As basketball coaches, most of us want our teams to be known as great defensive teams. However, I think we need to be careful and think about what we want that to mean, and whether it is the best thing for our team.
I frequently hear members of the sport media talk about teams giving up x number of points per game, and then saying the team is a “great” defensive team if the average is lower than most of its competition. I disagree with this premise as a blanket statement.
The team being discussed may in fact be an outstanding defensive team. Quite often, this team also milks the shot clock and makes a concerted effort to slow down the tempo of the game. Is a team that scores 60 points/game and gives up 58 points/game better defensively than a team that scores 80 points per game and gives up 74/game? I would say, of course not.
As a coaching staff, the defensive metrics that are emphasized should fit into the team’s desired philosophy and style of play. Tempo of play and team abilities need to be a major consideration in the development of a defensive system. Should your defense press, trap, and go for steals, or should it pack inside the 3 point line to keep the ball out of the paint?
What defensive metric do you value? Rebounding? Field Goal Percentage? Turnovers forced? Number of fouls? Points off opponent turnovers? Each of these metrics have an implied tempo component.
Looking back on the teams I coached, I wish I would have charted either:
1. Average time of opponent possession
2. Number of times the ball entered the paint
Average time of opponent possession would be important for me when I had teams that I wanted to play uptempo. Turnovers forced, number of fouls, rebounds, and shooting percentage would have been analyzed in this order to measure our effectiveness in helping drop the opponent’s time of possession.
For my slower teams, the number of times the ball entered the paint would have been the most crucial stat to determine if we were forcing teams to shoot over us or not. I think this metric would have been an incredibly easy to teaching point to the players. Field goal percentage and rebounding statistics would have been the most important factors to gauge the effectiveness of keeping the ball out of the paint vs. FG% and rebounding % when the ball got into the paint.
I would love to hear your thoughts and the metrics you think are the most important, along with your reasons why and your style of play. Have a great day!
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