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Centers vs. guards (formerly Re: Payton)

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  • dlirag
    ... to ... even ... I remember you writing in an old article about the WNBA that the guards there may have the upper hand defensively over the centers due to
    Message 1 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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      --- In APBR_analysis@y..., "HoopStudies" <deano@r...> wrote:
      > I also do think that these All-Defense teams are a little stilted
      to
      > guys who cover their guy well -- read Bruce Bowen. These guys are
      > valuable, no doubt. But their value is a bit overstated. Centers
      > generally make a much bigger difference in defense than guards,
      even
      > average centers vs. good guards.

      I remember you writing in an old article about the WNBA that the
      guards there may have the upper hand defensively over the centers due
      to differences in the womens' game. Is the idea of the center as
      dominant defender one that is peculiar to certain leagues or one that
      could be deemed a general principle?
    • Dean Oliver
      ... I need to update that study. The WNBA has changed. Now, the big (wo)men are more important defensively. That was not the case early on (and it changed
      Message 2 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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        --- In APBR_analysis@y..., "dlirag" <dlirag@h...> wrote:
        > --- In APBR_analysis@y..., "HoopStudies"
        <deano@r...> wrote:
        > > I also do think that these All-Defense teams are a little
        stilted
        > to
        > > guys who cover their guy well -- read Bruce Bowen.  These
        guys are
        > > valuable, no doubt.  But their value is a bit
        overstated.  Centers
        > > generally make a much bigger difference in defense than guards,
        > even
        > > average centers vs. good guards.
        >
        > I remember you writing in an old article about the WNBA that the
        > guards there may have the upper hand defensively over the centers
        due
        > to differences in the womens' game. Is the idea of the center as
        > dominant defender one that is peculiar to certain leagues or one
        that
        > could be deemed a general principle?

        I need to update that study.  The WNBA has changed.  Now, the big (wo)men are more important defensively.  That was not the case early on (and it changed really quickly).  I do think that tall players are inherently most important for defense.  Height wipes out quickness if you play team defense.  Quickness can allow you to stay with people, but it's hard to get a hand in someone's face if they're 6 inches taller, no matter how quick you are.  But those early WNBA days suggested that there are leagues where quickness and good hands are more important.  I am guessing that post men were not very skilled in the early WNBA days, though I don't remember thinking that then.  Guards weren't used to the increased quickness? Hmm.  In general, I think height being most important on the defensive end is a stable condition.  I think that there may be transient periods where quickness is important, but I don't think that they can last.  I think they are more subject to being overcome by strategic moves.

        Dean Oliver
        Journal of Basketball Studies
        http://www.rawbw.com/~deano/index.html
        deano@...

      • Michael K. Tamada
        On Thu, 2 May 2002, Dean Oliver wrote: [...] ... There are two interpretations of what you re saying here: when you say that tall players are inherently most
        Message 3 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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          On Thu, 2 May 2002, Dean Oliver wrote:

          [...]

          > changed really quickly). I do think that tall players are inherently most
          > important for defense. Height wipes out quickness if you play team
          > defense. Quickness can allow you to stay with people, but it's hard to get
          > a hand in someone's face if they're 6 inches taller, no matter how quick

          There are two interpretations of what you're saying here: when you say
          that tall players are inherently most important for defense, you seem to
          be saying that the tallest players on the court, i.e. the centers, are
          more important to determining the quality of the defense than the short
          players are. This is something that you've said before, and is almost
          certainly correct. In particular, it is correct even with the lack of
          quickness that a 7-footer has, relative to a 6-footer.

          The other interpretation though, which is what the second half of the
          above paragraph seems to be saying, is that players who are taller than
          their opponent have an advantage on defense. No argument there either.
          But moreover, you seem to be saying that this height advantage also
          nullifies quickness advantages that the shorter player may (and usually
          does) have.

          If I am interpreting what you're saying correctly, I don't think this is
          correct. The typical rule of thumb is that a size-quickness matchup puts
          BOTH players at a disadvantage on defense. Asking Sabonis to guard
          Iverson 1-on-1 is asking for trouble. Asking Iverson to guard Sabonis
          1-on-1 is asking for trouble.

          Height does trump quickness in the first sense: having a good big guy in
          the middle is important. But height does not trump quickness in the
          second sense: the taller guy does not necessarily do a better job of
          guarding Iverson than the shorter guy does.


          > you are. But those early WNBA days suggested that there are leagues where
          > quickness and good hands are more important. I am guessing that post men

          post women?

          > were not very skilled in the early WNBA days, though I don't remember

          Another aspect of quickness, which I had not thought about until a
          couple of years ago: rebounding. I do not know if this applies to the
          mens game, but when I watched a seemingly good UCLA womens team play
          against Louisiana Tech in the NCAA West Regional two or three years ago,
          the contrast in quickness was startling. Louisiana Tech was just so much
          quicker than UCLA, and blew them out by over 20 points. But: this wasn't
          due to fast breaks or even so much UCLA's inability to cover LA Tech on
          defense. Rather, the quickness edge showed up in the rebounding: LA Tech
          absolutely dominated the boards, their offensive rebounding percent was
          over 50%. But it wasn't because they were taller or stronger. It was
          because they were quicker, they simply got to all the loose balls before
          the UCLA players could. Lakresha (sp?) Flannigan and Maylana Martin were
          the only UCLA players who could keep up with LA Tech's team speed.

          But, this may be unique to the college womens game, one could imagine that
          in the mens game strength and fighting for position might be relatively
          more important than having quickness to get into position.


          --MKT
        • Dennis Keefe
          ... I agree that part of good defense is fitting into the team system. Bird did that quite well. He was a great team player. ... Here s where I get puzzled.
          Message 4 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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            > On Thu, 2 May 2002, HoopStudies wrote:
            >
            > [...]
            >
            > > Did he (Bird) let guys go by him?
            > Sure. But he
            > > prevented outside shots and when guys went by him,
            > they had to go at
            > > McHale and Parish.

            I agree that part of good defense is fitting into the
            team system. Bird did that quite well. He was a
            great team player.


            > > In contrast, guys like Bowen can't really help you
            > if you don't have
            > > good defensive guys around them.

            Here's where I get puzzled. How would Bird's "team
            defense" make anything better when everyone else is a
            bad defensive player?

            And while Bowen can play great individual defense, I
            have seen him play team defense too....double teaming,
            switching, etc.

            I do agree that team defense is very important (at
            least if you want to win....), but my gut feeling is
            that individual defensive awards (rather than team
            awards) belong to guys who can shut down opposing
            players. Giving individual awards to players who fit
            into a great team defense...someone should come up
            with separate awards for "individual defense" and for
            "individuals who play good team defense."


            dkeefe


            __________________________________________________
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          • alleyoop2
            Thanks for all the replies on Payton everyone. I thought Eric Snow got hosed and just wanted to get a feel for others reaction. Regarding Bowen, I have to
            Message 5 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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              Thanks for all the replies on Payton everyone. I thought Eric Snow
              got hosed and just wanted to get a feel for others' reaction.

              Regarding Bowen, I have to partially disagree with what's been said
              so far. By my rankings, San Antonio was the top-ranked defensive team
              this year; one can point that they were last year too, BUT, their win-
              loss and defensive marks this season are both far better with Bowen
              in the lineup, despite the fact that the guy who replaced him
              (Charles Smith) isn't a bad defender either. Overall, the addition of
              Bowen made up for the loss of Derek Anderson and the decline by David
              Robinson (though wildly overstated by the media, IMHO his performance
              did drop this year).

              Second, saying size is of more value on defense is almost certainly
              true -- once you're in a halfcourt setting. However, transition
              defense is also important. There are any number of big men who are
              terrible at it; for example, the Sonics won't even play Vin Baker and
              Jerome James at the same time because it gives the other team an
              automatic 5-on-3 break every trip.

              Beyond Bowen, last year I had the league's No. 2 defense as Phoenix;
              this year I had the No. 2 defense as New Jersey. Neither team had an
              imposing center, but both had Jason Kidd. Overall, I don't think we
              should carry the hypothesis too far about big men's defensive value.



              --- In APBR_analysis@y..., Dennis Keefe <sonicdk2@y...> wrote:
              >
              > > On Thu, 2 May 2002, HoopStudies wrote:
              > >
              > > [...]
              > >
              > > > Did he (Bird) let guys go by him?
              > > Sure. But he
              > > > prevented outside shots and when guys went by him,
              > > they had to go at
              > > > McHale and Parish.
              >
              > I agree that part of good defense is fitting into the
              > team system. Bird did that quite well. He was a
              > great team player.
              >
              >
              > > > In contrast, guys like Bowen can't really help you
              > > if you don't have
              > > > good defensive guys around them.
              >
              > Here's where I get puzzled. How would Bird's "team
              > defense" make anything better when everyone else is a
              > bad defensive player?
              >
              > And while Bowen can play great individual defense, I
              > have seen him play team defense too....double teaming,
              > switching, etc.
              >
              > I do agree that team defense is very important (at
              > least if you want to win....), but my gut feeling is
              > that individual defensive awards (rather than team
              > awards) belong to guys who can shut down opposing
              > players. Giving individual awards to players who fit
              > into a great team defense...someone should come up
              > with separate awards for "individual defense" and for
              > "individuals who play good team defense."
              >
              >
              > dkeefe
              >
              >
              > __________________________________________________
              > Do You Yahoo!?
              > Yahoo! Health - your guide to health and wellness
              > http://health.yahoo.com
            • HoopStudies
              ... team ... win- ... of ... David ... performance ... I think this is a good partial disagreement. No doubt that Bowen does help the defense, but not as much
              Message 6 of 13 , May 2, 2002
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                --- In APBR_analysis@y..., "alleyoop2" <alleyoop2@y...> wrote:
                > Thanks for all the replies on Payton everyone. I thought Eric Snow
                > got hosed and just wanted to get a feel for others' reaction.
                >
                > Regarding Bowen, I have to partially disagree with what's been said
                > so far. By my rankings, San Antonio was the top-ranked defensive
                team
                > this year; one can point that they were last year too, BUT, their
                win-
                > loss and defensive marks this season are both far better with Bowen
                > in the lineup, despite the fact that the guy who replaced him
                > (Charles Smith) isn't a bad defender either. Overall, the addition
                of
                > Bowen made up for the loss of Derek Anderson and the decline by
                David
                > Robinson (though wildly overstated by the media, IMHO his
                performance
                > did drop this year).
                >

                I think this is a good partial disagreement. No doubt that Bowen
                does help the defense, but not as much as the big kahunas in the
                middle. I am definitely not saying that Bowen is a bad defender or
                even an average one. I am just pointing out that he, unlike Duncan
                Robinson Olajuwon Mutombo Shaq, cannot on his own make a good defense.

                > Beyond Bowen, last year I had the league's No. 2 defense as
                Phoenix;
                > this year I had the No. 2 defense as New Jersey. Neither team had
                an
                > imposing center, but both had Jason Kidd. Overall, I don't think we
                > should carry the hypothesis too far about big men's defensive value.
                >

                This is interestingly true. Kidd is both a good man and a good team
                defender, something that can be said of big men, too. What is
                amazing, though, is how Kidd, unlike other little guys who do both,
                has been able to carry it over to a few teams to the degree he has.
                I would expect any team with Bowen, Christie, Vranes to be better
                defensive teams. But history says otherwise. Is there a team that
                Kidd couldn't make good defensively? Yeah, probably. But I think
                there are fewer of them than for the (almost) pure man defenders.

                DeanO
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