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View Full Version : The Comprehensive Defense thread, part VI: Fighting thru screens away from the ball



thunderbird1245
02-21-2009, 03:10 PM
Today, in the sixth part of this seven part series, we talk about fighting thru screens away from the ball. If you have missed them or would like to review them, the first five topics of this series have been:

1. "Defense at the point of attack"
2. "Defending the wings"
3. "Defending the low post"
4. "Playing proper help side defense"
5. "Defending the ball screen" (screen/roll defensive techniques)

If someone more computer friendly than I would like to post links to those first five articles, feel free to do so. The last article in this series will be posted soon, which will just be a summary of the other 6 threads, with some conclusions about what how the Pacers staff could adjust our defensive scheme for better results.


Avoiding screens is an important thing for an individual defender to be able to do. However, it has to be an overall team effort in order to let that happen in the most optimum way. Avoiding screens requires things that are key critical basketball skills that often go overlooked....things like positioning, communication, anticipation, awareness, vision, intellect, footwork, instincts, and proper fundamentals.

I actually view this is one of the things the Pacers as a team do fairly well, and in my judgment it isn't as much of a problem as some of the earlier topics I have covered. However, that is more of an indictment of our porous defense than you probably realize, because most teams are able to score on us consistently without HAVING to screen against us as much as they do against other teams. We may indeed have difficulty fighting thru screens well, but our other aspects of defense aren't good enough to force the opponent to have to screen us much to begin with!

With that said, let's look at some things I see when watching our defense closely:

OUR WEAKSIDE POSITIONING AND EMPHASIS ON HELP IS BOTH NEGATIVE AND A POSITIVE IN AVOIDING SCREENS.

By positioning, what I am referring to is our tendency to be one step BELOW the help line, as I discussed in the help side thread. This particular Jim O'Brien system quirk in my judgment leaves us vulnerable, more than most teams, to being downscreened against. By being this far down the floor into the lane, this means our players have more ground to cover upward onto the floor if their own man is being screened for. It also means they are somewhat of a "sitting target", letting the offensive player hone on them, and be less precise on the techniques needed to set a proper screen. These are negatives.

On the other hand, by being in such a severe help position, our defenders are often so far away from their men that the screener has to go further, out of the design of the play often, to find the proper man to screen. That sometimes makes the offense playing against us to get out of kilter, as their timing and spacing can be affected by having to set screens against a defender in such a unique defensive position. By accident, our somewhat wacky defensive scheme can be a positive in this way.

Because of this over emphasis on help, I think unintentionally (or perhaps it is by design actually, I would need to really discuss this with JOB himself to find out and that isnt going to ever happen) our Pacers are actually hard to screen away from the ball, with one big exception I will discuss in the next paragraph. I think the Pacers defend the cross-screen well in the paint, and I think for the most part the Pacers defend the down screen well. These are things to at least be happy about.

But, for the same reasons we may be good at defending those types of away from the ball screens, we are the league's worst at defending the "flare" screen. For definition purposes, this is defined as a screen coming from the OUTSIDE OF THE COURT INWARD, TOWARD THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR.

You see this major weakness manifest itself sometimes by the plethora of crosscourt passes we give up, and by how easily teams reverse the ball against us. Often this is done without screening us at all, and just using spacing and athelticism and our own system against us, but some teams do screen our backs to prevent us from recovering to weakside shooters, and our scheme hurts us in this effort to closeout.


OUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS NEED IMPROVEMENT, BUT HAVE POTENTIAL

Communication with your teammates is such a huge part of team defense. Strangely, it is something that doesnt come naturally to players, instead it is something that has to be drilled in to them constantly, in every situation and in every drill they do. It has to be treated as a COACHING PRIORITY, not just as coachspeak. The Pacers, like most bad defensive clubs, struggle with this.

But we have some individual players who I feel are good communicators and are "loud and proud" defenders, or at least potentially are. From studying extensive tape prior to last year's draft, I felt like that Roy Hibbert was an extremely aware defender, and was great at pointing and communicating verbally as a backline traffic cop. Hibbert has his head swimming this year just trying to survive and stay in the games, but as he gains more floor time and experience (and perhaps plays in a more conventional defensive style with better players around him) I think he can be an excellent communicator inside for his teammates.

I also view Maceo Baston and Jeff Foster as relatively good and active communicators defensively inside in screen situations, and I am particular surprised at the energy and enthusiasm Josh McRoberts has provided us at times. Again, I think a less difficult and wacky system (I've covered what I believe our issues are in the earlier parts of the series) would help this become more of a team strength.

So, it isn't all bad in this aspect of defense.

But we also have some players who are extraordinarily bad I feel as communicators defensively...they are way too quiet! Murphy, Nesterovic, and Dunleavy all are too quiet as defenders in screen situations. Often, you will particularly see players like Granger, Rush, and Daniels get crushed by a blind sided screen when it is set by the men these three are guarding. I'm particularly bothered by Dunleavy and Murphy having this issue, as these guys are supposed to be smart and intelligent players. For whatever reason in their upbringing, the ability to play "loud and proud" defense escaped them. More than their lack of athleticism, the inability to communicate well really hurts their defensive cause, and is one reason why I shake my head when people defend Dunleavy and others as good "team defenders". They are simply not, as in no way does their team play better defense overall when they are on the floor.

THERE ARE OTHER RAYS OF SUNSHINE FOR US DEFENSIVELY IN THE AREAS OF PREPARATION, VISION, AND AWARENESS.

I know our staff has made mistakes in terms of the overall fundamental strategy they have chosen for us. In fact, examing those mistakes was the entire point of answering the question "Why is our defense so freaking pathetic?" But at least I think we can tell that the effort to prepare is there, even though the results haven't been. I know that Jim O'Brien probably watches more film than most coaches, and I know that the Pacers practice harder and more often than most teams, even having full contact practices on game days. I would bet that we have defensive scheme changes next season, after O'Brien has had a full off season to see the mistakes he has made.

But he has done one thing very well as a defensive coach: The Pacers do know where the ball is at all times! That sounds like no big deal, but I promise you that it is. Rarely do teams just walk down the lane against us for uncontested layups....if anything, we help too much and too often. When you especially consider that our PG defense has been much worse than almost all of us expected (including me), I think overcoming that has been too much for O'Brien to overcome, and when he tried to adjust he could have done a couple of different things, and he chose incorrectly. He should have simply demanded more from and "coached up" Ford and Jack, instead he compensated for them and screwed up the entire scheme to try to hide them....just as he had to for Jamal Tinsley a year ago.

But the point is, the Pacers have a great awareness of where the ball is defensively, and that is an important thing to have established.

WE HAVE SOME INDIVIDUALS KEY TO OUR FUTURE WHO EITHER HAVE DEFENSIVE STRENGTHS IN AVOIDING SCREENS ALREADY, OR WHO HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO DO SO

I view Rush as a nice 3rd wing player, first wing off the bench type of guy. So far he hasn't really done anything to change that, but that's what I thought he was all along, so that is fine with me. Defensively, he is really good. He slips thru screens, anticipates being screened and slides thru well. He could be a bit more physical as the screen is coming I suppose, but his main job is getting thru the screen still in contact with his man, and doing so on balance....and Rush is good at this. This is an important building block.

Granger has been focused on offense for us...in my judgment rightfully so. But he at least has the athleticism and length to be a very good defender as well in getting thru screens. Right now he is good at recovering and that is hiding the fact that Granger runs into more screens head on than any other Pacer. Of course, Im blaming some of that on his teammates, but Granger gets his share of blame here too. He just needs to concentrate more and not drift off, and continue to improve as an individual in playing defense BEFORE his man gets the ball, and not WAITING TIL AFTER HIS MAN ALREADY HAS IT!

But in general, the Pacers have 3 potential plus defenders going forward...now we need about 5-6 more, including a major help at the point guard spot, and another wing better than Rush and Granger defensively, and some interior guys who can play. Not easy, but at least we have a start.

In the next thread, I'll summarize the "comprehensive defense threads" into a game plan defensively for the staff to follow for next year's training camp, and for the front office to look at in evaluating players that can defend they way we need them to. In my opinion, Larry Bird drafted 2 of our best 3 defenders a year ago, so I think he is seeing the game from a defensive standpoint much better than he is given credit for.

As always, the above is just my opinion.

Tbird

count55
02-21-2009, 06:06 PM
Here are the others:

1. "Defense at the point of attack"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44010

2. "Defending the wings"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44117

3. "Defending the low post"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44179

4. "Playing proper help side defense"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44357

5. "Defending the ball screen" (screen/roll defensive techniques)
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44766

tbird, you can cut and copy this into your next thread.

thunderbird1245
02-21-2009, 10:57 PM
Here are the others:

1. "Defense at the point of attack"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44010

2. "Defending the wings"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44117

3. "Defending the low post"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44179

4. "Playing proper help side defense"
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44357

5. "Defending the ball screen" (screen/roll defensive techniques)
http://www.pacersdigest.com/apache2-default/showthread.php?t=44766

tbird, you can cut and copy this into your next thread.


Thanks for the help Count.

I'll go ahead and admit it now...I'm tired of writing these long defensive threads, and I'll be glad to have them finished with the next one so I can move on to a more interesting and less dry topic.

I do hope they've at least been somewhat educational to those who have read them, because they've taken a long time to analyze and write.

DrFife
02-22-2009, 10:26 AM
Thanks for the help Count.

I'll go ahead and admit it now...I'm tired of writing these long defensive threads, and I'll be glad to have them finished with the next one so I can move on to a more interesting and less dry topic.

I do hope they've at least been somewhat educational to those who have read them, because they've taken a long time to analyze and write.

Yes indeed, TBird. You and Count clearly are among the PD Blue-Ribbon elite in terms of adding value. Many thanks; it is appreciated! :applaud:

Hicks
02-22-2009, 10:50 AM
For the most part, I've really enjoyed these, tbird. I say for the most part only because not every single piece of information in these threads is equally interesting, but as a whole this was great. As you know, I've been interested for a while in learning about coaching, and as I've gradually made my way through various books, I've found your posts on defense to be a great supplement to my education.