In a season that has so far produced two 13-game winning streaks,
a 19-game losing streak and seven coaching changes, the one
constant has been tenacious defense. We polled the coach or an
assistant from each of the 29 teams to determine the D
merits--and in some cases, demerits--of players and schemes
around the league. The respondents were granted anonymity in
exchange for their candor. --Chris Mannix
Three starters whose defense you like to exploit:
Glenn Robinson, 76ers 6
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks. 5
Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers 5
"[The Bulls'] Jalen Rose is not a good positional defender and
not a good situational defender. The kicker is he doesn't care
Three players not known for their defense but who are good
Andre Kirilenko, Jazz 5
James Posey, Grizzlies 3
Kurt Thomas, Knicks 3
"[The Timberwolves'] Sam Cassell and [the Mavericks'] Steve Nash
also do a really good job of keeping guys in front of them."
Defender who forces your team to make the most adjustments:
Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers 6
Ben Wallace, Pistons 5
Kevin Garnett, T-Wolves 3
"You just don't draw up a play for the guy Kevin Garnett is
Best team defense:
Pistons, Pacers 3
"San Antonio is the best team in the league at limiting your
pick-and-roll and your post-up. So you're left with: How can we
beat them off the dribble?"
Worst team defense:
Trail Blazers 3
"The Mavs should be better, but they just say the hell with it
because they're so good offensively."
Best transition defense:
"Houston's guards are shooters, not drivers, so the Rockets have
a line of defense already back."
Worst transition defense:
"When the Lakers had all their players, they were one of the
Best zone defense:
No one 3
"The T-Wolves are long and smart--and they have Kevin Garnett,
who plays like a center."
Worst zone defense:
"The Mavs' was a lot better last year. They're trying to do the
same things, but with worse defenders."
Best low-post defender:
Ben Wallace, Pistons 7
Tim Duncan, Spurs 6
P.J. Brown, Hornets 3
"Duncan doesn't do too much unnecessary stuff. He moves his feet
well, has good timing and is patient."
Best on-ball defender:
Ron Artest, Pacers 16
Bruce Bowen, Spurs 5
Gary Payton, Lakers 2
"Nobody is as tenacious as Ron Artest. He has the ability to do
what his personality wants him to do."
Best off-ball defender:
Ben Wallace, Pistons 7
Allen Iverson, 76ers 5
Doug Christie, Kings 3
"Wallace can come over and clean up a lot of mistakes."
The defenders you'd want, by position, if you needed to make one
stop to win a title:
Ron Artest, SF, Pacers 20
Kevin Garnett, PF, Spurs 13
Tim Duncan, C, Spurs 15
Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers 12
Gary Payton, PG, Lakers 12