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Why the Rockets 'team' defense has not improved much this year

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by EnergyGuy, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. EnergyGuy

    EnergyGuy Rookie

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    This is a discussion of why, in my opinion, the Rockets team defense has not improved much this year despite the addition of Dwight Howard.

    Disclaimer: No stats to back this up. This is merely conjecture based on my playing experience and observations. So it is open to criticism.

    Caveat: I won't go into individual player dissing, so if you cannot handle anyone on the Rockets team other than Jeremy Lin being criticized, you can still safely read, imo. The coaching staff, however, will be criticized to a certain extent, because this is talking about 'team' defense.

    Ok, so let's get started.

    I had my first concern about how the Rockets team defense would be this season when I first read on Rockets.com Kelvin Sampson's interview about playing difference defenses depending on whether Dwight or Omer was manning the middle. Sampson said they would like to funnel opposition penetration into Dwight as he is a better shot blocker and more intimidating defensive presence inside, while they like to play to position-hedging game with Asik by crowding the paint and getting the ball out of it.

    On face value, this made sense. But professional basketball at the NBA level is played at a ferocious speed where a split-milli-second could mean the difference between a good shot and a contested shot, or even a shot that's blocked. I had my doubts whether playing essentially two types of defenses could work.

    If we look at elite teams like the Spurs, given how they manage the stars' minutes and how they really don't have any elite defensive rim protectors anymore (Duncan at this stage is still solid to good, but no longer elite), it seems obvious. They play one core defensive scheme, and no matter which five players are playing, they stick to it. Even if Duncan is replaced by Matt Bonner. And Leonard is substituted by an ageing Manu. They don't try to let Kwahi Leonard's presence dictate what type of defense the team plays. Obviously some times you decide to go over screens for elite 3 point shooters while you almost always go under the screens for Jamal Tinsley, the nature of the defense doesn't change much.

    On the Rockets, it isn't just Dwight vs Asik. The other inconsistency is the difference in defensive style play between Beverley and Lin. Lin is mostly defending from the 3pt line (or defending from the 3pt shot onwards), while frequently Beverley can be seen pressuring the ball and hustling all the way 3-5 feet outside the 3pt line. Team defense, in these cases, are quite different. Lin plays more positional defense, leaving a bit of opening for penetration, and positions the opponent to dribble into help defense. This was quite effective last year with Asik. Beverley, with his faster defensive lateral speed, will hustle and go for the steal more often (Lin gets his steals from the passing lanes more), and while he sometimes gets the steal frequently he also gets beat leaving the help defense a bigger hole to defend.

    Neither Lin or Beverley's style is wrong or one better than the other. But just like it's hard for the perimeter defenders to make split second decisions on how to defend based on who is behind them, it is also difficult for the rim protectors and help defense to anticipate how to help if the PGs play different types of defense.

    The other issue is that it doesn't help when Harden and Parsons are playing 38+ minutes most games carrying injuries, and the Rockets play at one of the fastest paces in the NBA. And that Harden isn't a very good defender while Parsons hasn't recaptured his rookie year defensive game.

    In my opinion, on the PGs issue, if we were to play the hustle game, then everybody needs to play the hustle game. At least the perimeter defenders (and the PF if the opponent plays a stretch 4). We can't have one person hustling by himself with the others playing defense looser because they know they have to pace themselves for 40 minutes. The way McHale handles the minutes for Harden and Parsons, it's hard for the Rockets to play an all-out full-team hustle game that best utilizes Beverley. That's why the likes of George Karl on Denver play a big rotation when the play a hustling/all-out type of defense. You need depth, which I argue the Rockets have. But you also need the coaches to trust the bench. And you need the players playing big minutes to buy in to that effort, even if it means they end up playing 5 less minutes a game.

    I think the way Harden (and the perimeter players in Parsons and Lin) play defense, we're better off trying to play the positional 'team' defense like we did last season with Asik. But this requires Dwight adjusting his defense to be playing more like Asik did last year.

    I know this sounds stupid (and it could well be) to ask the NBA's best defensive center to adjust his game to the team's perimeter players and not the other way around. But I think it's easier for Dwight to adjust to cover the weaknesses in Lin, Harden and Parsons, than the other way around. Not that playing positional defense is essentially a weakness. But you get what I mean.

    In any case, while obviously our defense should mix it up and have different coverages for different situations, I think we need to have a core defense that everybody buys into and plays all the time (except when we purposely mix it up). Then everybody knows what to do in that split-second.

    I think this will help our 'team' defense a lot. More so than trying to utilize the strengths of our better defenders (namely Beverley and Dwight) by playing a scheme (in their own ways), while suited for them, does not necessarily fit in with what's best for the team.

    In my opinion, McHale or Sampson needs to see that while offensively you can argue (to a certain extent only) that you can let the star players carry you, or you can tailor the offense to a certain player's talents (Harden's playmaking out of SG position or Dwight being able to draw double and triple teams any time he's within 5 feet of the basket with the ball), defensively it's more of a team game.


    Long post over. Feel free to share thoughts. Don't think this was particularly rude or biased towards any player or coach.
     
    3 people like this.
  2. morpheus133

    morpheus133 Member

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    Dwight vs Asik defensively is roughly a wash. One is better positionally, one is better at blocking shots. But since Asik stopped playing, we don't have the elite defensive center off the bench that Morey hoped Asik would provide.

    Harden has struggled with ankle sprains since the start of the season that he has tried to play thru. It's no coincidence that his absolute garbage defensive stretch followed the ankle sprain suffered in Utah at the start of the season, and that it "improved" over the past week or so as he got healthy. He certainly isn't going to be on the all defensive team, but when healthy he is at least closer to average than to completely worthless. Unfortunately he just suffered another sprain. Both Harden and Lin are gamblers who get a decent number of steals at the cost of giving up uncontested shots when the steal attempt fails.

    Terrence Jones has been pretty good this season, but despite providing some shot blocking, he and the rest of the team have struggled at defensive rotations. Particularly when Dwight goes to help, his man consistently is left open with no one picking him up.

    Minus Asik bench doesn't have any great defenders that play consistently.
     
  3. WNBA

    WNBA Member

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    I am sorry to say this again:
    Howard and his defense are overrated by himself. He needs to put effort on defense and team.
     
  4. BackNthDay

    BackNthDay Member

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    Bottom line, the Rockets allow way too much penetration off the dribble instead of pushing up on 3 point scorers and dropping off when they dribble into the 2 pt (long shot) range. You want them taking the long 2, why, nobody practices that shot anymore, they all practice 3 pointers.

    Back to my point, Lin, James, Casspi, Garcia, etc... allow way too much dribble penetration, which then allows others teams big men to get easy put backs and dunks. Basketball is simple, stay in front of your man and get your hand up. If he hits the shot, he hits. Too many Rocket defenders do not move their feet on defense to stay in front of their man.
     
  5. kuku

    kuku Contributing Member

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    Good observation by OP.

    I've been ranting for a long time that we have different sets of defense with Asik and Dwight. This is most obvious during PnR defense. Dwight ices while Asik hedges PnR's. This confuses our perimeter defenders whether to switch or follow their men and eventually leads to more penetrations. It's okay if Dwight can defend against penetrations, but more often than not, quick PG's will blow right by Dwight for layups. Dwight icing PnR's is simply not working!

    Dwight might have the fear factor and supreme in athleticism, but Asik is a better overall defender. He is better at man-to-man, better at PnR defense, and his lateral speed is simply elite for a big man.

    I'd already said before free agency that Dwight wouldn't be much an upgrade IF we are not getting the Orlando Dwight. So far we only get glimpse of Orlando Dwight. I still have faith that the old Dwight will come around when it matters the most--playoffs!

    Another defensive scheme we had changed this year is switch defense. Switch defense is simply lazy defense. It will often lead to mismatches if exposed by opposition coaches. Pay attention folks as to how many mismatches we will have.

    Statistically, our defense is not much better than last year, despite having two of the top 5 rim protectors in the league for most of the season.
     
  6. beastlyball

    beastlyball Member

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    There's isn't much you can do in terms of denying paint penetration in the NBA, unless you commit to zone defense. Problem with zone D is most fans simply do not understand it, and will scream and shout when the other team sink 3-5 jumpers in a row.

    The notion of staying in front of your man in the NBA is laughable. Not only are the PG too fast, but also the PNR would neutralize any attempt to do so. So it does not matter if its Harden, Lin, Garcia, Caspi, no one man can guard a quick guard in this league.

    The weakness in the Rox's D is their help defense and their bad rebounding. If they fix those leaks they can sure contend for a chip.
     
  7. beastlyball

    beastlyball Member

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    Poor coaching, guys not helping the helper on defense, guys not boxing out on rebounding, and last but not least....Everyone and this includes the fans thinks....DEFENSE IS A ONE ON ONE THING.
     
  8. SugarLandDream8

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    Asik was a beast on D and rebounding last year. Wash

    Starting Bev helps the team's D against smaller/quicker PGs but Bev's D is trash against taller/stronger PGs and Lin is a better defender against some opposing PGs than Bev. Wash

    Parsons and Harden doesn't give much effort on D last year or this year.

    McHale is not good at coaching D.
     
  9. Joe Joe

    Joe Joe Go Stros!
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    Rockets are 4th best at causing teams to shoot inefficiently and 11th at not committing fouls. The Rockets defense is not designed to get turnovers so they are going to bad in this department. Rockets are 22nd in defensive rebounding mostly because guys aren't keeping Dwight's man off the boards when he goes for a block. Rockets defense will be very good once Dwight starts to get some help on defensive boards.

    as beastlyball said...got to help the helper.
     
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  10. JCDenton

    JCDenton Member

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    Stopped reading right here.

    One. Star. Thread.
     
  11. BleedRocketsRed

    BleedRocketsRed Contributing Member

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    Huh? Our team defense is elite in terms of opponents FG%
     
  12. EnergyGuy

    EnergyGuy Rookie

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    No stats better than kindergarten stats.
     
  13. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    One, did you watch the Rockets beyond the first 10 games? Because I question your assertion that Asik has played for most of the season.

    Two, statistically we are currently ranked 10th in defense. Last year we ended at 16th. So statistically we are better. And record wise we are also better.
     

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