Beneath the Screen: Help Defense

Published: November 16, 2012

In a recurring post throughout the season, Jake will take a look at the inner workings of the Hornets’ offense and defense–what works, what doesn’t and why, as well as how the Hornets can improve.

Today, we look at Anthony Davis on defense.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Anthony Davis is his lack of committing fouls while on defense. He is currently averaging only 1.5 fouls per game. For a rookie bigman that is very impressive. However, against the Rockets Davis he committed four fouls. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Davis struggled at times in the preseason and against the Spurs with his help defense. If a guard drove into the paint, Davis would often be slow sliding to help defend him. As he’s gotten a few more games under his belt, this has improved. It’s Friday; I’m optimistic about the game tonight, so let’s take a look at a good example.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Davis does a very good job of facing the ball. His eyes are always following the ball and adjusting his positioning to try and be in the best spot possible.

Davis is still following the ball but uses his arm to know where his mark is. This prevents his from losing his man and allowing an open cut or jump shot.

Davis sags off his man and shifts to the strong side. In case of someone driving to the rim, Davis is in position to make a play as the help defender.

Here, Davis is able to cover his mark on offense and the roll man on the pick and roll.

And because of his positioning Davis is able to block the shot.

What also helps Davis make plays like the one above is his athleticism. He is simply able to make plays that others can’t. Combine that with his court vision/intelligence. But relying solely on his athleticism can also hurt him. Let’s take a look.

On the pick and roll, Davis has over pursued the ball handler. He’s standing behind the 3 point line. He has no business going out that far. Davis realizes this and tries to recover, but, as you can see, he loses his footing slightly.

As Davis rushes back, he’s just lost on defense. Look where he is standing. Who is he guarding?

Davis gets back to the paint but still looks lost? The Rockets have an open shooter for a corner three and Chandler Parsons has an open lane for a drive.

Davis tries to make a play on the ball and is in position to at least contest the shot, but ultimately isn’t in the best position to make a play. Instead he fouls Parsons for one of his four in the game.

This worries me tremendously for tonight. Westbrook is incredibly fast, if Davis over pursues or isn’t in perfect position to play help defense, Westbrook should have no trouble scoring against the Hornets.

Beneath the Screen is a reoccurring series throughout the season run on Fridays. See past editions here.


  1. philippeiiauguste

    November 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

    In the second play you analyzed, is there anything better that Davis could have done once he had over-committed to the ballhandler? Of course Davis wants to (and will) learn to get better at judging how far to pursue, and this kind of thing happens to every big man sometimes, but should we expect some kind of band-aid-type solution in the short term for when he does get burned like this?

    • Jake Madison

      November 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      That’s a great question, and something I probably should have included in the post–I’ll try and include more of that in the future!

      First and foremost, there is no need for him go go out that far on a guard unless he’s trapping the ball handler with another defender.

      If he’s caught out of position, then he needs to either hustle back to his man or stay on the guard he switched to. By doing neither you can see how many open shooters Houston has.

  2. philippeiiauguste

    November 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Great post, by the way.

  3. Ron

    November 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    [OT] Ticket prices in the upper ranks of the lower bowl (Section 124) are $187 each???

    • Jason Calmes

      November 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      Club on a prime night.

      • Ron

        November 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        I thought about Tuesday against the Knicks, but thought this would be less likely of a loss. Day-of-week pricing never occurred to me. Oh well…

  4. Okithor

    November 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I like these post. Good job!

  5. pschafer

    November 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Great post. Keep ’em coming!

  6. GerryV

    November 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I have observed Davis and yes he has moments of alert “off the ball defense” ( nice work on your part displaying this) I have also seen plays where his alertness vanishes and allows weak side cutters to slice him……in the open floor i saw a couple of plays where OKC got to the rim for layups as Davis committed to the ball not realizing a lane runner was coming behind him…( protect the rim is the rule….a jumper is what you want to force,don’t allow the gimme)…….its natural for a rookie to make some of these mistakes in a faster NBA game…..I love the defensive potential…and he can indeed be a very good one in time…very good one……nice work on your photo layout…

  7. GerryV

    November 17, 2012 at 8:50 am

    also lets remember that the defense “on the ball” has not been up to par…this puts pressure on your help defenders……Houston and OKC wrecked the Hornets in the 1st half in both games getting into the rim/restricted area……compound that with how both Houston and OKC further punished the Hornets with the 3-Ball……

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