4 Tips to Become a Better On-Ball Defender
Defense is taken for granted by many players of all ages. Sure, you can score 20 points per game but if you allow the person you're guarding to put up 20 points as well, your efficiency is 0.
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard is the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA with little doubt or argument. The lengthy, two-way, small forward can shut down the best scorers in the NBA as well as create offense of his own. The best scorers in the league have to change the way they play, and adjust to Leonard's tenacious defense in order to be successful.
In order to be a reliable teammate, and a positive contributor on the court, defense needs to be of equal priority as offense.
To get you on the right track to being a feared defender like Kawhi Leonard, UH trainers Tim Wojcik, Jonathan Underwood, and Michael McClendon, and UH National Manager John Thomas give some of their tips on how to become a better on-ball defender.
"You need to remain in an athletic position (the standard defensive stance we are all taught) and remain on the balls of your feet. Sit back like you're going to sit in a chair, chest up. Not legs locked with your back bent over. The key, however, is to keep your eyes on your opponent’s waist. Do not follow his head, hand, feet, or worse, the ball. Eyes on the waist is the biggest key to success."
"Understanding your opponents strengths and taking them away will force them to make moves they're uncomfortable with and cause them to make poor decisions."
"Resistant bands and/or weights for the lower body will help with quickness on defense. Ladder and cone agility drills will also help with having a quicker lateral change of direction."
"Defense is all about intent, effort, and efficiency. Intent to control the person you're guarding; not letting them get anything should be the mentality. The amount of pressure you put on them should make their game hard.
Don't give them any room, get up in their face, but not too close where you're out of control and they just blow by you, but just enough space for you to make a move to cut them off. You should be shadowing the ball with one hand and using the other to be ready to make a deflection.
The efficiency comes with being in an athletic stance, low and wide to make it hard for the opponent to get around you, and to make it easier for you to move quickly. Think of it as a tooth pick versus a building; it takes a lot less effort and movement to move around something tall and thin than it is to get around something strong and wide.
Communication, actually LOUD communication, is also a very underrated part of being a great defender. Whether it's yelling "I got ball!" to your team or, "No no no!" to the person you're guarding, you're making your presence known, you've gained trust from your teammates, and you're announcing your control of the floor and the ball."