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Defensive theory & msmts, Mil at Phi, 6/3

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  • Dean Oliver
    It occurred to me a few weeks ago that perhaps flexibility -- the ability to do a lot of different things -- may be the hallmark of a good defender. It seems
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2001
      It occurred to me a few weeks ago that perhaps flexibility -- the ability
      to do a lot of different things -- may be the hallmark of a good defender.
      It seems that the big guys are asked to guard another center and defend
      against the drive. They, by being big and quick to rotate, seem to be the
      controlling force in whether a defense is effective.

      What hit me was that, if you're not guarding the ball, there are plenty of
      other things to be doing defensively that are equally important. If the
      ball defender is poorly matched up, you need to be thinking about help. If
      the matchup is OK, you need to make sure your man doesn't cut to a better
      scoring position. If you are on the ball, you're a good defender if you
      can force a steal or a bad shot or force your man to help. If someone else
      forces a miss, you need to get the defensive board. Unlike in an offense,
      where a 3pt specialist or a passer can be valuable, I think it really does
      take versatility to be a good defender. I suppose a good test would be a
      team of 5 6'7" guys -- which was pretty close to what the Bulls were in
      the '90's and they were a good D club.

      Specific comments on tonight's game

      - Going after Iverson's D seemed to work early on, but that early success
      very easily could have been luck. Iverson made 1 bad play, but several of
      the shots were well defended. Milwaukee supposedly was going to do it a
      lot in the 2nd half. They went away from it pretty quick. Iverson forced
      at least 11 misses after giving up 4 early scores.

      - Steals aren't the most accurate of stats. I followed the game on the
      net while watching the game and several of the steals were awarded
      mysteriously. Sam Cassell ripped the ball from AI (might have been Snow)
      and Ervin Johnson got credit. Mutombo forced Allen to slip and the ball
      ended up in McKie's hands, so McKie got the steal. (Interestingly, the
      internet updates of boxscores stopped suddenly at 85-71 Philly, labeling
      the game as Final at that point. The statkeepers started celebrating a
      bit early.)

      - Milwaukee just isn't the most active/quick team defensively. They
      remind me quite a bit of Larry Brown's early Indiana teams before he
      taught them defense. Indiana never got as good as this Philly team
      defensively because they didn't have the same team speed as Philly. But I
      think Milwaukee can get to Indiana's level, which was better than
      Milwaukee's current level and pretty good overall.

      - I had Scott Williams as Milwaukee's best defender this year. This game
      -- with Williams out -- suggested that it was because of his defensive
      rebounding. But I really didn't expect it to be as big of an effect as it
      was. No one was there to get the misses off the shots, esp. in the 2nd
      half. Milwaukee had to send too many guys to stop the shot, leaving the
      boards unattended.

      - Tim Thomas appears like he could be a good ball defender. He doesn't go
      to the defensive board enough, though. He's got the size -- he should go.

      - AI, as good as he is, will never likely be the best jump shooter. His
      shot really doesn't have much spin on it.

      - Is Dikembe Mutombo a HOFer? Obviously, his individual defensive awards
      are impressive. But his teams before Philly were marginal. This Philly
      team would very likely have gone to the Finals if Ratliff were still there
      (and unhurt) instead of Mutombo. By most statistical methods, Mutombo has
      never looked like the best center in the league. By most methods, he
      rarely ranks in the top 3. If Philly takes just 1 game from the Lakers
      (as long as it's not G 4 after being down 3-0), I'll start to consider the
      acquisition of Mutombo a bit more relevant. Otherwise, it's Larry Brown
      and AI that deserve the credit, not necessarily in any order.

      - Larry Brown, George Karl, Phil Jackson, and Gregg Popovich. 3 very good
      coaches in there. Still not sure about the 4th.

      - The TV guys were talking about the Ray Allen pushoff right before they
      went to a commercial where they merged guys from the past into guys from
      the present. One of the scenes they started to show was the MJ pushoff
      against Utah, which was '97, I think.

      Dean Oliver
      Journal of Basketball Studies
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