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Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

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  • Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

    In the summertime, and preseason, much was made of the Pacers new coaching staff, particularly defensive guru Dick Harter, and his ability to hide our players defensive individual weaknesses in his grander overall team scheme. While we probably discussed the offensive end in more detail overall, we had lots of quality discussion on here about what we expected to see.

    I think the prevailing opinions/hopes of most of you about our defense went something like this:
    1. "I'm not worried about our defense, I trust Dick Harter and Jim O'Brien's scheme to solve all of that."
    2. "The players wouldn't play hard last year, better effort will help our defense."
    3. "Danny Granger can be our defensive stopper."


    I think we are seeing so far that all of the above statements simply aren't true.

    We have clearly improved offensively as a whole. We are clearly getting more offensively out of Tinsley and Dunleavy. And we clearly move the ball better and are more entertaining to watch play, no question.

    But it is time to clearly state the following: The Pacers defensively are downright terrible much of the time.

    Now, I'm not saying that Coach Harter and Coach O'Brien aren't good defensive coaches, because they are. What I am saying is that the Pacers personnel defensively are awful, and lack any potential of getting better significantly.

    I'm telling you all to recognize this "coachspeak" we hear all the time from the staff about missed rotations, inexperience, new system, blah blah blah for what it is: which is a load of B.S.

    Let me explain what I mean somewhat better than I have already by examining the phrase "defensive rotations".

    Coach O'Brien acts like these are somehow set in stone, with ironclad rules and concepts, with everyone supposed to be acting in concert. This all sounds like good, intelligent, well planned defensive coaching.

    Except it isn't close to being true, and Jim knows it deep down. It's something to say without having to call out particular individuals you don't want to criticize for whatever reason.

    Let me tell you all something about coaching basketball: You may decide as a coach which one your players will guard my players, but I decide where on the floor my players will be, and how I will attack you based on that. A team's great defensive rules and concepts are wasted if I attack you in ways that your INDIVIDUAL defenders cannot handle, in positions or situations in which they struggle.

    This is even more true when the opponent I'm playing is very PREDICTABLE defensively, along with having WEAK INDIVIDUAL defenders.

    The Pacers are known to have the following traits defensively:
    1. Help and sag alot.
    2. Fail to recover and closeout to shooters due to their need/desire to overhelp.
    3. Foul often.
    4. Our best defenders are easily faked out by ball fakes.
    5. We play one one above average defender significant minutes (JO, and he is average on the ball, above average away from it).
    6. We play several below average defenders significant minutes (Tinsley, Murphy, Dunleavy)
    7. We lead the league in defensive three second calls, giving our opponent a couple of free points per game.
    So teams put us in situations to drive the ball, cause us to help, and then pitch it to wide open guys for easy shots. THE PACERS ARE SOFT...thats what their scouting reports say.

    You guys all need to realize that no defensive scheme by any coach can solve any of this. It's not going to be the X's and O's, it's the Jimmy's and Joe's. If you are all waiting for the "Dick Harter effect" to kick in, I don't think it is going to.

    This system needs better individual defenders on the ball, so we aren't forced to help and recover so much. We also need a committment from the staff to value putting as many good defenders on the floor as possible.

    TEAM DEFENSE IS ONE OF THE MOST OVERRATED THINGS IN BASKETBALL.

    It cannot be played successfully without really good defense from individuals. I know someone will bring up the Spurs, who do play a well organized, team defensive concept well.....but remember they have 2 elite defenders in Duncan and Bowen, and Parker is great at pressuring the opposing ballhandler. Their individual talent makes the scheme work, not the other way around.

    In truth, I think the Pacers front office and coaching staff fell victim to their own hubris and hype when evaluating the roster defensively. No coach can take this roster and make it a good defensive team overall.

    I do not think our weaknesses are fixable with more time or experience, and I doubt Jim O'Brien does either. So what can we expect to see him do as the Calendar turns to 2008?

    There will be lots of disagreement and griping about this prediction if it comes true, but I think Coach O'Brien may slow our pace down on offense, to protect our worsening defense.....which is the same conclusion Carlisle came to in his tenure.

    That is unless we somehow obtain better personnel defensively thru a trade of some sort, which won't be easy. Most teams know that what I just have written is true, and are reluctant to deal for guys who are porous as individual defenders.

    You used to be able to hide slower guys by being physical and rough on the perimeter....those days are over.

    Larry Brown was a great defensive coach, in that he really valued guys who could guard people. But he was a lot smarter when he had Derrick McKey and Haywoode Workman playing for him than when he had those awful Knicks teams.

    In some ways I'm spoiled I guess, having coached some great high school defenders, and having watched some elite defenders play in my lifetime for my favorite team, the 2 mentioned above, Travis Best, and Ron Artest.

    I guess I'm in a bad mood tonight about our team's roster, but what really worries me more than anything is that I sometimes wonder if our front office is seeing the same things I am. I wonder if any of you are too.

    I see our team scheme as easy to figure out and predictable for our opponents, with below average personnel trying to execute it. I hate it, but I see a big tailspin coming our way soon......

    As always, all the above is just my opinion.

    Tbird

  • #2
    Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

    team defense is a product of team chemistry, which in itself is a product of good coaching, but not entirely.

    I think you miss that part of the equation when you make your point.

    The fatal flaw in Indiana that I see is chemistry. They don't talk at all.

    The Pistons have had some great defensive talent, but they have always had a defensive "captain" on the floor calling out both the sets the offense was running and the defensive counter. If a defender was out of position, he would either yell at him to move over, or physically drag him off the floor.

    Michael Curry filled that role from 02-03, and Rasheed has been that guy ever since.

    I realize coaches always encourage players to talk to each other on defense, but it never works out that way. Most players just aren't wired to be vocal when they're locked in on concentrating on the game. It usually takes one guy being a leader for the entire unit.

    On one hand, you're right. You do need certain players to have an effective team defense, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need a lot of talent.
    Last edited by Kstat; 12-30-2007, 08:52 PM.

    It wasn't about being the team everyone loved, it was about beating the teams everyone else loved.

    Division Champions 1955, 1956, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
    Conference Champions 1955, 1956, 1988, 2005
    NBA Champions 1989, 1990, 2004

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    • #3
      Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

      As for this current Pacer team, you can't play at the pace they do and expect to have consistent defensive efficiency. It just isn't going to happen when you speed up the tempo and predicate your success on the amount of shots you can jack up in 48 minutes. I thought everyone understood this when the decision was made to turn this team into golden state east.

      It wasn't about being the team everyone loved, it was about beating the teams everyone else loved.

      Division Champions 1955, 1956, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
      Conference Champions 1955, 1956, 1988, 2005
      NBA Champions 1989, 1990, 2004

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      • #4
        Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

        Agree with Kstat on both the point regarding defensive chemistry and tempo.


        Honestly, Tbird, your posts are always difficult to address because they're so friggin' long, and you always temper and moderate your ideas so that its difficult to understand exactly what side of the line you're trying to fall (these are both great qualities, but unfortunately its difficult to rebut without writing a thesis myself).

        Sufficed to say, I believe team defense, defensive rotations, etc. are an integral portion of defense that can overcome and is often more important than your defensive personnel, just as offensive schemes and rotation make good offense. For example, I would say that the best defensive team in the NBA, the Spurs, have two amazing defenders and a bunch of so-so one-on-one defenders who are willing to hustle, rotate, and buy into a team defensive concept.
        2010 IKL Fantasy Basketball Champion Baltimore Bulldogs

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        • #5
          Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

          As long as Tinsley, Murphy and Dunleavy are starting, we have to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

          Good ball movement always beats any form of team defense that relies on poor defenders. Our stats back that up. We are near the top in the league in fouls, points allowed, free throws allowed and 3pt percentage.

          This is why this team cannot possibly have success in the playoffs. Contenders like Detroit and San Antonio excel at picking apart teams with ball movement...and we will be easy pickings.

          Edit: San Antonio's players do buy into the system. But when you have Bruce on the outside and Timmy on the inside, they really don't need much help. The fact they have two amazing defenders puts them near the top of the league anyway in defensive talent. They also have perimeter quickness which we lack. I think our players buy into the system too, but they just don't have the quickness and ability to get it done. That's why a good system is a base requirement and good individual defensive players are required to reach the upper echelon. Detroit is good because of their system too, but the talent is there as well. Billups, Prince and Wallace are all very good and the team's length is outstanding. That's all gravy on top of the system that is required to really be any good IMO.
          Last edited by BlueNGold; 12-30-2007, 10:39 PM.
          Lance is finally home. Whether he becomes our starting PG or he's 6th man, he's getting big minutes and he's here to stay. #llortontnia

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          • #6
            Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

            You can still be a great defensive team if you have one poor defender on the perimeter and a player who's about average on the inside. The other 3 need to be good to great defenders though.

            Allan Houston will never make anyone think of good defense - neither will Reggie Miller. But they both played on very strong defensive teams because they were smart defenders - they knew how to shade their man and take something away and the other defenders on the team knew their tendencies and could compensate.

            Rik Smits was never more than an average defender but between DD and McKey helping the Pacers had very solid interior defense.

            But if you have 3 poor defenders in the lineup, I don't care how good the other 2 are, your defense will suck. During his last years with the Knicks, KT, who's one of the best man-to-man position defenders in the league, looked completely lost because nobody else had a clue what they were doing. Bill Russell would have looked useless with that team.
            The poster formerly known as Rimfire

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            • #7
              Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

              Originally posted by DisplacedKnick View Post
              You can still be a great defensive team if you have one poor defender on the perimeter and a player who's about average on the inside. The other 3 need to be good to great defenders though.

              Allan Houston will never make anyone think of good defense - neither will Reggie Miller. But they both played on very strong defensive teams because they were smart defenders - they knew how to shade their man and take something away and the other defenders on the team knew their tendencies and could compensate.

              Rik Smits was never more than an average defender but between DD and McKey helping the Pacers had very solid interior defense.

              But if you have 3 poor defenders in the lineup, I don't care how good the other 2 are, your defense will suck. During his last years with the Knicks, KT, who's one of the best man-to-man position defenders in the league, looked completely lost because nobody else had a clue what they were doing. Bill Russell would have looked useless with that team.
              Outstanding post!
              Lance is finally home. Whether he becomes our starting PG or he's 6th man, he's getting big minutes and he's here to stay. #llortontnia

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                I agree with Bulldog, in that this probably wasn't my best written thread I've ever done.

                I want to make one more point I forgot to make in the original posting, and then I'll summarize my points so where I stand is made clearer.

                I think our huge emphasis on our overall team concept, as a unit, fanbase, and organization, is harmful in some ways, because it limits the amount of personal responsibility each player has to accept. You may read or hear comments like "our rotations were slow", or "our opponent deserves credit for shooting so well", or " we lacked focus", or other such drivel. No one says :"It's my fault, I stunk, my defense tonight was atrocious, I let my man light me up and that's unacceptable."

                There is a lack of singular, man vs man, defensive pride on our roster. No one seems upset, disappointed, or offended when their man scores, or when anyone else scores for that matter.

                Ok, to summarize my opinions on our defense so far:

                1. Our perimeter defense is awful, just like it was last year after the trade.
                2. Our inside defense is decent (particularly JO's help is good), but nothing to write home about.
                3. Our defense is still very passive and reactive, we are dictated to instead of dictating ourselves.
                4. Our individual defense is so bad that we make average teams look good, and good offensive teams look superhuman.
                5. We are terrible at help and recover situations and contesting shooters hard.
                6. We foul way too much.
                7. We overreact to pass fakes and drives, even in cases we don't need to.
                8. We have no one to pressure the ball, defend a wing pass, or stop an opponents best player.
                9. We basically stink defensively, and our lack of defensive individual skill means I don't think we are going to improve, and are likely to get worse.
                10. Our organization and this board was hoping for way too much from the staff to solve our defensive issues, instead of wanting or recognizing how untalented our defensive guys are.

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                • #9
                  Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                  Originally posted by DisplacedKnick View Post
                  You can still be a great defensive team if you have one poor defender on the perimeter and a player who's about average on the inside. The other 3 need to be good to great defenders though.

                  Allan Houston will never make anyone think of good defense - neither will Reggie Miller. But they both played on very strong defensive teams because they were smart defenders - they knew how to shade their man and take something away and the other defenders on the team knew their tendencies and could compensate.

                  Rik Smits was never more than an average defender but between DD and McKey helping the Pacers had very solid interior defense.

                  But if you have 3 poor defenders in the lineup, I don't care how good the other 2 are, your defense will suck. During his last years with the Knicks, KT, who's one of the best man-to-man position defenders in the league, looked completely lost because nobody else had a clue what they were doing. Bill Russell would have looked useless with that team.
                  You say you need 3 good to great defenders. Indiana had 2 in Davis/McKey. Otherwise you had Mark Jackson, then Reggie and Smits. Their defense when Harter was here before didn't suck.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                    Also, I disagree entirely that team D is overrated. We have one of the best defensive FG%'s in the league. Our problem is volume of shots, but that's what you get when you up the pace to give your own crappy FG% more looks. If we didn't suck so bad at making baskets we'd be fine.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                      you've mentioned one of the things that has ticked me off the most during the past two games. i've noticed that when the other team sets a pick, instead of switching, both the players run after the opposing player that has the ball. which of course leaves a player (who the opposing team ALWAYS finds) wide open for a shot. i'm not so upset with not having good defensive players, it's just the fact that they don't play smart.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                        They blitz the ball handler by design. As I understand it, it prevents penetration and puts pressure on the guard to make a tough pass. Typically you have to just pass around the perimeter in that instance, but yes you can get burnt for it. But our team concept is to have help D rotate to cover the guy running to the basket (and someone to cover that defender, then him, etc.) It's a good example of how this team's defense requires all 5 guys doing the right thing. When they do, it's very solid. When they don't, it can fall apart quickly and easily.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                          Originally posted by Mal View Post
                          They blitz the ball handler by design. As I understand it, it prevents penetration and puts pressure on the guard to make a tough pass. Typically you have to just pass around the perimeter in that instance, but yes you can get burnt for it. But our team concept is to have help D rotate to cover the guy running to the basket (and someone to cover that defender, then him, etc.) It's a good example of how this team's defense requires all 5 guys doing the right thing. When they do, it's very solid. When they don't, it can fall apart quickly and easily.
                          i would prefer that they "blitz" the guy sometime other than a screen you know, at least not when the guy knows two of our guys are going to be right there. if it were me, i would try to double team him or trap him on one of the sides rather than at the top of the circle and do it fast enough to where he'd have to try to make practically a split-second decision. but i imagine it's a lot harder than just writing it out.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                            The Pistons have had some great defensive talent, but they have always had a defensive "captain" on the floor calling out both the sets the offense was running and the defensive counter. If a defender was out of position, he would either yell at him to move over, or physically drag him off the floor.

                            Michael Curry filled that role from 02-03
                            Oh no, he was just a worthless Carlisle pet, he sucked.

                            There will be lots of disagreement and griping about this prediction if it comes true, but I think Coach O'Brien may slow our pace down on offense, to protect our worsening defense.....which is the same conclusion Carlisle came to in his tenure.
                            No. Rick was an idiot who loved slog ball and made the team worse. He never made an effort to hide or limit any flaws by any of his rosters. He didn't care about Tinsley's 3p% or TO rate, he just hated him.


                            Sorry, I just can't help myself. I've listened to a LOOOONGGG list of griping about Rick and his many choices and now I'm bitter. I've always said he coached to the talent he had, rather than forcing them to be something they weren't. If players didn't like it or couldn't recognize their own limits then that's on them IMO.


                            In reality I have to agree with T'bird quite a bit. Team defense and individual is not the same, but either without the other can be exploited. Even good individual players can be PnR'd or other plays into opening up chances without a quality team approach behind them.

                            Kstat is also right, you've got to have that leadership on the court too, or at least an overall chemistry even if no one player is the leader.

                            I will add that Dunleavy is a pretty good team defender, meaning that he can be quite good on help defense. He pulls a lot of charges for example. Danny has the skills but plays really green too (fake bites as mentioned).

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                            • #15
                              Re: Tbird analysis: The overrated nature of "team" defense

                              Points per 100 last year
                              105.6 (10th)
                              Points per 100 this year
                              106.7 (13th)


                              Of course Rick had half a year pre-trade too. As for FG%, there is one problem with it which is why I prefer per100...FOULS. Yes the Pacers deny shots, but in the process of doing so they foul much more and hand teams bonus points there.

                              Last year they gave up 49.1% effective (3pt factored in). This year it's 48 something (rounded at ESPN). Better, but 31.6 FTA given up per game. Last year it was 25.9, over 5.5 more FTAs teams are getting per game. That's not just 1-2 lane techs either.

                              So Pacers in the penalty more, in foul trouble more (reducing defensive pressure later in games), and giving teams a much higher PCT scoring chance several times a game.

                              And that's how you can have a better DEF FG% but a worse Points Allowed per possession.

                              Things aren't better. Not worse, but in no way was the defense "fixed". Frankly the PP100 was pretty good last year and remains decent this year, but I think JO has a lot to do with that.


                              Our defense is still very passive and reactive, we are dictated to instead of dictating ourselves.
                              True. They really lack players than can do that. Danny can when he understands or reads a situation correctly, as well as showing the confidence to act on his read. I think he's much better at that end than on offense when it comes to this, but even on defense it comes and goes still. He's yet to prove that he can be "sicked" on an offensive player in order to disrupt their game.

                              The only disruption this team has is JO's help defense. He can make guys miss over and over when they come into the paint. Now if he could do the same one on one in the post regularly you'd really have something. Regardless at least they have one part they can count on.
                              Last edited by Naptown_Seth; 12-31-2007, 12:48 AM.

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