How Derrick Wiliams got a free ticket to the rim: The road to defensive chemistry

Preseason isn’t really good material for indepth analysis, especially when your team has just lost its defensive anchor and captain over summer, then brought in a whole bunch of new faces with a new head coach to boot.

Nevertheless, I thought this first possession in the MIN-BOS preseason game illustrated things pretty clearly.

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Situation unfolds with Kevin Martin running out to the key behind an elbow screen. His defender, Courtney Lee obviously gives chase.

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  1. K-Mart receives the ball, and
  2. At the same time we see new action. Pek (circled in red) shows intention on setting a screen for Derrick Williams.

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  1. Gerald Wallace gets bumped by the Pek screen, and is behind Williams at this point.
  2. Derrick curls and basically has a clear path to the basket (blue line).
  3. Sully is still deciding whether to go after Pek.
  4. Bass is only beginning to realise that Derrick bloody Williams is charging in.

Moment of truth, this is make or break time. Sully and Bass are circled in red.

  1. Sully had the opportunity to switch with Wallace and plug the cut.
  2. Likewise, Bass was still close enough to help throttle Derrick. I’ve never remembered Bass taking a charge before, but have absolutely no doubt that his footwork is capable of crossing that space and positioning himself for a charge. That being said, this option is still a little far-fetched. I’d settle for Bass and Wallace gang-harassing Williams into an uncomfortable layup.

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Things go past the point of no return.

  1. Sully decides to go after Pek, takes a step out. (I’m not sure why to be honest, Pek’s mid-range doesn’t scare me as much as an open layup.)
  2. Bass is staring at Williams, but is still covering Love at the elbow.
  3. Williams has a lane to the rim, Martin rifles that pass over Lee and delivers the goods.

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Wallace is unable to catch up to Williams in time, and fouls him on the layup. And one. We might argue here that Bass could have gotten the rebound if Wallace had made a clean block out of that layup, but let’s be realistic here – Wallace is aging, and no longer as athletic as he once was. Forcing him to run around screens and chase a much younger opponent isn’t helping either.

Things might have gone differently, had Sully switched with Wallace to contain that cut, or if Bass had magically shuffled his way across to swallow a man-sized charge. Would it have happened? Maybe, maybe not. Things happen so quickly in the NBA game, communication on defense has to be near-instantaneous and without hesitation.

Once again, hesitation kills.

This kind of instinctive communication is what the team currently lacks, which is no surprise.  If we’re going to stop giving layup lines to the opponent, we have absolutely got to talk and understand each other better on D. I have total faith this will happen. How long will the process take though? Hopefully, soon.

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