Friday, September 7, 2007

Confusing spectacular defense plays with spectacular defensive players

In decrying what he considers the over-calling of blocks and charges in this post, Kelly Dwyer (filling in for Henry Abbott for the last couple of days at Truehoop) says:
The calls are changing the game. Outside of a few big men, most power forwards and centers never leave their feet in order to challenge or potentially reject a shot. Why would they? All they have to do is slide underneath a player, fall down, and get a pat on the butt and praise from the TV commentators ("so heady, what hustle!") as his team gets the ball back and the shooting guard picks up his third foul of the first half. So the spectacular defensive players are dwindling, as are the spectacular all-out drives to the basket.
I think there are few problems with his gripe. First, if the defensive player slides into position after the offensive player leaves his feet, then it is a defensive foul by rule. Always. The defensive player must give the offensive player a place to land. So he's complaining about a problem that doesn't really exist. The defensive players getting those charges? They were in position before the offensive player left his feet (or, at least, they were if we're assuming the refs didn't blow the call). There might be fewer out-of-control drives down the lane because the defenders are playing better position defense, but that is different that complaining about defensive players sliding underneath offensive players.

Second, and more annoying to me, is that he seems to be confusing spectacular defensive players with spectacular plays. By complaining about the lack of high-flying blocks, he is really complaining about a lack of spectacular plays. But, quite frankly, spectacular defensive plays of this highlight-reel variety are normally the result of poor defense. If you're in proper position, your defensive play is normally going to look less spectacular than the recover play made by someone who was out of position. Samuel Dalembert's blocks often seem spectacular, but (as we discussed previously) they don't really help the Sixers defense that much because he's out of position so often. I'll take a spectacular defensive player who never makes the highlight reels any day over a player who makes "spectacular" defensive plays. But maybe I just care too much about my team actually winning games...

1 comment:

Louis said...

I think that frequently the spectacular defensive plays come more for covering for someone else’s defensive mistake. Big blocks come from a player stepping up after a teammate gets beaten. I would argue that the big-men who lead the league in blocks, as Mutumbo once did, made the highlight reel and helped their team with spectacular plays that resulted in intimidation and less attempts in the lane.