Ed Davis has a lot to learn. The rookie’s been solid for the Raptors so far averaging 6 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes. His defense has been better than average and as he learns the nuances of playing the NBA big position, the expectations are that he’ll improve to the point where he’ll be a true defensive force. Here’s a play from last night’s game which shows both the learning process a big has to go through, and the low communication level in the Raptors 29th ranked defense.


Davis’ man is about to set a screen for Iguodala. Davis is in a position where he has plenty of time to get ahead of Iguodala and block his path to the lane.

As this frame shows, he’s late in reacting and finds himself too removed from both Thaddeus Young and Iguodala. He is in classic no-man’s land, at best any attempts at recovery will take him to Iggy’s hip which does him no good. Davis’ play has meant that Bargnani, our worst help-defender, will now be put in a position to defend the dynamic Iguodala.

Bargnani has left his man, Davis is on Iggy’s hip, and Bargnani’s man is wide open. Nobody is rotating to cover Bargnani’s, not even Jose Calderon who is ball-watching.

A simple alley-oop finishes the play off.

The bottom line is that this was a very defendable play which the Raptors couldn’t cope with. In this case the mistake was made by Davis, but this is just one of many plays that the Raptors make small mistakes in, and then don’t make up for those mistakes by doing other things (Calderon rotation or Bargnani/Davis communication once Iggy had the defense in a vulnerable position).

Great defensive teams do the little things right, and what I’ve tried to show in this post is a little thing. You may have different takes on what should have happened on the play, and who is to blame, but that’s well and truly besides the point because the larger issue is the overall defensive awareness/communication on this roster.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    A good example of the sort of lackadaisical “Pick & Roll/Pop” defense which has plagued the Raptors since the arrival of Andrea Bargnani.

    • Statement

      Hey…you are back

    • Martin

      Interestingly, in Arsenalist’s review, Bargnani is the one who did not fail as he moved towards Igoudala. Although, he’s stuck too deep, I would say. Although… with Davis floating and Calderon nowhere to be seen, it would be a mistake to leave his player too alone.

      • Bairdscott

        But then who would be on Iggy? Give him time to get inside and then try and block his open layup AND the pass to the other player?

    • Marc

      Come to gloat, have you?

  • Nilanka15

    Is it just me, or did it seem like Davis had better defensive instincts way back in summer league? Since then, playing with clueless defensive teammates, and a clueless defensive coach, has seemed to have hindered Davis’ defensive progress. I mean really, who can he look to as a defensive role model?

    • smushmush

      Why would Ed Davis play defense when the guy getting the most minutes(Bargs) does not even try? When he leaves like Bosh to a team committed to defense, he will be ok.

  • curseoftheswirsk

    Great example of our lack of defensive mentality. What would put it into more perspective is if you show screen shots of how a more defensive team like Boston defends the pick & roll/pop.

  • RapthoseLeafs

    .
    Arsenalist … apparently you didn’t watch the game. Or so I’m told. … :-)
    .
    This play you illustrated – I love this by the way – is my exact point about this team. Defensive break-downs happen much less with experienced teams (like Boston). We’re young, and it’s small moments like this, that impact a team. Raptors need everything going to overcome the youthful mistakes (including Bargnani’s) that go with rebuilding.

    In this particular case, khandor is focusing his displeasure on Andrea, when as you pointed out – it was missed communication on the part of a rookie. Andrea has his faults – and some were evident last night – but this clearly shows how the blame gets distorted by bias.
    .

    • Theswirsky

      here’s the thing.

      Defensive breakdowns happen, rookies make mistakes… its on the veterans to help try and pick up on them. Not only help them so they don’t do it again, but help prevent the play.

      This is why the Raps need someone who does stand there with his hands IN FRONT OF HIM UNDER THE NET. Tell me what does he plan to do there?

      Its not a matter of stopping every play… its making each play as difficult as possible

      • Theswirsky

        edit: doesn’t stand there

    • C.d.G.

      And not only bias, RapthoseLeafs. What really stuns me, is HOW people really seem happy and excited to go after Andrea’s mistakes! They don’t show the minimal regret in picking on the guy, don’t show any kind of solidarity for a boy that is, after all, a player in their own team. The same kind of solidarity they don’t spare at all, for example, when it’s Amir’s or Derozan’s turn to get under the microscope!

      • cesco

        The Andrea haters are on a crusade to defeat the infidel , to eliminate the last obstacle to the conquest of the holy grail . Would you give up that crusade if you knew the holy grail will be yours by winning that battle , I don’t think so .

  • Sizzle

    The biggest problem with Ed Davis going forward, is how is he going to learn when there is a total void in leadership and absolutely nobody there to mentor the young man.

    Why is it on the good defensive teams, that most of the new rooks that come in, play hard and aren’t a defensive liability. Is out players that bad or is it a total system failure.

    • tonious35

      It all starts from the top:
      1. your GM, even president, and scouts have to find players with the greatest talent and molded with the right persona.
      2. The coach and GM must never make guarantees to any player on who gets the most shots or who gets the most playing time. There is no faces on the franchise until someone earns it every single game, either during a good or bad game.
      3. Triano is still part of that mold of failed coaches (Kevin O’Neil, Sam Mitchell, and himself). Triano is a total band-aid and lame-duck. He might do better if you give him Durant and Westbrook, but he might not even make it to the playoffs with them.

      4. If Triano is not making Bargs and many others accountable because an outside source is causing him not to, then you have to toss out 2 GMs for the sake of winning, Maurizio and BCo and find a totally brand new identity from scratch.

  • alvin

    big big big changes need to be made next year; and im talking defensively…

    1)shop bargnani to minnesota/sacramento for their draft pick; maybe they think they can cover barneys flaws w/ love and cousins respectively (throw in derozan/calderon if you need to)and they’ve had enough draft picks over the last couple of years w/ minimal success, so its not like this isn’t possible.

    2)use that draft pick to get kyrie irving

    3)use our draft pick to sign terrence jones

    4)sign marc gasol this off season (who the hell want’s to stay in memphis)

    5)sign a veteran free agent shooting guard like Caron Butler who knows how to win

    6)Use our heat draft pick to sign the best availible shooting guard

    our roster now looks like:

    C Gasol/Alabi
    PF Davis/Johnson
    SF Jones/Kleiza
    SG Butler/Derozan (or not)/prospect/Weems
    PG Kyrie Irving/Calderon (or not)/bayless

    7)Oh and bring in larry brown to hold guys accountable and so they play defense!! triano can stay on an as assistant coach if he wants to..

    what do you guys think, too much? a guy can dream can he.

    • pran

      wouldn’t be a bad idea if it wasn’t completely impossible (i would love is this could happen), i would be happy with that young talented core going forward…dont think we would win it all next year but we’d be the most improved..

    • Bendit

      You had me there until u mentioned Brown. He doesnt particularly care for rookies.

    • Joe1

      1.) Lol sorry bro but those are some pretty stupid trade expectations. May as well write that we will trade Barg to the Lakers for Bynum since he’s injury-prone. Be realistic man. The Kings wouldn’t halt Cousins’ progress with a defensively inept center that we call “Barney”, and the T Wolves won’t ever want a front court of Love and Barg. They’d be as defensive as a swiss cheese. Not to mention the fact that they’d never want to give up their top 5 draft picks, cause let’s be honest here, they suck.

      2.) Lmao.

      3.) Sure.. If he’s still available.

      4.) Who the hell would want to be in Memphis? WHO THE HELL WOULD WANT TO BE IN TORONTO!?

      5.) Meh. Refer to above.

      6.) Okay sure.

      7.) A defensive-minded coach = good. Larry brown + a young team = BAD. Please refer to the Bobcats.

      • pran

        minnesota has had at least the top 5 pick since 2005, clearly drafting isn’t there strong suit, maybe its time to trade their draft picks…

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

    Bargnani’s been teaching him how to play defense. That’s what veterans are SUPPOSED to do!

  • Jose C

    Yes our defense sucks…but with the right mix of defensive players we can be good…ed davis is a good direction…all we really need is a good center from the draft….hopefully a Howard/Bynum type and Andrea’s defensive liabilities won’t stick out as much or as often

    Of course if these defensive players don’t play in a system where coaches don’t hold them accountable for their defensive mistakes then they will just get overtaken by these bad defensive habits

    Hedo looks great in Orlando again cause he has Howard to bail him out every time his man blows by him. In TO and PHX he actually had to try playing some D, no true C, and that made him too tired to play some proper offense.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Let’s see how far Orlando goes in the playoffs with their poor defenders, outside of Howard. I’m guessing the second round will be their limit.