How Hard is It To Play Defense?
Let's take Carmelo for example. He is an elite/sub-elite player depending on who you ask. The weakness that keeps him from being truly elite or below notch of LBJ and others is glaring. His "D".
Lets examine what makes someone a good defender.
I think that the difference between a good defender and a great defender usually is the size, length, and athleticism. But what is the difference between a poor defender... like Melo is known for being, and a modest/good defender? We cant use the scorer's excuse because there have been plenty great scorers who could D-up. My answer is..focus and attitude. Its a mentality.
When I was growing up and playing, I could play D....when I WANTED to. A lot of times its laziness. If its perimeter D...then its really a lack of focus due to the fact that you may be geared to receive a pass from the rebounder and get on the break. Sometimes you can be content with playing matador defense against a player who is not a great shooter but has excellent penetration skills. If its interior D, you could be more interested in staying in good position for the rebound....but that would give Amare almost no excuse as he is not a great rebounder. Sometimes, its confidence....not wanting a player to get a step on you and under-committing. Sometimes its respect or lack thereof of the opponent. Well, all those things are basically playing on the HS level like myself, or maybe college level...in the NBA, you really cant use any of those excuses for being a POOR defender.
My point is, there is no excuse why some guys like Melo cant be at least marginally good at defense....it has to be their mentality and unwillingness to be a good defender. Thoughts?
I am 5 ft 6 and I'm not overly athletic (maybe slightly above average), since I'm not too good at anything in basketball pretty much all I do is rebound and play defence and that's what keeps people from booing me off the court. I think defence is mostly about the will to defend, to sacrifice your body, to hustle, to box out and etc.
Of course I couldn't defend against NBA ttype talent even if Ii really wanted to, but 90% of NBA athletes are capable of doing so, so it's all about will IMO.
Lots of great scorers have been average or below average defenders. MJ and Kobe are two of the only great scorers who were also known as very good defenders. Wade is a good two-way player as is LeBron when he wants to be but those are some of the exceptions.
Melo doesn't seem like the fastest or most athletic guy so that might have something to do with him not being a great defender. If he can't become a great ball hawking defender then he needs to focus on getting big stops on defense, turning it up a notch in the 4th quarter, and generally working on forcing his opponent to take bad shots and getting him out of his comfort zone (make the guy work harder for his points). He might never win defensive player of the year but there is no reason why he can't study some tape of Shane Battier who has played some great, smart defense without being a great athlete or overly quick.
I played up through high school and I think coaching and the style of basketball your coach plays has a direct influence on your attitude towards defense. For instance, my coaches in high school didn't really hammer home defense. We learned the fundamentals and did all the right drills to teach us, but since our coach was more of an offensive mind our team as a whole had a lot of bad habits.
I didn't even realize this until I was a little older, and I was a pretty good defender, ranked in our league in shot blocks, but I realize how many bad habits I had and I feel it was because my high school coaches were offensive guys before defense.
I feel that may play a part in guys like Carmelo, he's always been such a great scorer he was probably winning games for his Jr. high and HS teams by dropping 40 or 50 a night so the fact that he wasn't a great defender probably wasn't a top priority for his coaches. A lot of young players really don't reach their defensive potential until they are 5 or 6 years in the NBA and get paired with a great defensive mind.
You used Melo as an example so I will too. I feel with a guy like him it is a mentality paired with 20 + years of bad habits and no one correcting him when he was younger, and now that he's with D'Antoni I don't think he's going to get any better.
Once you are at the NBA level, you just need to have your entire focus put into getting the most out of your lateral quickness and CONDITIONING. For me, I never understood the value of good defense until later on. I obviously knew it was important, but when I truly tried to focus on becoming a two way player, I realized that it took A LOT of energy. I would say more energy is exerted on defense than even on offense, and their definitely seem to be guys who take plays off for the simple fact that they might have to.
However, for a player of Carmelo Anthony's caliber not to be a better defender is pretty darn disappointing. No, he does not have the speed and athleticism of a LeBron James, but he definitely is elite in both categories. He just needs to put much more focus into it, and I think conditioning could even be a factor. He is incredibly strong, usually has a height and length advantage over who he is facing, but even to this point, you would not say Carmelo is a very good defender. I think he has improved over time, and I understand that the system he runs takes more energy than most due to the higher volume of plays run, but these are all things that are minor excuses into the much larger picture.
It is incredibly difficult to be a complete basketball player, everyone has weaknesses, on both ends of the floor. But, in the NBA, it is your job to try and turn these weaknesses into strengths. As much as you use video to try and take advantage of mismatches and know offensive tendencies, I would think defensive strategy would be even more prevalent to learn the tendencies of others on that end. The great players are usually commended on how they study the game, and I am sure Carmelo does this as well. It really is just about mindset and focus, but it almost makes you wonder as to whether Carmelo might not have the energy to play both ends of the court proficiently. I guess the same thing was said about LeBron James, but I think it applies to Carmelo that much more, as LeBron definitely has become a proficient two way player. If Melo wants to take the next step, than he will have to commit himself that much more to becoming a better defender. It will do wonders for how he is personally viewed and for his team.
still gets a check on the 1st and 15th it in his contact not to play D
I have terrible athleticism, can't slide my feet, I get absolutly burned occasionally, but I try to slow the other guy down.
Melo should be an amazing defender, he has all the tools and the ability. He doesn't even need to work on his game, it just needs to come from the heart, and you have to want it.
Melo isnt a very good 1 on 1 defender..But he plays ok team defense..Some of the league's best players werent great defenders werent top flight defenders..But they played the passing lanes...
Alot of people when they get on defense ,make these 3 big mistakes
1.They focus only on trying to steal the ball.
2.They look guys directly in the eyes when they are defending..
3.They stand erect...
Defense is more about
1.Knowing whats going on around you and anticipation..
2.Moving your feet and having your head lower than the defender's head..So when he makes a move you're ready...
3.Watching the directing his hips move...
I agree with JoeWolf that it depends on the coaches that brought you up. In my high school you didn't see the court unless you could play defense.
Since I can't shoot to save my life, I turned into the "glove" on our team. It wasn't that hard, you just had to want it.
It's about desire and heart. Having good physical attributes is always a plus. Look at a guy like Battier who I don't think anye would call a physical marvel but he's a top notch defender, then in contrast you look t gay like Rudy Gay with all the physical tools in the world yet is no where near the defender that Battier is at all due to Battier's knowledge,heart,desire, and willingness. Guys with both physical ability and heart/desire/willingess/ Iq don't come arounf very often. It's reay a short list, such s Jordan,Kobe,Pippen,Rodman,KG,T.A., Cooper,Wade,Bron and to some exent a guy like James Posey.
I agree mikeyV, Defense definitely takes more out of you. I'm a pretty good offensive player, jack of all trades type, but as long as I've played, I pried myself on defense and bringing it every game. No matter how much glory and praise, ooh's and aah's offense gets, it's defense that usually wins you games. And just like Bill Russell(I think it was) that said, when you're tired, rest on offense if you must.
In melo's case, he's just ;azy. In 08' he showed in playoffs that he coud defned when he wants at as good a level as Pierce, but his offense suffered. With melo, if his offense suffers because of something, that something, must go.
Playing defence is extremely difficult for primary ball handlers. Like a main scoring option, main ball distributor, or PG. When you are asked to be a main piece within the offensive structure of your team and then asked to gaurd the opponents PG, or main scorer like Lebron James would, or a Rajon Rondo would you must have some of the best conditioning in the world or its not going to work. Carmelo is a great defender, he just has average conditioning, so he takes plays off to regain energy to be a the main scoring option on his team. Conditioning is the most important part of playing basketball byfar, even before skills, IQ, size. To me defence is all about how conditioned you are, and how much grinding you really can do to dig into your opponent.
its all about the effort
Defense is all about HUNGER and HEART. A good defender WANTS to dive after the loose ball, a good defender WANTS to force a turnover, block a ball, or get a steal. You don't have to be the longest or most athletic guy to defend. Just think of Shane Battier. He has made a living playing great defense, all he does is know the scouting report and want to win more than his opponent.
Although I belive melo could be a good defender but he is not willing to put in the effort.
a lot of you guys made great points, points that I think I have experienced and that are valid. I agree with mikeyv that two-way play is mentally and physically draining...especially if you have to d-up an offensive threat. I used to have to play against my cousin growing up...who was WAY better than me (R.I.P.). He had D-2 type or D-1 walk-on type talent. He was better than me in every way, he was quick, could handle, and had great lift on his J. I played slack D on him a lot of times because the harder I played D he would just make me exert a lot of energy when he was gonna score anyway. Therein lies the problem!
When I put my mind to it, and challenged myself to stick to his azz like glue...yeah, he still torched me, but it wore him down as well. Its a mindset and a mentality. You gotta know someone is gonna give you the bizness, but you cant be slack...you gotta step up...and if you do it consistantly that will affect the volume of offense the other player can put out efficiently while being able to check you at the other end as well.
Its more of a mindset...and its more of getting out of laziness and wanting the challenge. We learned a lot playing coming up, on what to do if you opponent is taller, quicker, and watch the player's waist...etc.... Melo and others can put out on 1 on 1 defense. Its like yall said, Melo is not a subpar athlete. He is not Lebron but he doesnt have to be to play better D than what he does. I think if he over exerts himself against the likes of LBJ and KD, it will take some of his offense away...but eventually to be considered a winner, that is something he is going to have to do better at.
ANYBODY can play good defense if they want it. Even if you have poor physical tools or aren't very athletic, if you have good fundamentals and put a lot of effort into defending, you should at least be able to CONTAIN anybody.
Conditioning has to be there. Every great defender is well conditioned. I remember last year when Artest said he was trying to drop 10lbs because he was looking forward to the challenge of defending KD. Ron is a wild guy, but one thing he does not take lightly is defense. Love it when he called out Sir Charles!
im juust gonna throw this out there - i was playing pick up ball last night at golds and I noticed that the most gifted players were also the best on defense and the guy who was god awful skill-wise was also the worst on defense...
i think that i'd take lebron or kobe on Defense during a last possession against a guy like shane battier or arron afflalo
thats our point exactly, on the NBA level, there is not much excuse for an elite player to be a poor defender. Melo and Stat are prime examples. the Heat had a lot of struggles this year with their offensive continuity...due to the fact they have two # 1 options. what made their year successful was their defense. the lack of defense by their superstars will hinder NYK from coming out of the East. This is why they picked Shumpert!!! If Melo was a sub-20ppg scorer he would be coming off the bench. His elite scoring ability right now far outweighs his defensive liabilities, but that may not be enough to win a title with.
On the other hand, Jimmer has received a lot of flack, some perhaps undeservedly even from myself. If he shows the willingness to play good D, he will be a good player. People question his ability to, but I think physically he has enough.
I think you have to compete to be good on D, but I do not agree that anyone can truly be good on D if they try hard, especially when you get to the high-level college and pros.
In the NBA, the absolute hardest position to defend is the PG spot. Just about every team in the NBA has a jet-quick PG who also has great handle. And if they don't, they have really strong PG who can keep guys on his hip while also having a controlled handle. That's why there are so few truly good defensive PG's in the league, it's super hard to keep guys out of the lane. If you put in constant effort and try hard, you still will probably won't deny penetration effectively most of the time. That's why team D is most effective. That's why the Lakers, Cavs (with Lebron), Bulls and Celtics have been so good on D over the past few years. They all stood/stand out with team defense and helpside defense. There are too many dynamite athletes and scorers in the NBA to try and just go man-to-man "island" D.Tom Thibodeaux is the best defensive coach out there to me, and if you watched the Celtics his years there and Bulls last year you'll see why. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and even Kevin Garnett weren't really known for top notch D before they played for the Celtics, particularly Pierce and Allen. But under Thibodeaux they were consistently a top defensive team, due to his team D scheme. At the NBA level it's more about athleticism/footwork, preparation, strength, and effort to be a good defender. You can't just try hard, that helps on closing out and sometimes with steals and denying drives, but it takes more to be a good defender than effort.
In high-level college, effort is more useful though. Against good scorers and teams that have a good offensive gameplan it doesn't matter all the time, but it does help more than the NBA. If you mix the shaky floor spacing most college teams have, team D (which is obviously less sophisticated than the NBA's style most times), and the lack of the defensive 3 second, you can have a strong defensive team despite lacking great athletes. Just look at Butler for example. They didn't have great athletes over the last 2 years, but they did have a strong defensive gameplan and all there guys bought in with urgency.
I have played against some guys who had no skills whatsoever but they were athletic as sh!t and hounded the phuck outta me! Dean Smith...the GOAT (IMO) stressed ballhandling and defense. This is why he was the best at developing talent for the next level. Just a couple examples...Vince Carter was very highly recruited coming out of HS. He couldve went anywhere and been a star, instead he played 2nd fiddle to Jamison his whole college career. This was due to the system, not his ability. 2 things Dean had to work on with Vince was his ballhandling and his defense. After 2 years, you saw the results. Dean didnt believe anyone with the athletic talent of Vince should have poor defense. A better example. Shammond Williams was a guy absolutely nobody wanted, he was unheard of. When Dean looked at him, he didnt see anything special about him except for the fact that he was really athletic. Dean said if he is that athletic, the very least he is gonna be is a good defender. His all around game developed, his ballhanding and shooting improved and he had somewhat of an NBA career and even started some at PG. The thing to remember about Shammond was, he was a defender first and foremost, thats the only reason he even made it to UNC.
I feel where you are coming from, and I dont think we are saying that anyone can be great, because I dont believe that, takes special talent to be great....but when we are talking about being good, at least modest...thats different. I think nearly anyone in the NBA can be modest...if they have made it that far, they have to have extraordinary talent so the gap should not be that distant for them to play solid defense. Ok, well, even if you disagree with that, I can see your point...but a player like Melo who is elite on one end to be so bad on the other? I know you agree that he can be better, right?
To me, modest means mediocre. My idea of a "modest" NBA defender is someone like Mike Miller, and I think Anthony is at least as good a defender at him. I think Carmelo Anthony is mediocre on D already. He's certainly not a liability, and he also isn't one to give up as many points as he scores in most cases. It's hard for people to unerstand watching, but for someone to be a top level NBA scorer like Anthony, in most cases, he's not going to be able to extend the energy necessary to be a truly good defender. Especially since he's played for George Karl and Mike D'Antoni, who are 2 coaches not known for being defensive masterminds.
I think there are parallels here to offensive greatness. There are several components to good D.
- size and athleticism
- awareness of where other players on the court (defensive court vision)
- anticipation of players moves
Elite level defense is more difficult than offense in basketball simply because it's one of the easiest sports in which to score.
Just like on offense, some players rely on size / athleticism mostly. Dwight Howard comes to mind. I don't think he's actually that good defensively in terms of awareness. He gets a lot of blocks by smashing the ball out of bounds when PGs drive. That is not really a play that requires high IQ. It does take timing.
Compare that to someone like Josh Smith, or Gerald Wallace. They have freakish athleticism, but if you watch them block a shot they rely heavily on anticipation of the opponents move, and use perfect timing. To be a truly great shot blocker you need to perfect timing to increase the chances of retaining possession.... i.e. tapping the ball away, which requires even better timing than swatting.
And that's just shotblocking.
Some players are great at anticipation. Battier on Kobe is all about containing. Anticipating his next move so you can deter it.
Other players are better at aggression. Artest is physical and actively gets up close and personal, stealing your space and making it hard to even start your moves.
Just like on offense, each player has to build off their natural strengths and weaknesses. Varejao will probably never be a shot blocker, but he's perfect for taking charges, right down to his hair.
There is a lot that goes into playing defense. The paradox touched on some important parts. Things like size and athleticism make it easier to be a better defender. Your body can do more, cover more ground, etc. Anticipation and timing is also important, especially for guys with slow footwork or that are not as athletic. For a lot of guys coaching is a big part of it. Some coaches don't harp on it, but in my opinion an offensive game is the easiest thing to work on by yourself or just with a couple of people. There is a lot that goes into defense, especially team defense. I never learned team defense until I got older and started understanding basketball at a higher level. I was a pretty nice athlete. Not very tall, but got to guard and run all positions on both sides of the ball. I think it was easiest for my coaches at the time to basically say don't let the guy get the ball. Don't get me wrong. It worked well in a lot of situations, but it's not a fundamental way to play basketball. You end up with one guy that ends up not really developing an awareness for anyone around them other than their man. That's great if you are guarding an elite offensive player with no one around him, but horrible if he has any kind of decent talent around him.
Refs can also affect how good of defense someone can play by how they call a game. Though anyone that is a good or great defender day in and out likely won't be affected by that as much. Above all, how good is the offensive player you are guarding. Stand still shooters were always my favorite to guard. Guys that constantly move like Ray Allen are killer, especially if communication is bad and you're not getting the proper help or getting through picks. If someone were to study any perimeter defender in the NBA I would say it should be Battier. He's not at the same level and never was an athlete, but he's always in position, doesn't worry about picking up stats on that side of the ball and makes the offensive player work for every shot.
Qualities that make someone a good defender;
- Length, quickness, athleticism, strength, ability to move your feet, anticipation, and most importantly the will and tenacity to be a good defender. If you don't have the will and tenacity to be a good defender you'll never be a good one despite having the right defensive qualities. Some guys just don't care to be good at defense and that's usually their downfall.
You said it all right there....thats more of my point coming into this thread is that Carmelo is on a lower tier than Lebron, D-Wade, Kobe, etc...and incidentally, I think that his teammate Stat is not as valuable a player as Bosh. I think the reason a lot of people here dont buy into the hype of Dirk being the best PF or a top 5 player is the same reason. Dirk or Melo will never give up as many points as they score, and in a lot of instances thats sufficient if you have supporting cast.
Iggy....My question really is....do you think these guys have the ability to be much better defenders or not? I will have to go back to someone here saying, its what you have learned growing up and your habits....at least when we are talking about on an NBA level. Is this a case of where guys are just stuck in their ways? I think one thing is for sure, to play basketball, you have to have a love for it. Everybody loves to score. When it comes to defense, not everyone loves to play it and some dont like it at all.
When i was a kid i was the better defensive player of my team in one on one and I was not intense or agressive or atlhetic. I was the best in one on one just because i had good anticipation i always stay in the front of the guy and i had good timing to block shot...
I think most of the guys in the NBA can be better defenders if they tried, yes. But it would come with offensive and energy sacrifice, and it would also be more useful if they played for coaches that have a strong defensive gameplan.
I just mean that u need more to be intense and atlhetic to be a great defender
ok, so my conclusion after reading this thread....as far as Melo is concerned...I think his conditioning is the biggest piece for him...also having a coach and philosophy where he can pick up some "good" habits.
it was interesting I read what Peyton Siva said about Kemba Walker...
"Playing against Kemba Walker was actually a good thing for me," Siva said. "Playing against him, it made me realize I’m going to go out and play my best because you don’t want to get embarrassed.
"There were about three plays when he got me. They played them (on ESPN) when he got drafted. I was like, ‘OK, so those plays when he got me, they’re going to show those three after all the ones that we played against each other? OK, I have something to work on next year to not have that showing again.’
"He never took a play off. Even if you think you’re playing good, you can have one bad play. You can’t take plays off."
I remember when Kemba picked Siva's pocket clean on that one play and took it coast to coast and dunked it in the Big East title game. Siva has upside though, so he should really learn from it and continue to improve.
The hardest thing on defense for two way players is having there offense struggle when playing great defense and its also about being mentally focused. I notice when Melo is playing games on national t.v or on the biggest stages he plays great defense, but in many other games he's unfocused and indifferent. The thing that makes Kobe (with good health) and Lebron on another level is their ability to be so good on offense yet take few plays off on defense. Carmelo will have to improve his conditioning, focus and technique on that end of the floor to become a truly elite player.
@ surve.....Melo can get better defensively, and probaby will assuming the Knicks really do get a good defensive minded coach this offseason. Dirk is probably as good as will get.