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pageC4
Post Subject: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Success Post ID: 405013by pageC4 » Sep 03, 2013 - 09:36 AM PST
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I'm not sure if this has been posted yet, but I found the read interesting. Monday, July 15, 2013 Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine the Clippers' Defensive Success


By Jared Dubin

It's been quite the offseason for the Los Angeles Clippers. By re-signing Chris Paul, snatching Doc Rivers away from the Celtics, turning Eric Bledsoe's potential and Caron Butler's contract into J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and retaining Matt Barnes, the Clips have been remolded as a true Western Conference power.

Paul's presence on the roster essentially guarantees Los Angeles a top-flight offense and should alleviate any cause for concern related to the dreary and unimaginative system Rivers's Celtics used for the last few years. Over the past six seasons, Paul's teams have scored 109.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court - good enough to place in the top four in efficiency in any of those seasons. Paul already has wonderful chemistry with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the pick-and-roll, and the dead-eye shooting of Redick (39.0 percent from beyond the arc in his career) and Dudley (40.5 percent) should make that trio even more dangerous by manufacturing more room for Paul and the Clippers' bigs to operate in the middle of the floor.

The concerns for this Clippers team will come on the defensive end. Griffin, Jordan, and backup center Ryan Hollins are the only players on the current roster taller than 6-foot-7. None of them could be described as a game-changing defender at this point in his career, or even a consistently above-average one. Griffin and Jordan each improved last season, but both still struggled to defend pick-and-rolls and were often a half-step slow or late when called on to rotate behind the play. Any good defensive coach will tell you those half-steps cumulatively make up the difference between a top defense and a middling one, and after a strong start to the season, the Clippers defense could only be described as middling.

Paul has a snazzy steal rate that routinely has him ranked among the league's top pilferers, but he has also allowed opposing point guards to post a Player Efficiency Rating above 15.0 (league average) in four of the last five seasons, according to 82games.com. Paul's New Orleans teams were often better defensively with him on the court than off, but the Clippers have defended better sans Paul in each of the last two seasons, according to NBA.com.

Some of that is a function of personnel; Paul rarely played with Eric Bledsoe - the team's best defender - and he logged nearly two-thirds of his minutes with the Griffin-Jordan pairing, which registered a 104.2 defensive rating last season, per NBA.com. But part of it is also Paul's stature. Both tall point guards that can shoot it well from outside and smaller point guards that are lightning-quick off the dribble are becoming more and more common. The former can shoot over Paul's outstretched arms, and the latter can run him into ball screen after ball screen all game long. Paul's still a plus player on defense, but he has clear hindrances as well.

Matt Barnes is the team's strongest defender on the wing, but his skill set is such that you don't really want him to play much more than 20 or so minutes per game, lest you invite diminishing returns. That means most of the shooting guard/small forward minutes will be soaked up by Redick and Dudley, with a dash of rookie Reggie Bullock sprinkled in as well.

The veteran newcomers are both sound positional defenders - Stan Van Gundy remarked at this year's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that he knew he could always count on Redick to make the right rotation when they were both in Orlando - but they aren't exactly lockdown, on-the-ball types a team can use to hound Kevin Durant or James Harden into tough shots for long stretches in the playoffs. Redick and Dudley won't get embarrassed by those types of stars (at least not any more than anyone else would), but they won't be able to impose their will defensively, either. Dudley is also prone to ball watching and can be victimized by the backdoor pass, and Redick can sometimes stray too far away from spot-up shooters.

Joining Barnes and Bullock on the bench unit are Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, and Ryan Hollins - a motley crew of terrible defenders if there ever was one. Bullock was a solid defender at North Carolina, but nearly every rookie struggles out of the gate on defense. Everyone is familiar with Crawford's brand of nonexistent defense at this point. Collison struggled so badly in Dallas last season that Rick Carlisle benched him for Mike James. Mike James! And Hollins has real struggles with being overaggressive.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that this season's Clippers are placing a pretty sizable bet on the defensive system being more important than the personnel running it. Rivers is expected to install the now-pervasive Celtics defense originally constructed by former Rivers assistant and current Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau (the principles of which Zach Lowe expertly outlined at Grantland earlier this season), and Los Angeles is hoping and praying that will be enough to turn its defense into a unit respectable enough to compete.

Rivers may not have created the defense or been the one responsible for its implementation for most of his tenure in Boston, but he's been coaching it long enough that its doctrines are surely embedded in his brain cells - at least well enough for him to teach it to his new charges. Whether they can put those ideologies into practice is another matter.

Doc's Celtics still defended at an elite level in each of the last two seasons when he was without a true defensive coordinator on his staff, but he also had the luxury of unleashing Avery Bradley on ball handlers and knowing Kevin Garnett was patrolling the paint, running his mouth, and keeping everyone in the right position. There's a reason Boston's defense was 5.3 points per 100 possessions better on average with Garnett on the floor than off during his Celtics tenure.

This Clippers team doesn't have a Bradley, and it definitely doesn't have a Garnett. There's no one to apply that crazy full-court ball pressure now that Bledsoe's been shipped out. Paul needs to conserve energy to orchestrate the offense, and Collison is Collison. Griffin, Jordan, and Hollins leave much to be desired in terms of their individual and help defense already; giving one the responsibility of positioning the rest of the players on the court would be foolish at best and outright disastrous at worst.

Due to the lack of elite defensive talent on hand, the Clippers' season will, in effect, be a test case on the importance of the defensive system versus that of its individual defenders. The roster, while lacking in pure lockdown types, is long, strong, and athletic. It will be up to Rivers and his staff to hammer home the importance of forcing a man toward the help, of making sure the second and third rotations are ready before the first one is complete, and of always, always, always picking up your teammate's slack. Rather than relying on one or two stalwarts to carry the load, the Clips will have to count on the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/68609/why-the-sys tem-and-not-its-pieces-will-determine-the-clippers-defensive-success



                
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pageC4
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405014by pageC4 » Sep 03, 2013 - 09:38 AM PST
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This quote was the one that stood out to me. I think we can all safetly say that this team is lacking a lock down defender. So Doc's defensive system will determine a lot here. While I don't expect Doc and his system to make miracles I do expect it to at least make some of these players decent.

                
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Agent0
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405018by Agent0 » Sep 03, 2013 - 12:21 PM PST
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Writer forgot about Mullens and Jamison, but then I saw that this was written July 15th

In regards to the article, the writer is correct that you can't manufacture an elite defense without at least one or two elite defensive players, or an elite one and a/some really good one(s).

Indiana: Hibbert / George Memphis: Gasol / Allen Chicago: Noah / Deng / Gibson / Butler SA: Duncan / Leonard / Green OKC: Ibaka / Sefolosha / Collison and even Perkins despite his flaws

So of course just based on history, we aren't expecting this team to be elite on defense. For this season, I think an elite offense, overachieving on defense to be solid, not just for part of the season, or as a whole in the regular season, but in the playoffs is what we expect.

It will take a bit more tweaking or a huge jump from DJ and even Blake defensively, as well as maybe Bullock adjusting to NBA defense really quickly and getting minutes somehow to make an elite defense out of this team. So I think it's okay to not expect that in year one, but I think we should see a developing very good defense as players improve and tweaks are made to personnel in the future.

A solid above average defense this season is good, just nothing that gets demolished in the playoffs again because that is getting old.

...and if we do see an elite defense and those guys make big jumps, who's complaining? (well, except for other teams)

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 405021by pageC4 » Sep 03, 2013 - 03:12 PM PST
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agreed. I doubt we will be a top defense, just as long as they play solid it will be enough

                
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Clipswhit
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405026by Clipswhit » Sep 03, 2013 - 04:55 PM PST
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It's possible for DJ to look like an elite defender in the right system. I think he'll surprise us this season. Between DJ's emergence and 4 solid team defenders, I think we'll easily have a top 10, maybe a top 5 defense this season.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 405041by pageC4 » Sep 03, 2013 - 07:55 PM PST
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I hope so. I think a top 10 defense would be awesome

                
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Agent0
Post ID: 405048by Agent0 » Sep 03, 2013 - 08:36 PM PST
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Top 10 is reasonable, team was top 10 last season. Top 10 isn't elite, it's the upper third of the league, but elite is closer to 3-5 range. The middle third 11-20 is all the average levels (below, average, above), and 21-30 below average to bad. The lower numbers in 11-20 (11-13) we could probably call about above average, so about 8-10 is above average - good.

We could say ~5-7 is very good, and 1-4 is elite. It isn't static, depends on the year, sometimes the difference between one team and the other is negligible, so we could have more elite defenses one year, more good, etc.

I think top 10 should happen, I think this core is an above average - good defensive team.

                
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A7XDreamTheaterClipps
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405049by A7XDreamTheaterClipps » Sep 03, 2013 - 08:37 PM PST
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I hate to say it but the Clippers are starting to look like the Steve Nash era Mavs. High power offense, mirage of outside shooting but no defense. The development of Blake and DJ's crucial.

                
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Agent0
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405051by Agent0 » Sep 03, 2013 - 08:39 PM PST
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I'd say more like the Steve Nash era Suns actually, a lot more comparisons that way than the Mavs. Mavs did a lot of small ball gimmicky stuff with Don Nelson as the coach.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 405058by pageC4 » Sep 03, 2013 - 09:13 PM PST
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Kind of. However, one key difference is that we have a coach that does preach defense, so its not like he's Don Nelson, Mike Dantoni, or any of these other offensive guys that doesn't believe in defense.

                
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toohipcliptoslip
Post ID: 405118by toohipcliptoslip » Sep 05, 2013 - 02:46 AM PST
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While physical skills are important, a huge part of team defense is desire. The team has to be proud of its defense and willing to get in yo' face. Zbo punking BG or DJ's sieve like stopping can't happen. They have to get tough. Everybody wears #22 during practice. If those two don't set the tune we got problems.

As far as CP's great defense, he gets torched by fast guards. Parker ate him like a baguette

                
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botev1921
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405119by botev1921 » Sep 05, 2013 - 04:26 AM PST
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Apart from a trade, we can't get any game-changing defensive player as there aren't any left (don't quote me Ivan Johnson again). I think they will give it a try early on and might trade for a defense-only player similar to Safolosha.

                
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namzug
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405124by namzug » Sep 05, 2013 - 12:03 PM PST
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This is really depending on DJ and Blake's improvement on the defensive end. I think DJ will make a leap forward as a player, specifically on the defensive side. Blake will also improve, but his benefit will be wearing down players on the offensive side more than being a defensive anchor in my opinion.

As far as Ivan Johnson goes, I never said he was a lockdown defender or anything similar to that. He's a physical player that can wear on players since you have to work for your points. He's good on defense, he averages 1.7 DWS in his two seasons and averages a 100 DRTG. He's not a lockdown defender, but a good one. It's his physicality and energy that I like as a player and the thing I think our team is missing. A player like this is not a necessity, but definitely something you see on most contenders.

I don't think we need an existing elite defender, because there aren't really that many out there to be had. We are really depending on our two frontcourt players to improve individually as well as within a system that will have set rotations and have a similar plan across the board. I believe that our two starting frontcourt players will make the necessary improvements, and DJ will surprise those who doubt he is worth it. Hopefully DJ becomes that elite defender, and earn his paycheck.

                
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Agent0
Post Subject: RE: Why the System, and Not Its Pieces, Will Determine Succe Post ID: 405125by Agent0 » Sep 05, 2013 - 12:14 PM PST
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For some people who are still wondering why some of us are so worried about defense:

http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2013/09/02/clips-hopes-of-contending-dep ends-on-defense-of-jordan-griffin/

There is a chart with big man combinations and the Drtg, from best to worst: Odom + Hollins - 90.8 Odom + Turiaf - 91.0 Odom + Griffin - 97.9 Griffin + Jordan - 104.2 Odom + Jordan - 104.6 Hollins + Turiaf - 104.7 Griffin + Hollins - 111.5

League Average: 105.9 League High: 99.8

The facts are that no matter who the opponent is (starters, or bench), holding anyone to under 98 Ortg is great defense. 3 big man combinations with Odom had that.

Forget Odom, that's not what this is about, but a lot is riding on the shoulders or Blake and DJ for sure. If they can't get it together defensively then the playoffs will not be very fun. I want to see that same chart next year but with Jordan being in all three, and Griffin/Jordan being a top 3 defensive combination for the Clippers and holding opponents in the 90's or at least 101 or below.


In terms of pieces, were there better defensive players who also fit offensively available? Yes. Could this team have gotten those guys? No. Rome wasn't built in a day, and look at the Spurs, Pop tweaked the roster, the system and the players for 7 years before getting back to the finals. Yes, it would be nice to have something like Brand and Stiemsma off the bench with a 3PT shooting big next to them, but those were not options.

This roster does put a lot more pressure on Blake and DJ defensively, and really outside of possible speculation, it is just a wait and see game now.

Everyone can talk the talk in the off-season, the majority of fan bases have positive expectations for their players for the most part and are more optimistic than others. Sometimes it is reality, sometimes it's in the middle of the super optimist and the pessimist, and sometimes it goes wrong. I think at the least we will fall in the middle and there is some potential for leaning to the super optimism side based on the nature of a guy like Griffin.

                
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pageC4
Post ID: 405162by pageC4 » Sep 06, 2013 - 09:39 AM PST
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Namzug, this is exactly the kind of perspective I like. I think it's well known that your front court should be the anchor of your defense. Ideally you would like to have a guy like Marc Gasol as your center, but if they were so easily acquired we would have one. Even some of these guys that were available early on in the offseason were kind of asking for a price that we simply could not match (without abandoning the pursuit of Matt Barnes and Collison). I would have loved Elton Brnad as our backup, but at $4 mill per year that meant we would have to let go of acquiring certain ancilary players. That being said I feel that we have yet to see DJ and Blake play under a better system and a better coach that can teach them to be better defensive players. I think this will be the bigger issue here, our starting big men. People just have to understand that the free agent market is not without competition, and its not as if we had the market completely open. While these better defensive big men were available (like Brand, O'Neal...etc) GSW, and Atlanta were actively pursuing them as well. Sure we could have gambled on focusing our attention on them, but then things turn out differently: possibly no Barnes, Collison, Redick, Dudley.

                
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