INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #7 – 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies

INTRODUCTION
The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #7 – Memphis 2010-11

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: This is really a two year span that does include a lock-out season but is still worth involving in this case study. In 09-10 Memphis allowed 109.9 pts per 100 possessions (19th in NBA), then in 10-11 they allowed 105.1 (9th) and in the lockout season of 101.8 pts per 100 possessions. This will focus on the move from 09-10 to 10-11

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: in 09-10 the Grizzlies were 25th in opponents EFG% then improved to 18th , they were 20th in forcing turnovers and made a huge jump to #1 in the NBA, they were 20th in defensive rebounding and they stayed the same and they were 3rd best in not fouling and in the improved year fouled much more putting them 14th in the NBA. The Grizzlies were 10th in pace of play in 09-10 and then in the improved year slowed down slightly to 15th.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: In 09-10 the Grizzlies started Conley, Mayo, Gay, Randolph and Gasol. The bench was Sam Young, Marcus Williams and Hasheem Thabeet. The year of improvement made one signigifant change adding Tony Allen from Boston and Rudy Gay got hurt. .

COACHING: This was Lionel Hollins second year as the head coach of the Grizzlies. The staff was Johnny Davis, Barry Hecker, Damon Stoudamire, Henry Bibby and David Joerger. This was the same staff the previous season.

CONCLUSION: The Grizzlies did this largely by becoming more aggressive and forcing more turnovers and even fouling more than they had in the past. The addition of Tony Allen was a huge part of this however, much of this has to do with Hollins 2nd year as the head man and understanding what his team needs to do to be better. The next year the Grizzlies went to 9th in the NBA. The improvement in condition and play of Marc Gasol is a huge part of this as well.

INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #6 – Indiana Pacers 1993-94

INTRODUCTION
The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #6 – Indiana Pacers 1993-94

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: In 1992-93 the Pacers allowed 110.1 pts (21st) per 100 possessions then in 1993-94 they allowed only 104.2 (8th).

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: Depsite being 21st overall the Pacers were the 9th best team defensively in EFG% in 92-93, they were 24th in forcing turnovers, 18th in defensive rebounding and 24th in FTA/FGA (pr foul rate) . In 93-94 they stayed about the same 6th in EFG% but improved in forcing turnovers to 7th in the NBA and 12 in defensive rebounding. Their foul rate was the exact same. Interesting how important defensive rebounding continues to be in these case studies

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 92-93 Pacers started Pooh Richardson, Reggie Miller, Detlef Schrempf, Dale Davis and Rik Smits. The primary bench players were Vern Fleming, Sam Mitchell and George McCloud. The next year they traded Detlef for Derrick McKey who was a long and good defender at the 3 and 4. Haywood Workman became the point guard instead of Pooh Richardson, who was injured. They added a physical Antonio Davis to the roster.

COACHING: The big change happened with the coaches. Offensive minded Bob Hill, one of the better offensive coaches in the NBA, was replaced by defensive task master Larry Brown.

CONCLUSION: This is an interesting case study because the team jumped from 21st to 8th defensively dropping 6 points per 100 possessions based on rebounding and forcing turnovers. My guess is they got tougher with the addition of Antonio Davis and Derrick McKey and defensive minded. Bob Hill was an offensive coach and Larry Brown brought a different mindset.

The Pacers organization has a pattern of a new head coach leading to a defensive improvement and then over time they struggle defensively until they get a new coach. It happened with Hill to Brown then Brown to Bird it happened again and from Bird to Isaiah it occurred and a huge drop from Isaiah to Carlisle. Jim O’Brien ignored defense and Frank Vogel has rectified that.

INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #5 – Houston Rokets 2002-2003

INTRODUCTION
The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.
For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.
Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.
Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.
Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #5 – Houston Rockets 2002-03

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: In 2001-02 the Rockets defensive rating was 108.6 (29th) then in 2002-03 it improved to 102.6 (14th).

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: In 01-02 the Rockets were 25th in EFG% def then incredibly improved to 6th in EFG% defense. They were 29th at forcing turnover and stayed very similar at 27th. They were 25th in defensive rebound and improved to 11th and interesting in the worst defensive year they were the best in the NBA at not fouling got a little worse to 6th when they improved defensively. Surprisingly they played a very slow pace of play when they were terrible on defense.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 01-02 bad defensive team started Francis, Mobley, Kenny Thomas, Kelvin Cato and a combination of numerous small forwards from Walt Williams to Eddie Griffin. The Rockets drafted #1 in the draft and took Yao Ming. That was the primary change, the guard line was still the same the power forward and small forward were still a mess but they added Yao Ming.

COACHING: Rudy Tomjanovich was the head coach for both seasons.

CONCLUSION: Having Yao Ming makes all the difference in the world. He leads to improvement in defensive rebounding which was a big deal and that leads to improvement in EFG% defense.

The bad defensive guard starting line-up of Francis and Mobley is somewhat similar to Mo and Foye with an undersized power forward in Kenny Thomas similar to Millsap. But the whole issue is Yao Ming.

INSIDER – 5 man line-up data – No surprise why Final 4 is who they are

Below is the chart of the 5 man lineup data I was discussing today on Tip Off. This chart is the 33 line-ups that were used at least 300 minutes

Yellow are line-ups of the Final 4 tea teams. Green are the Utah Jazz

The defensive rtg is color coded – Red is the best and Green is the worst.

33 most used line-ups

A few takeaways
1) The best 5 man line-ups are alive. Toronto is the outlier here. The Thunder would likely be alive if Westbrook wasn’t hurt.
2) The best defensive 5 man line-ups are teh ones who are the best teams.
3) Amazing the Jazz were plus .500 with the worst 5 man line-up that played 300 minutes this season and the 6th worst.
4) The Mo, Foye, Hayward, Millsap and Jefferson line-up was the worst defensive unit in the NBA used over 300 minutes and the Tinsley, Foye, Marvin, Paul and Al line-up was the worst line-up overall used over 300 minutes.
5) Is Toronto onto something?
6) Atlanta should have been better in the playoffs? Or just a bad match up with Indiana
7) The Heat line-up with an offensive rating of 117.2 is insane.
8) Best defensive line-up is not Memphis but Parker, Green, Leonard, Splitter and Duncan.

The league is about 5 man units that dominate.

INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #4 – 2000-01 Dallas Mavericks

INTRODUCTION
The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.

For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.

Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.

Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.

Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT CASE STUDY #4 – 2000-01 Dallas Mavericks


DEFENSIVE CHANGE:
In 1999-2000 they allowed 107.2 pts per 100 possessions (24th) then in 2000-01 they allowed 102.6 pts (13th) per 100 possessions.

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: In 1999-2000 they were 21st in EFG% and improved to 12th, they were 14th in forcing turnovers and stayed the same , they were 29th in defensive rebounding % and improved to 23rd and were 8th in fouling actually fouled more.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 1999-2000 team started Erick Strickland and Steve Nash at the point, a litany of shooting guards, Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Bradley at center for the majority of the season, the next year Nash became the full time point guard, a wide range of shooting guards again and Finley, Nowitzki with Bradley, Laetnner and Juwan Howard as the center.

COACHING: Don Nelson no changes

CONCLUSION: This is really a bizarre turn of events because after the improvement the Mavericks from 107.2 to 102.6 they revert back the next year returning to 25th in the NBA defensively only to bounce back the next year and improve again to 9th in the NBA. This may only be explained by the coaching of Don Nelson. Shaun Bradley could be a part of this. Shaun Bradley was on these teams but his minutes didn’t seem to impact where the defense finished. This is the outlier of all the case studies thus far

INSIDER – Defensive Improvement Case Study #3 – Chicago Bulls 2010

INTRODUCTION
The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.

For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz have finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.

Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.

Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.

Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #3 – CHICAGO BULLS 2010-11

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: In 2009-10 the Chicago Bulls allowed 105.3 (11th) pts per 100 possessions and the next season in 2010-11 they allowed just 100.3 pts per 100 possessions

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: in 09-10 they were 7th against in EFG% and became #1, they were 24th in forcing turnovers became 11th, they were 8th in defensive rebounding became 3rd and 9th in not fouling and stayed the same
PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 09-10 team started Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. The next year the Bulls added Carlos Boozer and Kieth Bogans replaced Kirk Hinrich. Noah only played 48 games. A strong case could be made the team became a less good personal wise defensive team. Added Omer Asik for 12 minutes a game off the bench.

COACHING: Tom Thibodeau replaced Vinny Del Negro as the head coach. His staff included Ron Adams, Andy Greer, Rick Brunson, Adrian Griffin, Ed Pickney and Mike Wilhelm.

CONCLUSION: If case study 1 and 2 were about superstar players changing the culture then this is about the defensive coach in the NBA altering the culture of the Bulls. It is worth noting this was a good defensive team to start with and he took it to the next level.

INSIDER – DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT CASE STUDY #2 – 2001-02 New Jersey Nets

The final 4 teams left in the Western Conference this year were the 4 best teams in the West in effective field goal % defense. ( Weighs three point shooting.) The top 5 defensive teams all made it to the round of 8 and the New York Knicks were the only team to make the Final 8 with a defense below the top 15 in the NBA. You must play defense to win in the NBA.

For the last three seasons, the Utah Jazz has finished ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st defensively in the NBA. If the Jazz are competing with the best in the NBA they must become a better defensive team.

Last year the Jazz allowed 104.7 pts per 100 possessions. To move into the top 15 the Jazz would need to allow 103.0 and to move into the top 10 they would need to allow 101 pts per 100 possessions.

Therefore, I reviewed the last 20 plus years of NBA stats and found the 16 teams to have made a substantial (about 5 pts per 100 possessions) defensive jump from one year to the next. Over the next few weeks I will look at those 16 teams to see what made their defensive jump possible.

Note: I have not included any lockout shortened seasons.

DEFENSIVE IMPORVEMENT CASE STUDY #2 – NEW JERSEY NETS 2001-02

DEFENSIVE CHANGE: 105.5 Pts per 100 possessions (23rd) in 2000-01 and in 2001-02 allowed 99.5 pts per 100 possessions (1st)

INSIDE THE FOUR FACTORS: were 24th in EFG% became 4th best; were 7th at forcing turnovers became 3rd, 25th in defensive rebounding became 13th and were 27th in fouling became 10th.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: The 00-01 team started Stephon Marbury, Kenyon Martin as a rookie, Evan Eschmeyer with Lucious Harris and Keith VanHorn. In the off-season they traded Marbury for Jason Kidd. Changed their center to Todd MacCulloch and Jason Collins. Kerry Kittles a much longer two replaced Lucious Harris with Harris moving off the bench.

COACHING: Bryon Scott was in his second year as the head coach of the nets. Other coaches on staff were Lawrence Frank, Eddie Jordan and Mike O’Koren

CONCLUSION: Kidd finished #2 in MVP voting. Kidd similar to case study #1 with Kevin Garnett changed the culture of the franchise. Interesting that a change at point guard can have this impact. Kidd’s rebounding as a guard was a large reason for move from 25th to 13th in defensive rebounding. Kidd grabbed 6 defensive rebounds a game. This team was only 17th in the NBA offensively. They went to the NBA finals solely based on their defense. The move from Marbury to Kidd is similar to the Jefferson to Garnett in our first two case studies.

INSIDER – Favors 21 years old and younger minutes in historical context

Continuing today’s on-going discussion about Favors minutes I searched NBA history for players 6’10 or taller and minutes played as of 21 years old. 12 players have played more minutes than Favors in NBA history.

A few notes on this. The league rules have changed over the years about when players are allowed into the league so the sample size of players that could have fit this category is a bit limited.

I have professed the Oreo cookie in Milk theory of young players where you have to dip them just right for their development. An overdip and you get a soggy cookie that has lost its value. An under dip and you didn’t get the value of the milk and if you dip perfectly then you have the ultimate combination.

In my mind at least 4 of these 12 players were overdipped, Biedrins, Hawes, Curry and Brown.

The 4 players that played dramatically more minutes than Favors will all likely be in the Hall of Fame and at least three of the 4 were top 2 or 3 players in the NBA numerous years.

Once you eliminate the Hall of Famers from this group a strong argument could be made that the other players didn’t garner a great benefit from playing this many minutes at an early age. In fact, all of them other than Lopez have had careers significantly below expectations.

The value of this three part exercise is that it shows Favors is still on a nice trajectory for a strong career. The argument that his development has been stalled or stymied over the last two years is not based on the indisputable grounds. In fact, might even be on the short side of data.

I was in the camp that thought Favors explosion would have taken place last year. Let’s hope that his 4th season at 22 years old is the right time.

favors nba comparision

Just for food for thought here are the next tier down of minutes played by players 6’10 and taller by 21 years of age

next tier down of mintutes