Some of the defensive problems have resulted from pure lack of ability while others are a result of the defensive system and principles carved into our playbook. Things that we need to work on for next year:
Have you heard of this crazy play called the pick Ďn roll?
Weíre possibly the worst team when it comes to playing ďhedge and recoverĒ when defending the PNR. Usually the pick results in two defenders dealing with the ball handler leaving the pick-setter open to roll or pop-out at his discretion. If not that, then the Raptor guard will not fight through the pick and expect a stronger hedge from the pick-setterís man only to be let down, resulting in a clear path to the rim for the ball-handler. The third way to mess this is up is by going under the screen on a shooter conceding the ball-handler an open shot while also giving him the option to drive since the would-be hedger is in no-manís land. Under Mitchell it was bad, under Triano itís worse.
You donít need me to help but Iíll do it anyway:
Iím looking at Anthony Parker on this one. Heís by far the worst when it comes to sagging off his man on the weak side to help on nobody in particular. His doubles are unnecessary, weak and to this day I havenít figured out whether itís a particular strategy deployed by the coaching staff or just Parker freestyling. This was a problem under Mitchell and Triano so Iím thinking Parkerís got more to do with it than the coaching. The Orlando series was a prime example of how susceptible we are when weíre doubling without reason and this season has been a less severe extension of that series. Itís like thereís a steady magnetic force in the paint which Parker is drawn towards.
Where did my man go?
This oneís just sheer stupidity. If your man is moving away from you around the semi-circle of the three-point line or away from the baseline toward the arc, you have to follow him. We just saw this phenomenon against Houston on Tuesday as Carl Landry and Von Wafer didnít need to do anything special to get open. Their defenders were busy ball-watching and just lost track of their individual assignments. Inexcusable and unexplainable.
Problem #1 with the Raptors. With Jose Calderon
always ranging somewhere in the 70-90% health range this has often been excused by the Toronto media but this corner says even when heís at 110% itís a problem. How do we fix this? Thereís no fix because it comes down to quickness, athletic ability and lateral movement, all things that start declining at Joseís age. The best the Raptors
can hope to do is to make quick interior rotations and try to mitigate the penetration. It didnít happen this year because OíNeal, Bosh, Bargnani
and Parker/Kapono were out-of-sync with each other and never figured out whoís to help in which scenario. Chalk this one down to bad coaching. People like to crap on Roko a lot but his defensive ability exceeds Calderon
by a mile. If Bargnani, Bosh
and Marion would becomes consistent scoring threats Triano would be more comfortable in giving up offense for defense and playing Roko meaningful minutes. Joseís hardly the only person to blame, though, Parker and Kapono (also Moon) were equally guilty and thatís also reason #1 why neither of those two should play a major (any?) role next season.
Oh wait, you mean I have to worry about someone other than my man?
The rotations needed once we allow dribble-penetration or are forced to double have usually been crisp early and decline considerably as the game goes on. This to me speaks about our conditioning and mental state. The most hated sight for me is when a player realizes two seconds too late that heís supposed to rotate out to a wing and will dejectedly walk over with his arms lifted halfway. Itís not a shot-contest, itís not a close-out, itís trash. In his short time here, Marion has shown that he can ďbe two places at onceĒ with his defense - challenge the paint while still be in good position to cover his man on the wing. Asking Kapono and Parker to do the same is probably unfair but seeing how often we need to provide help it almost becomes mandatory for our wings to be able to have the court awareness of Marion.
: Iíd rank the top three man-defenders on the Raptors
like so: #1) Shawn Marion #2) Andrea Bargnani
#3) Joey Graham. Jermaine OíNeal gets an honorable mention. Remember, weíre talking about individual man-up defense here, if we were talking about help Iíd kick Bargnani
down to the bottom of the pile. Bargnaniís learned that a 7-footer doesnít have to leave his feet and can play on his toes against most big men and still do a good enough job of contesting. I think heís shown a marked improvement this year and has had good defensive stretches against Yao, Nowtizki and even Howard. Just like the rest of the Raptors, his defense gets a lot worse later in the game but as I already said, that comes down to conditioning. Chris Boshís defense has been disappointing, I expected him to be more forceful with his ball-denials, fronting and general block-space battles but heís constantly conceding position on the defensive end while being unable to get that position on the offensive side.
We forced a miss, possession over!
No waitÖ Weíre third worst in the league and a lot has to do with Andrea Bargnani
playing 31+ minutes at the center position and averaging only 5.4 rebounds. Of the 27 center ranked by ESPN he is second-worst in PER48 rebounding. I wish it were as simple as that, you have to factor in the chaos that is caused by dribble-penetration which results in us trying to provide frenzied help while conceding rebounding position.
Here are some stats:
* Rebounding: 3rd worst at 39.35 RPG.
* Rebounding differential: 5th worst at -3.03.
* Steals: 2nd worst at 6.16 SPG.
* Opponents PPG: 11th worst at 101.04 PPG.
* Opponents 3PT %age: 10th worst at 37.4%.
* Opponents FG %age: 10th worst at 46.1%.
* Record when opponent scores 100+: 7-27, 20.6%. 6th worst.
Any other possible areas of improvement? Your thoughts on the issue are welcome.