Whose to Blame on Defense? SVG or the Players?

Credit: The Denver Post

I feel like we have had this same discussion for the past 4 years. Everyone wanted to fire Alvin Gentry because we only played offense and played ZERO defense. Fans thought firing Gentry would magically solve the problem. Enter SVG, and we still have the same problem. This team can’t play defense, AT ALL. Is it the players or is it the scheme? I dive in to the problem.

It has been a problem all year, but the Pelicans simply can’t defend the 3 point line. I understand the concept SVG is trying to implement. Pack the paint, close out hard and force contested 25 footers.

Here is the problem… We do not have the athleticism, quickness, discipline or IQ to cover all of this ground. We are in continuous scramble mode for 24 straight seconds on a defensive possession. Not only is that hard to do, it is EXHAUSTING for a player to continually chase for 24 straight seconds, let alone the entire game. No wonder why we shit the bed late in games, we have no legs or stamina!

There were a ton of these possessions last night, but please focus on how many Pelican players are in the paint and how many poor close-outs are in this one defensive sequence.

As soon as Josh Richardson attacks the paint, the Pelicans are done. 4 defenders help down so once Richardson passes it out, the Pels enter into scramble mode. Ingram closes out the wrong way. Instead of having his right foot out forcing baseline, he has his left foot out forcing middle. This now means Zion has to help and recover (which he is horrible at). He helps and recovers, but closes out very poorly. Zion has very heavy feet, so whenever he has to close out he continuously gets beat. That isn’t Kevin Durant driving the ball, it is Maxi Kleber. Now, Billy Hernangomez has to help Zion and stop the drive so they don’t get an easy lay up, which leads to a wide open slot drive kick-out 3 for KP. This happens at least 15 times a game.

SVG wants to model his defense after the Raptors and Bucks. Here is the problem, those 2 teams both have/had ELITE rim protection and also have forwards and guards who are athletic enough, long enough, tough enough, smart enough and communicate well enough for it to work. (Middleton, Giannis, Lopez, Portis, Lowry, Siakim, Gasol, Ibaka, Van Vleet, etc..) We have Zion, Ingram, Hart, Redick, Melli, Hernangomez, Hayes and Adams trying to cover all of this ground and it puts them in a bad position every single time. You seriously can’t expect these guys to be able to help down, close out hard and then be athletic enough to stop a slot drive. If you do expect them to do this, then it starts with teaching the correct angles and how to actually close out properly. Hart is an undersized guard and the rest either have slow feet, improper footwork or a low defensive IQ.

I mean seriously, at some point it becomes a math problem. We have a bunch of smart followers but just to be clear, a 3 point shot is worth more than a 2 point shot. The Pelicans are giving up 41 Three Point Attempts A GAME. These are the best players in the world, of course they are going to hit a ton of threes, It is basic math.

Players win you games, but having the right scheme that actually fits your players is the biggest problem facing this team right now. The defensive scheme implemented by SVG is not working and change needs to happen immediately. If not, it will be another losing year for this franchise.

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