How to Become a Lockdown Defensive Basketball Player
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to become a defensive stopper in basketball with some simple defensive basketball tips and drills. When I played basketball, I always wanted to use my defense to create offense. As we all know a great offense will win you games but a great defense will win you championships. This is why it is utterly vital for any one player or team to make sure that as much as they work on their ability to get to the rim and shoot, they should equally work on their ability to stop the basketball. As a player, this not only makes you more lethal on the court but definitely gives your coach more reasons on why he or she should play you.
To give you a hint of just how important being a great defender in the game of basketball is, I will give you an analogy of the just concluded NBA season Defender of the year DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers. While he may not have a lot of offensive weapons like his counterpart Blake Griffin, He is still one of the most talented and desirable free agent in the game today. Michael Jordan is considered the best player to ever play the game not only because of his unstoppable offensive skills but also because of his ability to play shut down defense. He not only won MVP of the league 5 times, but he was the defensive player of the year during the 1988 season and was selected 9 times to the first team all-defensive team. Now that you see the importance and benefits of being a good defensive player, here are some defensive tips and drills.
How to play good defense
Just like offense, good defensive traits are only achieved through hard work and repetition. Understanding the details of how to defend a player are key to making sure you stand a better chance of either causing them to make a turnover or at the least pass the ball.
Understand the player that you are defending
Young players often make the mistake of believing that they can guard all players in the same way. Not only should your defense change depending on the position that you are guarding but it will also change with each player. Every player has a unique style of play and also a unique arsenal of offensive skills. Understanding their strengths allows you to be in position to use them against them and be prepared to react to whatever they throw at you. When playing pick up or in an actual game and for whatever reason another player was having a field day on my teammate, I would definitely take note of his tendencies on the offensive end. Here are some questions that I would ask myself before deciding to switch; could he dribble with his left, is he a shooter or penetrator, does he run off a lot of screens, and etc.
The next most important thing that you need to learn about playing defense and being an efficient defensive stopper is how you position yourself. If you are guarding a post player, you need to stay connected to their body at all times. If they are a back-to-the-basket player, the goal is to make sure they do not get the ball and that they are as far away from the basket as possible.
However, if you are guarding a guard, your defensive position will have to change. Of course you have to consider if the player is a threat from long range which could be a more challenging situation. The best position would be to have your guide leg closest to side that the player has the ball to make sure he does not beat you using that side and the other leg wide enough to force the player to where you want him go. When playing team basketball, you want to try and force the offensive player towards the baseline. By not letting him go middle, you will have reinforcement behind you to play help defense and recover.
If the position of the ball changes, continue to try to force the offensive player towards the baseline. Always make sure that the player is at an arm’s length. This will give you better chances of recovering in case you make a mistake. You will also be able to discourage a quick shot by being close, but you have have to keep your basketball position and stance low so that you can move your feet when the offensive player decides to put the basketball on the floor.
How to become a good defender
There is no holy grail when it comes to being an effective defensive stopper. It is purely about hard work and sweat and your dedication to becoming better at the game of basketball. There are a number of aspects that make you great defender and every time you are on the court, you should work on them.
Speed & Quickness
Let’s face it; the game is becoming faster with younger and more talented players. Your ability to adjust to the situation quickly is key if you are to stop your man on defense. You have to be quick on your feet. I would use my speed and quickness to pester players and just stay in front of them. This would irritate them and force them to get out of rhythm on the offensive end. Sprints, backpedals, shuffles and machine guns are some of the drills that can help you improve your speed and quickness.
While this might not be taught by most coaches, it is an important part of being able to play defense and harnessing it makes you a more lethal and better lockdown defender. You have to practice the proper sliding stance, the position of your hands and all the basics that are involved in defense. You have to work on your on court awareness and especially the ability to read and react on the court.
Read and react
In defense, this is probably the most complex tip to teach. Players that have this naturally can become great defenders but everyone can learn it to a certain degree. Essentially, reading and reacting is truly learning how to use and trust your instincts. When you become really good on the defensive end you are able to predict what a player is about to do and you adjust quickly to stop them. For example, if a player is in a shooting stance, then you position yourself to contest the shot. If they start to dribble, you cut them off by beating them to the spot. This is what allows a defender to be a step ahead of the offense. Harnessing this skill will not only make you a better defender but also a more efficient ball theft.
One of the most important things that you have to know about being a good lockdown defender is that you have to be able to do it without committing a foul. If you constantly pick up fouls, then you won’t be much help to the team since you’ll be on the bench most of the time. Sometimes you don’t have to try and steal the basketball by reaching, just play solid defense and the offense will eventually make a mistake. Reaching can also get you in trouble! I have seen some players fall because of their consistent reaching for the basketball. The saying goes, “You Reach, I Teach!”
Inspiration from the defensive greats
While there is an example of DeAndre Jordan at the beginning of this article, looking at more NBA players who have made their mark as lockdown defenders and what it takes to get there should give you a blue print of the work that you have ahead of you. Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies is arguable one of the best on ball defenders that the league has seen. Even though he is just 6-foot-4, he has a wing span of about 6-foot-9. This coupled with his quick hands and feet allows him to effectively defend any player. Even Kobe Bryant has had issues beating him on court. Keep in mind that the speed comes though work and dedication.
Chris Paul of the LA Clippers might be considered one of the best, if not the best point guards in the NBA. He also portrays the true heart of a competitor and defender. He might be small but he is not intimated amongst the trees. He is relentless, works hard, hounds you till you turn the ball over and is in your face every time you touch the basketball. He is a true lockdown defender. One thing you have to do to become a defensive stopper is to be physical. Not in an over aggressive way but aggressive enough to endure the physical play of the game.
Defensive drill to become a Defensive Stopper
You have the information and people to look up to. However, to start crafting your own path as a great defender you need somewhere to start and this drill will help you with that.
4 Cone Basketball Defensive Drill
The reason behind picking this drill is that not only is it a great starting point but it is an all-inclusive drill that will ensure you work on your speed, mentality, movement and even conditioning. Most importantly, it will teach the player how to think especially when they are tired.
Have the cones set up in four corners assuming the shape of a square. The distance between the cones will be dictated by your level of skill and fitness.
From the first cone get in a defensive stance and place one foot outside the cone. Sprint to the cone that’s diagonal from the starting cone, back pedal to the next cone, slide to the next cone, slide back, then sprint diagonal, back pedal to the next cone, slide to the next cone, slide back, and repeat. Yea, I know this is a lot so check out this video to see how to perform this drill! Make sure that you always practice the fundamentals of defense which include the perfect stance and the sliding position. Be sure to also keep your hands involved. These can act as extra distractions and also can be used to steal any passes coming your way.