NBA Roundtable

Utah Switch Defensive Philosphy

In General NBA on December 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

The Desert News reports

The Jazz are overhauling their defense to divert opposing ballhandlers to the baseline instead of funneling foes into the paint.

The bold move, which has been introduced and implemented to players during training camp, is the first big imprint Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has put on the franchise since taking over in February.

Corbin adding

“It (pushing to the middle) worked here for a long time. We can’t knock the history the team’s had,” Corbin said when asked if the change was considered during Sloan’s tenure. “But the personnel’s different. We just changed.”

Raja Bell explains

In theory, forcing the ball out of the middle by rotating and helping should limit opponents’ options while also allowing Jazz defenders to better guard their own guys, slow down pick-and-rolls, thwart penetration situations and defend outside shots.

“If someone comes to the middle … it sucks everybody in a bit because everybody’s watching the ballhandler thinking there’s some responsibility for them to stop him,” Jazz guard Raja Bell said. “When you have that, it opens up four different people on the court to pass the ball to.”

The benefit of sending offensive players to the baseline, he continued, is that it cuts off half the court. Players are limited, offenses get bogged down and attentive defenders are less likely to make mistakes while helping.

“If you know that it’s one person’s sole responsibility to get over and cut off the baseline, then everyone else isn’t guessing,” Bell said. “It’s a lot more clear about whose responsibility it is, and it allows for really decisive rotations. I think it will help out a lot.”

Al Jefferson welcomes the change

A big benefactor: Al Jefferson.

The center was used to playing defense the baseline way in Boston and Minnesota, as it’s a much more common NBA defensive strategy. He struggled at times last year to be positioned correctly while trying to get used to the Jazz’s previous D.

“I like it,” Jefferson said of the change. “It’s easier to help the helper when we’re doing it that way.”

Combine that shift with his improved physical condition, and Jefferson has made defensive strides.

Al Jefferson looks in great shape this season. He was heavy last year, was carrying too much extra weight. Great to see him make an effort to improve that.

Jefferson echoed the importance of that non-system-related standard Sloan set a few decades ago.

“No matter where you send it,” he said, “if you send it to the middle or you send it to the baseline, you have to have the effort.”

That’s something his new and old Jazz coach would agree on.

I’ve always preferred forcing baseline than middle. Use the sides of the court as an extra defender to limit the ball-handler’s space / movement.

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