In the game of basketball defense is broken up into two main categories, on the ball and away from the ball. Each style of defense requires its own set of understanding. This article outlines the important steps and practices of playing effective on the ball defense.
No shot should ever be taken that is not contested by a member of your team. Remember the point of defense is to create the toughest shot possible as far away from the basket as you can. You make shots shot tougher by contesting each and every one.
The best way to contest a shot is to be patient and wait until the shooters feet actually leave the ground. If not, you will be fouled out in 5 minutes. Be smart and wait till the shooter leaves the ground.
There are two trains of thought in contesting, one is to try to get your hand on the ball by blocking the shot and the second is to get your hand in the shooters face effectively cutting off his vision. The point is to make it as difficult as possible without fouling. To practice this with your team just make sure that during shooting drills someone is always getting a hand up to either block the shot or block the shooter's vision. It is a great way to work on defensive fundamentals while practicing offense.
This is a drill that is a favorite for coaches and miserable for all the players. I wish I would have taken this drill more serious when I was in grade school. The key to defense is to stay low and have a good solid base to work with. Spread your feet out and really get down. Make sure that you aren't hunched over at the waist. You don't want to be bent over.
Keep your head up and slide your feet. In principle, your feet should never really leave the ground. If they are, you aren't sliding, but clomping. You'll notice right away and so will the offense. Practice this a few ways, but defense is made up of bursts mainly.
I encourage competition while doing defensive drills because it creates more interest. I line up 2 players facing each other, using the foul line boundaries as my marker. Each player sees how many slides they can do in 30 seconds. Make sure they are facing each other as this will drive them. 60 seconds may be too long but is definitely worth trying.
Young players often ask how they should guard the ball while it is being dribbled. Is there any strategy behind it? Of course there is. I coach people to always be a half-man to the side of the ball. What this does is typically force the offense to change directions and that is what I'm all about. If you are a half-man ahead and slide your feet you will cause the offense all sorts of problems. If you are already half-way ahead of him on the side he is dribbling then he will have a harder time getting around you that way.
Never underestimate the importance of pressuring the ball. Never make anything easy for the offense. If you are guarding the ball make sure that you make it difficult to dribble or get into their offense. You want to be disruptive and not give them anything. If you see a player is very strong to one hand then force him to use the other.
If you see a player that makes soft passes then take advantage of that. I've played on teams where we would pick out a player each week that we considered the weakest link. We would let this guy do whatever he wanted to because he was the weakest player on the court. Sure it is a little mean, but the point is to win games.
We weren't trying to make the guy feel bad it's just that the point of good defense is sometimes to get the worst player taking most of the shots if at all possible. Force the team to do things they don't want to do. If they like running to the right side then force them left. It is that simple. Figure out tendencies and pressure the ball.