Blocked Shots and Bad Defense
Quick, guess which two teams have the most blocked shots in the NBA? Going into last night, it was the Denver Nuggets (7.4 per game) and the Phoenix Suns (7.0 per game). At their game tonight, they combined for 17 (13 by Phoenix) in a 137-115 Phoenix win. These are also considered two of the worst defensive teams in the league.
It seems that when you play one of these teams, if they cannot block your shot it will go in.
Marcus Camby and Amare Stoudemire both get a decent number of blocks when sliding over on weak-side help after the penetrating offensive player has blistered the perimeter defense. Their defensive counterparts (Kenyon Martin and Shawn Marion) do more of the same.
Also, going into tonight, both teams were averaging 7.4 steals per game.
This means that, on average, 14 times per game, the opposing team’s possession will end before the shot is on its downward path to the hoop. Throw in a few other turnovers a game, and the number is easily 20. One would think that these numbers would make a team strong defensively.
What is the problem? There seem to be two. First, leaving your man to provide weak-side help means that a 3, 4 or 5 will not be boxed out. Opponents average 13.7 offensive rebounds per game against the Suns and 12.9 per game against the Nuggets. Not surprising. That is also about the same number of blocks and steals those teams get. There is no net gain.
The other problem is that the perimeter defense is weak. We know that the perimeter defense is not good or there wouldn’t be so many opportunities to block shots. A post defender rarely blocks the shot of a good offensive post player. It happens, but not 5 times per game. Blocks mainly come against driving guards and small forwards. And, how many times does the guy get through – especially a player adept at driving the lane like Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson – and not get blocked? I’d take those odds in Vegas.
When the weak perimeter defenders are not too busy picking up their jocks, they are leaving their men room to shoot so as to avoid loss of the jock. So, these guys are also getting open jumpers. The defensive bigs are not able to block those, either.
So, when looking at the offensive rebounds given up at the expense of block attempts, there is no gain on defense. Now that you also know the perimeter defense is weak, players are able to knock down jumpers. Adding that to the fact that players more often make lay-ups than have their shots blocked, and the other side now has a high shooting percentage.
When your team (and I mean team – not a particular player; one guy (Tim Duncan) with a lot of blocks means that he just fills in on those rare occasions that the perimeter defense breaks down) averages high in blocks it means two things have coalesced. First, your team has some athletic big men. Second, it means the rest of your team is playing poor defense. When the athletic last line of defense becomes your team’s first line of defense, your team is one of the worst defensive squads in the league.