I won't pretend to be a basketball coach. I won't pretend to have played basketball at any competitive level. However that said I like to think that I have a decent grasp of defense and offense in the NBA. That said the point I want to make is in regards to the defense the blazers are playing on the pick and roll. It has been a topic of some discussion already that it is clear that terry stotts has implemented a new type of pick and roll defense this season. Gone are the days of switching on every pick and rotating over to help when bigs end up on smalls. Some have suggested that this change from switching to a more fight over/go under style of defense is a positive move for this team. Some players have commented that it makes everyone responsible for their man and therefor leads to better team defense. While the sample is still small this season, I think its safe to say that the blazers are not good defensively so far. I'm sure a stat exists that would back up not only our overall defensive woe's, but also the lack of our pick and roll defense's effectiveness. I don't know the points scored against us via the P&R, but watching these games, it feels like a lot.
Part of this problem has to do with personnel. Damian is amazing, but he shows his youth and lack of NBA experience in his P&R defense. As Dave and others have pointed out this is likely to improve, but for now we are giving up big points to every other point guard. The second personnel problem is our obvious lack of size at the 5 and the offensive nature of our all-star 4. How quickly Damian can learn to play nba D will determine how successful this season will be, but in the mean time I have a suggestion.
Switch the pick and roll. I know that switching is met with rolled eyes and muttered curses in blazerland, but hear me out. Forcing Damian to fight over picks, and forcing our bigs to show hard is killing us on defense. Generally what I have observed is that on a standard P$R with a point guard and a center what happens is as follows. A pick is set, our big tries to force the guard high and towards the sideline by showing hard, then Lillard goes under the show and leaves a big completely unguarded around the middle of the lane for the easy pass from the guard who comes off the show. This then results in either a finish by the big, or a pass to an open shooter who is left on a rotation from the wing. Either option is high percentage. The second common thing that happens is that the big shows, but not hard enough and the guard comes off the show wide open as lillard falls under the pick. This has resulted in countless plays where the opposing guard ends up in the paint or at the 3pt line with not only no hand in his face, but also with a wide open big who is rolling to the rim off the pick they just set. This option leaves two blazers, at or above, the 3pt line and two opponents in the paint unguarded. The result is not good either way.
This is obviously not the way the P&R defense is supposed to work, but how things should work isn't always related to how they do work. To me the solution is obvious, switch the pick and roll. Switching the P&R has some advantages for this team in particular. First is that we have athletic bigs who are capapble of keeping a guard in front of them. LA has always looked his best when he is able to use his length to force jump shots from guards. He has good quickness and is usually able to make people think twice before shooting. The same goes for hickson in a lot of ways. Hickson is a good defender when his man is in-front of him and he is able to time up blocks. The second advantage of switching for this team is that we have a versatile wing player. Batum can easily guard a PG, SG, or SF, and even some PF for limited time. This means that when you switch the match-ups will tend to favor us and not the other team. Finally switching is an easier defense to learn for a young player. Damian is getting killed out there and it is starting to effect his offense as he picks up fouls and feels the need to compensate for his pts allowed. By going to a defense that switches the P&R we can take that burden off our young guard and allow the better defenders to utilize their talents to help the team.
The simple truth is that the system we are using now isn't working. Hoping that it will catch on is only going to lead to more frustration from players and fans as we watch other teams kill us night in and night out. This will lead to fans calling for someones head and players blaming each other for defensive mistakes. By playing a system the switches most P&R we can force this team to play more as a team on defense and not rely on the one-on-one hero's that is required by this system.
There are definitely times when showing hard and playing your man strait up is a better option. End of games situations come to mind. However as an every-play kind of D, I would take the temporary mismatches caused by switching every day of the week over the free points given up under our current system. This is the opinion of a fan, not a coach, if I'm missing something let me know. To me this solution resolves a lot of problems and uses our teams advantages on D more effectively then trying to fight over. Let me know what you guys are seeing when you watch us play D and if anyone has video clips of this D in action I'm sure it would really help clear up what I'm talking about.