Blogtable: Why not go defense-first?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEOHow the Warriors’ defense made life tough on the Cavs in Game 6

> The Warriors are the 19th NBA champion in the last 20 years to have a top 10 defensive rating during the regular season (they were ranked No. 1). So why don’t more teams focus on defense, and what does a defense-first roster look like?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: There are plenty of coaches who believe that defense wins. But NBA rules are set up to facilitate scoring, grinding defense isn’t very entertaining and there might be a player revolt if a team practiced and played defense as intently as this question suggests. Because even when it’s a source of pride, defense isn’t fun. As for what a team built that way might look like, do we really want to see Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan laboring for points when their team has the ball?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Good teams do concentrate on defense, as evidenced by 19 of the last 20 champions ranking in the top 10. The Spurs went away from defensive emphasis for a year or two, slipped back into the pack and then made a renewed commitment that produced back-to-back Finals appearances and the 2014 championship.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBecause defense isn’t glitzy. It doesn’t sell a lot of tickets. I also think a lot of teams do try to focus on defense, but actually coming up with a good defensive unit is difficult. It didn’t just fall together for the Warriors. They took serious heat for trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. They lucked into getting Draymond Green in the Draft. There was no way to anticipate Stephen Curry’s improvement on that side of the ball. There is no “look” to a defense-first roster. The best defender can be on the wing or inside. But there has to be at least a couple players who are not only good in that area, but who also have a strong presence in the locker room to have others follow their lead for a level of commitment that does not come with the same glory as scoring 20 points a game. And there obviously has to be a coach using the strengths the proper way.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I suspect teams do concentrate on D. But not everyone can play it at a high level. The Warriors had athletic players who could guard multiple positions and shut down the perimeter. The Memphis Grizzlies also play terrific D. Any team with a rim protector and quick wingmen will more often than not win games with defense.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Two-way players don’t grow on trees, and teams have to build around the personnel that they have. The Cavs (when healthy) obviously had a higher ceiling offensively, while the Milwaukee Bucks had no choice but to earn wins on defense. Versatility — having guys who can defend multiple positions — is a key. The Warriors (and Bucks) were so good defensively, because they had a lot of like-sized, lengthy defenders, who could switch on screens and prevent dribble penetration. Good offenses get good shots by drawing two defenders to the ball, so having the ability to switch (and keep just one guy on the ball) helps you stay in front of the ball and stay at home on shooters.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Defense doesn’t sell tickets. And at the end of the day, stoking interest still seems to revolve around the idea of playing faster, shooting more 3-pointers and an up-tempo attack. The Warriors nailed the model by fashioning a team that proved to be elite on both ends. With versatile defenders at nearly ever position on a team capable of dominating teams on either or both ends of the floor, they built a champion. That’s as good a place as any to start talking about the ideal, defense-first roster.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Teams haven’t been able to focus on defense at the expense of offense in the years since the old man-to-man rules were relaxed: If you don’t put five scorers on the floor then you become too easy to defend. The goal is to find two-way players like Draymond Green; or else to convince scorers to commit to the defensive end, which is what the 2008 Celtics were able to do with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (and what Cleveland will try to do next season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). The Warriors are the ultimate example of a team that commits first to defense – and then knows how to convert those stops and steals into offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI read so many stories yesterday about how Warriors had embraced the Mike D’Antoni style of play and were going to change the way NBA teams were built going forward. To which I thought, I don’t remember those D’Antoni teams being all that good on defense. Because to me, as great as the Warriors were offensively — and make no mistake, they were a juggernaut on that end — it was their commitment and ability defensively that made them NBA champions. But sure, it’s probably more exciting to focus on the 3-pointers and the fast pace. But as we all know, defense wins championships.

9 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Excellent defense is the most entertaining part, personally, when playing or watching basketball. I love shutting people down. 2004 Pistons are my style of NBA champion team.

  2. Kal says:

    not only is defence as entertaining as offence …
    but REBOUNDING is entertaining too! watching Curry outrebound Howard … or back in the day, Rodman, Barkley, Bird go to work … REBOUNDING should be shown more on sportscenter hilite reels…

    the moronic public ruins the game… as with the superteam trend… I guarantee the fans will get whatever they want if enough ask for it. the league is in this to sell tickets and to sell tickets in 30 different venues. it’s whatever the fans are seeking — the fans wanted superficial, three crazy pick up ball in a soft league and guess what, they’re going to get it very soon… the Warriors will be the first, last and only team to make this thing work legitimately.

    ps. underneath the question is another question… are the SPURS the only team to make defence boring? was it all just the Spurs’ fault? the answer, as it always is with this particular question, is yes.

  3. dustydreamnz says:

    Both are important, if you don’t score points you’re not going to win many games.

  4. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Defense and great play’s by great players like Curry when the game counts win’s rings,

  5. OverseasNBAfan says:

    The whole point of sports and being a spectator is to see players score points whatever sport or however goals are counted..
    This is the reason basketball is my favorite sport I really enjoy watching just such an exciting game, so many stats and ways for every player to effect the game in their own unique ways.
    Opposed to something like football(soccer) when teams could slog out a whole 90 odd minute match only for it to end in a 0-0 draw, that kind of game result does not appeal to me at all.
    I’m all for fast paced offense with lots of quality shooting and ball movement obviously, but I still like to see solid defense (they should allow some more contact in the paint without fouls, reg season). As GSW showed this season with the right kind of personnel and style development teams can play fast up-tempo and also rank really high in defensive efficiency.

  6. sports fan says:

    Never go defense first nor offense first. It has to be balanced. The greatest teams focus highly on both. All of the championship teams for the past umpteenth years have shown this.

  7. taekayo says:

    True, the NBA has focused its rules more on uptempo, scoring, highlight-filled, star-players focused league. I understand the business of taking care of the ticket-selling players, but this has let the league to become too soft. Defense without being physical is somewhat ironic. Overselling fouls and flopping is now becoming a go-to move of the players.

    I say let’s bring back the 90’s haha.

  8. steppx says:

    to answer aschenbruner………YES Id love to see that team. This idea that only up tempo offense is entertaining is idiotic.

    • harriethehawk says:

      I would also love to see that team too! They wouldn’t have to struggle for a shot though, all scoring would happen in the paint and through lobs!!!!