Following the Spurs' Defensive Principles

The Spurs blog 48minutesofhell has a great post up today on the guiding principles the Spurs have followed for years. 

As a guy who also enjoys watching the Spurs and sees them as the number one team to emulate, I've known about the principles for a while. Every Spurs fan knows them. The basic defensive philosophy of the Spurs has been absolutely the same for nearly a decade now. And there's a good reason for that, it works.

Avery being a former Spur, hopefully already knows these, and hopefully we incorporate elements of these into our defense. 


Force guards away from the middle of the floor


It’s easy to boil it down to this: when the ball-handler gets to the middle and into the lane, bad things happen. This is because the offensive player has options. And the basic premises of defense are to limit the number of ways the offense can score and make it as hard as possible for them to do that.

When opposing guards get into the lane, they cause damage. They get good looks at the basket, find open teammates and draw fouls. A ball-handler in the middle of the lane usually has a better look at the basket than when forced towards the sideline or baseline. Additionally, he probably got past the defender guarding him en route to the lane. This means other defenders will have to rotate over to help on the ball-handler, leaving other offensive players open if the ball-handler can find them with a good pass.

This isn't a very complex idea to grasp. A player driving down the middle has more options available to him than if he were driving anywhere else on the floor. He can get a pass to every single one of his teammates. Contrast that to if you force him to say, the left side of the floor. From the left side, his choices now become more narrow. There is no longer any pass to the guy on the far right side of the court, he no longer has a lot of room to move on his left side, there is no teammate on his left side, his options and his choices are now that much more predictable. 

Back when the Spurs had Duncan and Robinson, what they would do is divert them to the sides and basically funnel them into their shotblockers. Force a guy to drive right or left, and have a shotblocker there waiting for them. Lead to opponent to your defense, instead of making the defense come to the opponent. 


Do not give up the corner 3-pointer, otherwise you face the wrath of Coach Pop


Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s next hard-and-fast rule on defense is to prevent the opponent from getting a corner 3. Coach Pop believes that the corner 3 is one of the most effective shots in basketball, which is why the Spurs look for so many corner 3′s on offense and try to prevent all of them on defense


The corner three is the easiest of all the three pointers you can hit on the floor. It is one of the top 3 shots in basketball. The best shot in basketball is a free throw, since it's uncontested. The 2nd best shot is a dunk or layup since it's an extremely high percentage shot. Next comes the corner 3, because it gives you 3 points. Long two pointers are the absolutely worst shot in basketball. It's the lowest percentage shot that gives you only 2 points. 


A post is also up today on Netsarescorching about how we could make the playoffs if Avery can get the guys to play defense.

As Sebastian noted, this will not be a walk in the park


 four of the five projected starters (Harris, Morrow, Outlaw, Murphy, and Lopez) can be considered a defensive liability individually.

On the perimeter, we already know about Devin’s tendency to reach and get lazy, allowing for his man to get by him.  Anthony Morrow is just as bad, if not worse on the defensive end.  According to, Morrow allowed opposing SGs to put up 23.3 points/48 and post a PER of 17.8 (average is 15).  On the inside, while Troy Murphy does pull down defensive rebounds, he is a pretty weak defender.  Murphy allowed opposing PFs to put up a PER of 21.5, and when he was on the court the Pacers’ defense allowed 4.1 more points per 100 possessions than when he was off the court.  Brook Lopez is a decent one on one defender, but his poor foot speed and lateral movement is a concern, especially when pairing him with Murphy, who doesn’t have the quickest feet.

But it's not impossible

Despite all of the flaws on the defensive end, the Nets can still be a solid defensive team, and this is where Avery Johnson and the rest of the Nets’ coaching staff come into play.  Avery Johnson needs to install a concept of team defense where everyone has each others’ back. 

This is where the defensive principles come into play. If we keep our opponents outside the middle of the floor, and defend the corner three, it will help our team immensely on defense as well as helping our playoff chances

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