In the current era of basketball where advanced analytics is ingratiated into most conversations one of the larger blind spots in those metrics is the quantifying of defensive value.
Like all other team based sports, there are variables that influence defensive impact that aren’t readily evident in data.
For the Lakers, one of the less pronounced but still important roster battles that has been ongoing is the one between Dwight Howard and Javale McGee. While one player is looking to build upon his efforts in his second year with the Lakers, the other is looking to make things right in his second stint with the team.
Though both McGee and Howard are expected to have similar responsibilities, there is a difference in how they integrate within the Lakers lineups. Those differences are difficult to quantify with data but when looking at the tape, interesting patterns begin to appear. In this installment, we’ll take a look at how they defend the screen and roll to better understand their impact.
Screen and Roll Defense
Both players do a great job defending the screen and roll action but there is a difference in how they defend rim attackers that I want to display.
Javale’s technique involves how he allows enough berth for ball handlers to navigate through the paint, giving the illusion that they have just enough room to get a layup attempt off, only for him to deny them using his length.
Take a look at how Javale presses the mid-range and provides enough berth to bait ball handlers into attempting layups so he can block them.
When you watch the tape as to what Dwight likes to do in screen and roll defense, you can see how Dwight likes to keep himself in between the ball handler and the rim rather than pressing them in one direction or the other.
This is a difference in technique that works better when considering which lineups you want to through the course of the game.
Watch how Dwight often positions himself closer to the rim and at times makes sure he keeps himself between the rim and the ball handler.
Why The Difference Matters
The reason why I wanted to highlight this defensive action is because the difference in technique between Dwight and Javale is what helps dictate the fit within different lineups that the Coach Vogel may want to run.
Javale’s technique is sort of a gamble since he is allowing ball handlers a way to the rim. Even though the upside is getting blocks, it requires incredible timing and hoping that the ball handler doesn’t find a way to draw fouls.
An additional concern is that when Javale goes for these type of blocks, he leaves a vacuum of space behind him that opens up easy offensive rebound opportunities for opposing centers. That is why having a good team rebounder like Anthony Davis works to diminish those opportunities.
Ideally, having wing defenders that do a good job getting around screens helps mitigate how often Javale has to do this and allows him to be more effective at what he is good at on the offensive end.
Howard’s technique is better suited for lineups that may have wing defenders that struggle around screen action. Since Howard often will keep himself between the ball and the rim, he is often forcing attackers into taking their shots from no man’s land.
Dwight also has the defensive resume and respect from the officials when it comes to how his verticality is refereed. Dwight also isn’t the nimble rim runner that Javale is, so there are many possessions where he may be the last line of defense as well as the last guy back on offense as well.
Using Dwight in lineups with lesser wing defenders allows the Lakers to maximize his defensive talents while helping minimize the deficiency from the wing defenders.
In an era where many teams use different actions to attack the paint, having the right combination of players anchored by either big man is incredibly important to the Lakers being successful.
Understanding their technical styles and using the right lineup permutations to maximize them is a season long task for the Lakers coaches. While the entire fanbase keeps their eyes glued to the chemistry between James and Davis, the chemistry between our paint patrolling giants is just as important to our championship aspirations.