A really good read about the delicate balance of an NBA defence.
Couple of hilights:
"The deeper mysteries involve defense, where we are still in the early stages of understanding how doing one thing impacts a team’s ability to take away something else — and how all the strategic stuff interacts with a team’s roster makeup. Forcing opponents into missing lots of shots is obviously a good thing. So is coaxing an opponent into taking lots of shots from the dead midrange zone; studies have shown that just limiting the number of corner 3-point attempts correlates more strongly with overall defensive ratings than a lot of traditional measures. The same is true of shots in the restricted area.
But the “how” of forcing empty trips is where things get fun, and two teams make for especially interesting case studies this season: Minnesota and Portland. Rick Adelman drew some laughs a couple of weeks ago, after another frustrating Minny loss, when he declared, “It almost takes an act of Congress for us to go out and foul somebody. You have to get after people in this league.”
That’s interesting: a coach calling for more fouls. Aren’t fouls an objectively bad thing? There are exceptions, of course — fouling a terrible free throw shooter, or breaking up a sure fast-break dunk with a hard foul. But it would seem strange for a coach to call for his team to foul more."
"But wait … the Blazers, despite this fairly healthy shot distribution profile, are not very good at defense. They’re tied for 20th in points allowed per possession. They can pile up all the wins in the world, but they’re not sniffing a championship with a bottom-10 defense. There are a few things behind the struggle, but here’s a big one: The Blazers almost never force turnovers. They simply don’t do the sorts of things that produce turnovers — aggressive help in the passing lanes, frenzied traps, packing the paint to force risky inside-out passes around the horn. Portland has forced turnovers on just 11 percent of opponent possessions, per Basketball-Reference. That would be the third-lowest turnover rate in the history of the league."
"This makes intuitive sense: If you’re going to allow a ton of shots without fouling or forcing turnovers, you’d better be able to challenge those shots — especially the ones near the basket. It helps if you have a big man scary enough to deter people from approaching the rim in the first place.
If your team has such a player, its perimeter defenders would be dumb to even risk fouling as an offensive player drives the ball from the 3-point arc toward the basket. Why bail that guy out when he’s heading toward Hibbert Mountain?"
"The league’s overall turnover rate is on a general long-term decline, though not a particularly huge or continuous one. The number of free throws has dropped more severely, and league higher-ups have kicked around several possible causes — the increase in the number of 3-point attempts (which rarely draw fouls), more zone and zone-style defenses, the rise of “verticality,” and stricter rules about what should and should not constitute a shooting foul."
The article raises a few Raps questions:
1) Do we have the right personnel to run our defensive scheme, or is our scheme adjusted to fit our players? Portland seems to not have great defensive players, but are employing the scheme to great team success, albeit not great defensive success.
2) Is the rim protector position something JV can develop into or should we try and land one? What level of priority is it?
3) With turn-overs trending down, does the Casey preferred method of playing a slower pace actually help keep the Raps ahead of the curve by emphasizing half court offensive execution?
4) The Raps have been one of the most foul happy teams since Casey took over (currently 2nd most per game), is this a problem for the team? Is it a result of scheme or personnel (or both)?