Playing good defense in the NBA 2K series has always been harder than playing quality offense. On offense, you dictate the tempo and make the first move, but on defense, everything you do is a reaction to the opposing team. In NBA 2K19, defense is appropriately balanced and opens up the door to shutting down your opponent with greater efficiency. Still, you have to be on the prowl at all times and you can’t take possessions off. If you find that you’re struggling on the defensive end in NBA 2K19, these tips and tricks will get you on the road to becoming the ultimate shutdown defender.
Manually contest shots
NBA 2K19‘s most crucial defensive adjustment has to do with contesting shots. In previous games, you could simply stay hugged up next to the ball handler with a combination of L2/LT and holding up on the right trigger. When they went up for the shot, you’d automatically stick a hand up to contest the shot. This meant that if you stuck close to your opponent, it was hard for them to get an open look if that’s all you did.
In 2K19, you have to manually contest shots, regardless of your defensive stance. We’ve found that watching a player’s feet helps. Once you see one foot leave the ground, it’s time to go up for the contest using Triangle (Y on Xbox One, X on Switch). If you’re comfortable with stick controls, you can also move the right stick up quickly to contest a shot. Often times, stick controls work better as your thumbs are always on both sticks anyway.
By default, the shot contest control is also for blocking. If you’re playing close defense, you might also get a hand on the ball. However, if you find yourself fouling shooters on a consistent basis, you may want to try the vertical contest instead. If you move the left stick away from the shooter while using the contest control, you’ll go straight up, which all but eliminates the chance of blocking the shot or fouling. You’ll still affect the openness rating for the shot doing this, lowering the likelihood the shot will fall.
Pick their pocket and force turnovers
Besides shot contests, the one area of defense that has dramatically improved in NBA 2K19 are steals. Too often in earlier versions did a quality steal attempt result in a reach-in foul. Often times, it simply didn’t make sense. In 2K19, steal attempts are more successful. To steal, press Square (X on Xbox One, Y on Switch), or, if crowding the dribbler, quickly press down and release the right stick.
When should you try and steal, though? Well, it takes practice to know what works and what doesn’t, but in general, you want to watch for opportunities in traffic or when the ball handler is getting too careless with dribble moves. If you’re playing man-to-man defense and the dribbler keeps exposing the ball without doing anything to protect it, you have a great opportunity to pick their pocket.
Another technique you can use against reckless dribblers is forcing turnovers through fouls. It’s common to play human opponents that take pleasure in padding the stat lines of their best players. To do so, they often wind up playing hero ball. This means they’ll frequently try to blow by defenders in one-on-one situations. The problem with this approach, especially in 2K19, is that it’s harder to get by defenders in general. So they wind up forcing it.
This creates a great opportunity to force turnovers by taking a charge. Press and hold O (B on Xbox One, A on Switch) to take a charge. We’ve had quite a bit of success taking charges in our time with NBA 2K19. And while we don’t endorse flopping, you can fake the impact by double tapping the charge button. Regrettably, we’ve had success flopping, too.
Stick with the ball handler
In a regular game, you control one player at a time. That means the four other defenders on the court are controlled by the CPU. Thankfully, CPU defense has improved from last year, so you don’t have to worry as much about cycling through defenders on loop. Although you can play off the ball defense and deny passing lanes, you don’t necessarily need to do this to be a great defender.
Instead, we recommend switching to whichever defender is on the ball handler. To automatically switch to the defender covering the dribbler press: X on PS4, A on Xbox One, B on Switch. Right when the ball leaves their hands, you can switch to the defender closest to it. If you get nimble enough, you can still disrupt lanes by stealing incoming passes and boxing out offensive rebounders with L2/LT right when you switch. It’s the best of both worlds.
Keep in mind that it’s never a great idea to leave the CPU on a dribbler for more than a few seconds. While the CPU is competent, they won’t play as tight of defense as you can when controlling the nearest defender.
Play active defense
Your number one objective on defense is to stop the ball from going through the hoop. Sticking with the ball handler and getting your hands up for shots is a start, but you also have to force the offense into lower percentage situations. Simply getting a hand up when Steph Curry shoots a three right behind the arc might not help that much. Instead, you need to compel ball handlers to make ill-advised moves: cross-court passes, off-balanced shots, extremely reckless dribble moves.
For starters, using fast shuffle (holding down both triggers) lets you stay in a defensive stance while shutting down dribbling lanes. You can cut off drives, forcing players back out to the perimeter by always staying in front of the offense. Around the perimeter, and particularly in the corners, using chuck (tap O/B/A) physically nudges the dribbler back. Chuck can force dribblers out of bounds, mess with their balance, and give you time to either make a quick steal attempt or quality contest.
The more you minimize open offensive looks, the more likely you are to come away with a shot. Sometimes you’ll get burned regardless of how good of defense you play. Sometimes they’ll drain a heavily contested shot. But the more you make the offense work for their points, the more stops you will make.
Use Takeover to boost abilities
In our NBA 2K19 review, we talked about a new gameplay feature called Takeover which provides boosts to key attributes. Each player has at least one Takeover, and three of the nine possible boosts pertain to defense. If you play well with a player for a consistent stretch, you can activate Takeover by pressing down on the right trigger. If their Takeover ability is defensive, it will show up as one of three icons: A lock, a bucket encased in a shield, or a wine glass. The lock signifies lockdown defender, the shield marks great rim protectors, and the wine glass tells you that the player is a force to be reckoned with on rebound opportunities. Pay particularly close attention to the lockdown defender Takeover, as you have a greater chance of blocking shots and creating steals when it’s activated. You’ll know when it’s active when you see an on-fire icon next to a player’s name.
If you’re still having trouble containing the offense after utilizing these tips, we highly recommend 2KU, the in-game tutorial that will teach you the ins and outs of playing defense.