Coaches' Poll Who's got defense? Which players would coaches want on the court when they need a stop? Whose D do they love to exploit? We asked them

February 16, 2004

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
either."

Three players not known for their defense but who are good
defenders:

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
guarding."

Best team defense:

Spurs 5
Rockets 7
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:

Mavericks 11
Magic 5
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:

Rockets 9
Spurs 6
Pacers 4

"Houston's guards are shooters, not drivers, so the Rockets have
a line of defense already back."

Worst transition defense:

Mavericks 8
Clippers 4
Magic 3

"When the Lakers had all their players, they were one of the
worst."

Best zone defense:

Timberwolves 17
No one 3

"The T-Wolves are long and smart--and they have Kevin Garnett,
who plays like a center."

Worst zone defense:

Mavericks 7
Magic 4
Everyone 3

"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

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Ron Artest

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)