4 Easy Steps to a Perfect Man to Man Defense

Defense in basketball is something that is going to make you feel good while playing games. There can be nights when the ball is slippery and the hands are cold, when the 3 point line is a bit further then usually and it may seem like somebody has shrunk the rim. Cold nights on offense is a thing that basketball Gods can serve on any given moment on any given game day. But, nobody, nobody can take away a will to fight, to grind, to bite and to defend your basket. You may lose the game, but you can't lose the fight itself. The offense is a show for the fans, Defense is a thing of pride and self-respect. If you give 99% on defense know that you have failed both yourself and your team.


Table of Content

1. All about the stance

2. On ball defense

3. Contesting Shots and Denying Dribble Penetration

4. Drills

1. All About the Stance

In the development of a good defensive stance, the first thing that we need to know is how should a good defensive stance look like, and we have to emphsize the deference between the active defensive stance and the passive defensive stance.

The old teachings are saying that the perfect posture is demanding that the feet should be a bit wider then the shoulders, the feet should be on a 30-degree angle and pointing outside of the knee. And we all agree but we have to say that this is a passive, not on ball posture that the defender has to have.

On ball defender needs to be lower a bit then in the passive stance, so his feet need to be a bit wider.

If you really think about these claims, you are going to come to a conclusion that wider legs position emphsize lateral movement and shoulder with stance is better for starting the sprint (defending the passing lane or coming to help on a drive).

Active Defensive Stance


The center of gravity should be lowered as if you are going to sit in a chair but on a halfway there you changed your mind.


As far as the feet are considered, the weight should be centered on the inside of the feet, just beneath the root of the first finger. You can try moving in the stance laterally just to see that this part of the foot is the most active during the movement. If a basketball player learns to concentrate the pressure on this area of the foot all the times, he is going to react much quicker on defense.

Heals have to be decompressed. They do not need to hang off of the floor all the times, but the weight should be lifted off of them. This is going to prevent a player to center his gravity toward the back from where it is much harder to control the body.
As much as we do not want to be laid back, we certainly do not want to be on our toes.

Whenever you have a dilemma if the player is low enough in the stance, he should be able to touch the ground with his hand or to be in a few centimeters from it.


Teach your players to keep their back straight but flexible. The back should be leveled from the player's shoulders to his hips and somewhat arched, but not completely straight.
This position might appear awkward at first, but it will appear more natural with practice.



The hands of a defender have to be active at all times. The hand position highly depends on if you are in a contact with the offensive player who has the ball or he is without one, or if you are defending the first pass or you are a help defender from the weak side.
The only thing that is forbidden is that the hands are on a side or at the knees.

2. On-Ball Defense

Defense starts with the intense pressure on the ball. And might we add that that pressure should be meaningful and smart. We do not want our players to go kamikaze on the ball handler.

A good on-ball defender has a plan to contain the ball, prevent dribble penetration and to be patient and wait for a good opportunity to try and disrupt/steal the ball.

Steal attempts usually end up in failure. Statistics say that 9 out of 10 ends up in failure when the ball is outside of the arc, while the numbers are significantly better when the ball is approaching the paint area. So, knowing that, we need to teach our basketball players to contain the ball on the 3pt and prevent the drive, while on the interior the tenacity of trying to get the ball should be bigger so the hands need to be more active.

Work within your team’s game plan.
This part of an individual player development plan is very neglected if we talk about planning and getting information about other teams. This is the 21st century and everybody has a Phone with a camera which can make very good films. Yes, we all know the fundamentals are important, but we must teach our players how to adapt based on information that we give them. Why should anybody guard Ben Simmons from Philly on the arc when he has 0 three-point attempts in the whole season and are we going to let Kley shoot uncontested shots?


The second thing to teach is the importance of following the game plan. Some defensive plans are based on protecting the middle, some force people to go into the crowd. Its all about being concentrated and playing as a unit and toward the same goal.

Angle your body to make them dribble to the sideline/corner/baseline. Ram the foot on the nearest out of bounds line. The toe of the back leg must be aligned with the heel of the other. The chest should be angled just slightly in that direction too.
This stance position is called a heel/toe/push point adjustment and it blocks the ball handler from dribbling to the middle of the court.

The shoulders of the player playing defense should be lower than the shoulders of the ball handler. It’s essential to stay in a low defensive stance while defending the ball handler. The lower you are the more firm you are because of the center of the gravity is lower. Being stronger in contact is a job halfway done.

Never look at the ball directly. The focus should be on the stomach although some coaches like to go with the chest. In my opinion, if we look at the stomach, our periphery eye view will catch the legs so we are going to see which leg is going where and we are going to anticipate the side of the attack.

The players on defense should use one hand to hunt the ball and the other to obstruct a passing lane. They should be positioned in a way that they are on an arm's length distance apart from the ball handler.

The Players should not reach for the ball on a face to face defense and when they are far from the paint area. Those steal attempts result in failure and that only means that your team defense is about to collapse. Reaching for the ball should be done in those situations when your players are certain that they stopped the penetration after two or three dribbles and the ball handler has to go other way or he has to reach for some bad dribbling moves.

Communication is very important for your team because not every player can see all of the movement happenings on a position. The information that the other players are exchanging between themselves is going to give them an advance over the offense so there will be no surprises for them.
The second thing that we can't see often on the floor is a player asking for help. Teach your players to yell for help! Every mismatch should be announced and helped. If there is a pick and roll action and your big ended up defending a fast point guard, he should immediately ask for help so the others can shrink the floor by stepping on the penetration lanes.

3. Contesting Shots and Denying Dribble Penetration

There are two ways to efficiently defend the shot. You want to either disrupt the start of the shooting motion by trying to flick the ball, or you want to contest the shot in the release part. For the first option, you need to be very close to a defender and this is possible just on regular, none step back/side shots.
For the second option you need to read the play well and to time your block attempt perfectly. Most of the times the defenders are going to be short, and on these times they must be concentrated and put a hand in the face of the shooter just to try to block his vision.

Drop back if the ball handler tries to dribble towards the basket. It is a must to have a body between the ball and the basket at all times. When the ball handler attempts to drive, or dribble hard to the rim and the defender has failed to play competitive defense, the best thing to do is to shuffle as fast as possible backward and try to reconnect, if not in front then on the side, of the defender.

Press the player with the ball toward the nearest sideline. Position your stance and your body in a way that you are forcing the ball handler toward the sidelines.
Putting the offense in this kind of situation is just going to make opportunities for the help defenders to double and to take the ball.

Stealing the ball on the dribble is not hard. It is hard to try to attempt a steal and if it does not go your way to not lose ground or make a foul. This is why the steal attempts should be tried only near the paint area and only in times that the ball handler is going for some fancy dribbles in the tight space. This way there is no room for you to make drastic errors and the help defenders are near to cover your back.

Try to draw charging foul every time you can. We all know that you need to take a hit with both legs on the ground and to be a millisecond earlier on the path that the offensive player with the ball is going to take. It is best if you can come from the blind side of some low post players and stand firm ready to take a hit. Another thing are the screens. You can always come aggressive on the screen and put some act while fighting it.

4. Drills

If you want to get your players to be better at playing one on one defense, there are essentially three things that you need to work with them:

1. The Theory

Everything that we just wrote about defense, and everything that you know, your players need to know and to actually understand why they need to do things as somebody wrote it on a piece of paper. If your players do not understand why they need to be lower in stance then the offensive player or why do they need to center their mass on the inside of the foot or why are the heals decompressed, if they do not understand all of those things they are not going to do them the right way.
Only when they know why and how only then the defensive mindset is ready to put them in the DPOY mode.


2. Make the Stance be familiar and desirable

Many players do not feel comfortable being in a defensive stance. Practice being in the stance. A simple drill is going to help them develop good habbits and that drill is 1 on 1 but with some modifications:
- Uncontested dribble or shots on the full court
- Uncontested dribble to the 3 point line
- Uncontested dribble to the center
- Full contested on the whole court
- Full contested on the whole court but from the 3 point line offense has just two dribbles

3. Develop speed while moving in stance

The faster your players can move in the stance the easier they are going to defend any offensive player on the floor. This part has everything to do with the straight and speed of your players legs. There are really two parts of the program:

  •  Making Legs Strong
    1. Squats
    2. Squat jumps
    3. Leg press
  • Making Legs Fast

Resistance Bands

Jump Rope

If you want to learn more drills that are going to help you develop a good team defense, go rent a DVD by clicking on the link below:

May 12, 2019 Viktor Sadikovic

Recent Posts