Overall, I was impressed by the Wizards’ performance in Philadelphia on Tuesday night (aside from the ending), especially in response to Flip Saunders openly calling the team out on a disappointing performance in Atlanta on Monday. But …
The Wizards need to improve on defense, right? From watching Tuesday’s game, I was able to make some observations on focus and technique in areas where some individuals can stand to improve. I’ve illustrated these observation in screen shots below.
Caron Butler’s on Defensive Focus
Caron wants to be a better defender? Well, there are some simple things he could be doing that he’s not doing. Let’s illustrate …
1st Q: 11:03 – Classic example of Butler over-playing the passing lane. He was in position, but didn’t properly close out on the shooter. Instead, he gambles and falls for a ball fake by completely jumping into the passing lane. With Foye late rotating to the corner, it’s understandable that Caron didn’t want the ball to advance there. However, he should really stop the ball and not give up a wide-open driving lane. Thankfully, Haywood was there to block the Lou Williams attempt.
LESSON: Don’t gamble so much, the house will usually win.
1st Q: 1:12 – Mike James makes it through one screen, but Thaddeus Young is there to set a helluva Darius Songaila-esque second screen. Unfortunately, Butler seems to ONLY be concentrating on his man setting the screen and isn’t aware of the man dribbling the ball. Thus, Butler is not in position to play help defense and Lou Williams easily drives the lane for a layup.
LESSON: See ball AND man.
Focus, Communication & Teamwork
Seem like simple concepts, right? Not so much when it comes to Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee in this late game instance of transition defense.
As you can see, Blatche is late getting back to his man, Jason Smith. I can’t fault Dray for this because these things happen. Your teammates are there to get your back in such situations … via communication of course.
However, Andray’s buddy JaVale McGee just runs to his defensive spot in the paint and ONLY watches his man instead of being aware of any other threats to the hoop.
By the time Blatche decides to point and communicate, it’s much too late. Jason Smith hits the wide open jumper and the Sixers pull to within two.
LESSON: Talking and awareness of surroundings is a good thing.
Dom McGuire, that’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the game you’re guarding — Jason Kapono led the NBA in 3P FG% in 06-07 with Miami and in 07-08 with Toronto.
And I know you’re 6’9″ with decent hops Dom, but did you know Kapono was once in a TV show because of how fast he can get a shot off?
So, ummm, yea … let’s not leave so much room between you and a known shooter next time. Mmmm-kaye?
Kapono hit the three, Sixers pulled to within one.
LESSON: Know who you are guarding.
[Otherwise, I usually love what I see from McGuire. He often stays focused and in a low defensive stance. He has a nose for the ball and rebounds with two hands. However, on offense, I would simply say that McGuire "means well."]
Don’t Give Up
Nick Young was doing a great job chasing Igoudala around screens and the what-not, until …
He just kinda turned his back and stopped when Igoudala made a brief pause in the paint. Not sure if Nick thought that Iggy was done running around or not … Iggy wasn’t done running around.
Here, you see Young completely looking away and losing track of Iggy … even before Thaddeus Young comes to set a screen.
It was a lose-lose situation. Igoudala sprang wide open and made the jumper.
LESSON: Just because your man has stopped moving doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.
The Andray Olé
Sometimes I think a pump-faked orange sphere to Andray Blatche is like a red cape to a bull.
It may be kinda hard to see, but here’s Andray falling for a pump fake by Jason Smith, who, BTW, was in no conceivable position to actually shoot the ball.
After Smith blew by him, Andray game him the “Olé” and ended up picking up a foul, highlighting one of the reasons why he is so foul prone.
LESSON: Be disciplined enough to stay on your feet.
The Last Guard Back
The norm in transition defense is that the two guards hanging back shouldn’t let anyone get behind them. And if anyone come close to doing so, the last man back picks them up until the situation can be resolved. Seems simple.
However, in this instance, Caron Butler misses a jumper on the far left wing and his man immediately makes a beeline to the other end. Sure, we’d all be cool if Caron hustled to get back to his man. Part of him falling behind is finishing his shooting form, and part of it is Butler trolling for a possible offensive board.
Regardless, the responsibility to pick up his streaking man falls on the shoulders of the two guards … and in this case, since he’s the last guard back, I’m looking at Nick Young.
Instead, Young was only focuses on his man, Randy Foye on his, and Butler is left helplessly pointing to a guy about to score an easy bucket.
This can’t happen.
Other Player Observations:
Brendan Haywood : Maybe he was motivated playing against Eddie Jordan’s team, but I doubt that played much of a role. Haywood is simply a good basketball player. He plays intelligent help-side D, moves his feet to contain the dribble against other bigs, and is always aware of defensive positioning. He appears to be a trim dude, but no one from the Sixers could keep him out the paint. Haywood’s boxing out technique and use of two hands for snagging boards was textbook. He even drove to the hoop and hit a lefty lay-up on Sam Dalembert late in the first.
Fabricio Oberto : The more I watch him, the more I like him. He’s always around to tip and keep the ball alive on offensive boards. He also might be the best, most intelligent passer on the team. Oberto is never in too much of a rush to not see the court. Winning basketball likely means him playing more than Andray Blatche.
Randy Foye : In the first half, he definitely didn’t look like a backup point. He made some ‘jump to pass’ mistakes and looked more tentative running the offense than someone trying to ignite it. Too many times, Foye seemed to get somewhere, pick up his dribble, and then was unsure of what to do. The second half, when he scored 12 of his 17 points, was a different story. Foye aggressively attacked the basket, getting some buckets in transition and some others playing ‘off the ball’. Hopefully he finds his comfort zone soon.
Mike James : Continues to show that he can be a contributor. And with Foye’s so-so PG play, I’ll be curious to see how Flip will handle the backup PG as the early season develops. Against the Sixers, James showed he can still score when he gets a hot hand, and he showed hustle as he came from behind once to beat Sam Dalembert for a loose ball. However, James does show is age on defense, getting beat off the dribble a couple times and taking a bad close-out angle once or twice. But he does like to keep his feet moving … so at least they’re not getting stuck in quicksand.
JaVale McGee : Aside from his lunacy at the end of the game, I liked how McGee worked to establish his presence when he entered the game. His length is still hard to believe and although it’s not great, his footwork has shown improvement. The kid still has a long way to go before he gets a feel for when to try to block a shot and when to hold his position. Midway through the second quarter, Jason Smith got a pass and an open lane from the left block. Instead of going out to meet him, McGee gave him room, trying to get his timing to block the shot. Smith took a power dribble and went right into McGee’s body with momentum from all the room. JaVale was rendered helpless and Smith got a bucket.
DeShawn Stevenson : Still the best perimeter defender … I know that’s not saying much, but absolutely no one on the entire team is getting after the ball more or harder than DeShawn. So, bet that he will get significant time on the court.
Elton Brand : He doesn’t look all that great to me. He seems immobile and too short … and all he wants to do is put his head down, drop his shoulder, and charge around the paint like a blind bulldog. Glad the Wiz didn’t try to trade for him or anything.