NBA Defensive Primer from a fan’s perspective: Part I

A simple refresher, every NBA fan should take the time to digest, and the best one on the net in recent memory, from the perspective of an experienced blogger.

Courtesy of Dave at (via TrueHoop) …


A Basic Defensive Primer: Part I

[Assigning ‘Responsibility’ with Accuracy]

This brings up one of the core lessons of defensive analysis: be careful when assigning blame. Sometimes the guy who looks the best is the same guy making the mistake. Often a player who never seemed to affect the play should have and thus should shoulder blame along with the guy who made the obvious error. Very, very few coaches design systems that depend on one player and one course of action. Much like airplane engineering, there’s redundancy built into the system. If one part fails (and it’s assumed this is going to happen) another part is supposed to compensate. Defensive breakdowns usually require two or more participants from the defensive team. In other words, you can be as skilled as you wish individually, but it’s the team defensive effort that really counts in the end. 

[Keys to Team Defense]

This brings us to the one, solid-gold standard even a casual fan can use to judge their team’s defensive efforts: contested shots. A shot which is contested is taken in space that somebody else controls. This can be vertically (the defensive player jumped up with the shooter and got a hand in his face or in front of the ball) or horizontally (the defensive player forced the shooter to move in an uncomfortable direction before attempting the shot). The ultimate goal of team defense in the NBA is to not let the opponent get any shots which are uncontested. There’s always at least one man in the vicinity to break up the rhythm. A secondary goal would be having any shots which do end up uncontested come from a place on the floor where the offensive player is not comfortable.

[Keys to Individual Defense]

That brings us to the mental side. Good defenders usually have a steely attitude, much like a homeowner defending his property or an older brother guarding his baby sister’s honor. Nobody is going to break me down. Nobody is going to get in my house. You pull out that ball anywhere near my sister and I’m gonna kill you. Whether you’re a boisterous menace or a silent, competent assassin the right attitude goes a long way towards making up for any lack of physical attributes. Defenders need to be tenacious. They need to want to defend and take pride in it. Understanding the game really helps too. Good defense is about anticipation: anticipating what your opponent tends to do, anticipating what he needs to do in this situation, then taking it away from him. Because they understand what’s going on veteran players tend to defend better than younger players even though the younger ones have physical advantages. Defense also takes a measure of unselfishness. It’s not a stat-intensive endeavor. It doesn’t bring the same big bucks as scoring 20 a night. You’ll spend a fair amount of time helping out your teammates…committing yourself to not making mistakes of your own and simultaneously vowing to help clean up theirs even if it costs you energy or gets you into foul trouble. A ton of NBA players have the physical tools to be great defenders. Few end up reaching that plateau because of the mental discipline, heart, and sacrifice it requires.


Although it’s a relatively long article, take the time to read it all.

Most of it is accurate, simple stuff that every fan should know/learn about the game s/he is taking the time to watch and, hopefully, enjoy.

[NOTE: Please feel free to ask questions about any part which you might not understand thoroughly, or that you might wish to point to as being inaccurate, from your unique perspective on the NBA game. Afterall … Living & Learning is really, “What The Game is all about.”]

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