Some notes on the Cavs’ perimeter defense

April 16th, 2010 by John Krolik

I recently got access to a form of Synergy Sports, which is very, very cool. I’ll be using it a lot in the coming weeks and months, but for now here are some quick notes on the Synergy stats for the Cavs’ perimeter defenders. Synergy’s good for perimeter defenders because it tracks how players do against them in one-on-one situations, like isolations and post-ups. That data can be tough to isolate, but Synergy has managed to do it. Here are some of the numbers on the Cavs’ perimeter defenders:

-If you asked me about what kind of a defender LeBron is, I probably would have said that he’s a decent man-t0-man defender for most of the game, but makes up for it by covering a ton of ground on the weak side in half-court situations. This season, that hasn’t been the case. LeBron doesn’t usually guard the other team’s best scorer, so he doesn’t get challenged often. When he does get challenged, the offensive player generally loses. In isolation situations, opponents went 29-92 against LeBron this season (2-11 from three.) They also turned it over 18% of the time when they tried to take it at LeBron one-on-one. For the first 35 minutes of a game, LeBron is a sleeping dragon on defense. Do not poke him.

-Opponents actually made 48% of their post shots against LeBron, but they only tried to post him 29 times. In 76 games, opponents scored on LeBron 43 times in isolations or in the post.

-Unfortunately, LeBron wasn’t very good with his weak-side rotations. LeBron likes to rotate way off his man to clog the lane and look for the block or the steal. When he’s giving 100% like he was most of last year, he’s capable of recovering and getting back to his man before he can launch a three. This season, he was a bit lackadaisical with his rotations, and allowed 1.07 points per possession in “spot-up” situation, with opponents going 50-134 from beyond the arc when they spotted up when LeBron was supposed to be guarding them. Hopefully he’ll close out a little harder come playoff time.

-Yeah, Mo Williams is bad at defense. He gives up 1.04 points per possession, which ranks him 425th among current players. That’s not good. In isolation situations, opponents shoot 40% against Mo. He’s not that bad about playing help defense; opponents shoot 40% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc against Mo when they spot up. That’s not great, but it’s acceptable.

-Parker is above-average and very solid. Opponents shoot 38%/30% against him in ISO situations, and 35%/32% in spot-up situations. About what you’d think.

-Delonte West is interesting. He’s not all that great in isolation (44%/40%), but he’s a monster at closing down shooters, holding opponents to 30%/27% in spot-up situations. Definitely not what you’d expect from an undersized and tenacious defender like Delonte.

-In isolation, Jamario holds opponents to 33%/11%, but literally almost never forces a turnover. Opponents shoot 35/31% against him when they spot up.

Well, that’s what the Cavs’ perimeter defenders look like. One other Synergy note: LeBron shoots 57% in post-up situations. Since he almost never turns it over down there, he averages 1.15 points per post possession. That ranks him 14th in the NBA in those situations. This makes me extremely happy and extremely frustrated at the same time.