced and not getting beaten by your mark. While in your defensive stance, your feet should be wide but not too wide, roughly around one and a half times the width of your shoulders.

Keeping your feet this wide will allow you to have full range of motion when you are turning. Your feet should be bent at the knees to keep your body low so that you can remain defensively sound while moving with your opponent. Do not crouch all the way down into a full squat because this will make you immobile and easy to beat.

Depending on the speed and the height of the player you are guarding, try to keep your legs bent at the knees between 110 to 130 degrees. You should never stay flat-footed when playing defense. Always stay on the balls of your feet. Staying on the balls of your feet allows you to remain mobile and balanced.


When you are in your defensive stance, remember to keep your arms out. Do not fully extend if you are playing the ball handler, but you can keep them fully extended if you are guarding a Zone away from the ball. While guarding the ball handler, your arms should be bent at the elbow between 90 and 110 degrees.

Try to keep your elbows lose as you may need to move your arms to stay balanced or to make a steal. You can also use your forearm in some areas on the court to keep your opponent at bay. While playing defense, try to keep your palms facing upwards.


Remember to stay disciplined while playing defense. You do not always need to go for a steal. Sometimes you only need to contain the player you are guarding, and that would be enough to force the ball out of their hands.

Your torso should always be kept between the player you are guarding and the basket. In some unique circumstances, your couch will instruct you to force a player in a particular direction, which may result in your torso being taken from between the guarded player and the rim.

Try to keep your torso upright as much as you can, but not too straight. Bend or body at the waste roughly at a 30 degree angle to maintain your mobility while playing defense.

How Can You Improve Your Defense in BasketballHow Can You Improve Your Defense in Basketball?

Let’s now take a look at some efficient ways that you can improve your defense. Improving your defense will not only improve your basketball game but improve your team’s potency. Playing better defense can also earn you more playing time as you will become a favorite amongst your coaches. Here are some tips to help you with your defense:

Get stronger

Getting stronger is important for almost every aspect of basketball. If you are stronger than the player you are guarding, it will be harder for them to get by you. You will also be able to remain in your defensive stance a lot longer because your muscles are stronger.

Your armbar will also be more difficult for players to get by because you will be more of a beast. Being stronger on the defensive end of the court is as important as it is on offense. If you get stronger, you will also be able to increase your Speed and Agility. Work primarily on improving your leg and core muscles so that you can jump higher to contest shots and move your legs quickly to keep up with offensive players.

Scout opponents

Know your mark. If you can watch tapes or go to games that your opponent will be playing in, it is very important that you do this. If you learn and understand that the way your opponent plays offense, you can easily devise basketball defensive strategies to counteract their offensive moves. Every NBA player does this. If you scout your opponents, you will understand their strengths and, most importantly, their weaknesses. You can then try to exploit their vulnerabilities in games.

Work with teammates to trap

Remember that you are not alone. Your teammates are going to be very useful when it comes to playing defense, so practice with them to improve your defense. Individual defense is great, but team defense is the greatest.

Work on your communication skills. Communicate loudly and effectively while playing defense so that you can work together as a team to stop offensive players. Learn your team’s weaknesses and strengths on defense to prepare for and play around them. 

Work on Speed and Agility

Work on Speed and Agility

Speed and agility are often key aspects that coaches try to improve when it comes to individual defense. Your speed will determine how fast you can get up the court and stay with your marks in transition, and your agility is how quickly you are able to change direction without losing your momentum while playing defense.

Being faster than your opponent is a significant advantage as it will allow you to get to spots before them, and then get into your defensive stance. Being agile is key for any basketball player. Your agility will help you to keep up with your opponents whenever they make moves to create space and ultimately lead to you becoming a lockdown defender. Take a look at the best basketball agility drills we have written as well.

Work on Reaction Time

While playing defense, you will be reacting to what your opponents do for most of the time. It is only fair that you are expected to have a good reaction time to be a good defender. If you have a good reaction time, this will help you with coming up with steals and deflections. Players that have good reaction time and good anticipation will often frustrate their opponents into making mistakes.

Improve Footwork

We are sure that you can agree that footwork is key for the offensive end of the floor, but did you know that it is as equally important on the defensive end as well. Your footwork will help you to maintain your balance while you keep up with the different directions your opponent will go in efforts to lose you.

Having good footwork will help you to keep your opponents at bay and lead them to the areas of the court that you want to lead them.

7 Basketball Defensive Tips and Drills 7 Basketball Defensive Tips and Drills 

Basketball Defensive Tips

1. Force Your Mark to Their Weak Hand
Forcing your opponents to use their weaker hand and to go to their weaker side will severely limit their offensive options making your job a lot easier.

2. Stay disciplined

Stay disciplined, remember what you practice, and learned in training. Don’t reach for the basketball if you do not have to because this will cause your opponents to go by you easily, if they are skilled enough.

3. Force Your Mark to the Help
Force your mark to the help side so that your teammates can help you with the trap.

4. Stay Low

Remember to stay low, but not too low. Staying lower than your mark will prevent blow by and help you to maintain your range of motion in a more comfortable way.

Basketball Defensive Drills

1. Cone hurdles

Cone Hurdles are good exercises to help you build leg muscles and work on your agility.

2. Defensive slides (individual)

Work on your defensive slides so that you can condition your mind and body to stay in your defensive stance while playing defense.

3. Defensive slides with runs (pairs)

Defensive slides with runs in a full-court drill are useful to help you to keep up with defenders in transition.

You can see the three drills mentioned in this video:

Wrapping Things Up: Basketball Defensive Stance

A proper basketball defense stance will help you to keep up with your opponents while playing defense so that you are not a liability to your team. You can improve your strength, speed and agility to become a better defensive player. Remember that communication is key on defense, so always try to talk with your teammates. Do your defensive drills as often as you do offensive drills so that your body can get conditioned to playing proper defense.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other FAQ articles here.

> Guarding in Basketball: Tips to Good Lockdown Defense

> How to Defend Ball Screens in Basketball

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Hoops Addict

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