Beneath the Screen: 3-Point Defense

Published: November 23, 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.

In this week’s edition, Jake takes a look at why the Hornets are giving up so many open 3’s.


The Hornets have developed a problem recently: Giving up uncontested 3-point jumpers. It’s been killing the Hornets in games they could otherwise keep close or win.

And it’s also driving me absolutely crazy.

If you follow me on twitter (@nolajake), then you may have seen (read?) me losing my mind during the Knicks game on Tuesday. I can’t remember ever being that frustrated during a sporting event. It was so bad that I needed to take the next night off from watching the team.

So what’s going on? In his recap of the Pacers game, Ryan noted two problems. First, that the defensive rotations were brutal. Second, that the Hornets lack enough speed on the perimeter to close out well on open shooters. This is absolutely correct and when combined, like they are with the Hornets, yield terrible results. There is also a third factor which I will get into later.

To the Madistrator!

Here Felton brings the ball up against the Hornets with Vasquez defending him. Everything is fine right now.

Felton passes to Kidd and Vasquez starts to move that way to provide help defense if needed. Against a great shooting team like the Knicks, I’m not a huge fan of the strategy but no Hornets are committing any sins yet–plus Monty is paid to be a coach and I’m not. But notice a gap is developing between Vasuqez and Felton.

Kidd passes the ball to Anthony in the post and cuts to far side of the court. Vasquez moves even lower to be in better position to provide help defense on Anthony. Seeing this, Felton slides closer to Anthony to provide an outlet pass.

And this is what drives me crazy.

Vasquez isn’t doubling teaming Anthony; he’s just standing there. And by just standing there look at the distance he would need to cover to close out on Felton. Vasquez isn’t fast enough to do it. Instead of just being in position to help, Vasquez either needs to commit to the double team or be better positioned to close out on Felton. Right now he’s stuck in a no-man’s-land.

What makes it even worse is that Lopez, Rivers and, to an extent, Anderson are also in position to help defend Anthony. To sum it up: Vasquez just does not need to be there.

Because this is what happens. Anthony kicks the ball out to Felton, who has tons of space to shoot, on an easy pass. Kidd is also wide open for 3, but at least that would have been a tougher pass to make. That is just one example above, but trust me the past handful of games are filled with situations just like it.

I’ve been having nightmares filled with uncontested, open 3’s.

So why is this happening? Part of it is just poor rotations and slow speed. Another factor is the absence of Anthony Davis. Against the Knicks, the Hornets seemed incredibly worried about giving up points in the paint. Davis, while not playing at an elite defensive level yet, is athletic and tall enough that he causes most players trouble on the block. Without him against the Knicks, the Hornets resorted to putting all five players down low.

In last week’s Beneath the Screen Gerry V left the following comment, “protect the rim is the rule….a jumper is what you want to force, don’t allow the gimme.” This is absolutely correct. It’s smart basketball to defend inside out. A layup is much easier to make than a three.

However, I think the Hornets are taking this idea a little too seriously. After the Pacers game, Aminu said the Hornets would “rather give up uncontested threes than easy twos.”

I’m with packing the paint and contesting everything when the opponent goes inside. Make them take it out of there and force a jumper. But against certain teams, uncontested threes are gimmies. Like the Knicks. Hopefully, when Davis returns, the Hornets still feel comfortable with him providing help defense in the paint and contesting every attempt while still allowing for strong perimeter defense.

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


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