Desperate NBA Teams That Should Full-Court Press
The old adage about defense is that it wins championships.
History has proven that saying true in sports, as teams with dominant defenses usually are guaranteed success.
In today's NBA, a lot of emphasis is put on high-octane offenses and flashy players, who can display highlight-reel, SportsCenter moments, but the importance of defense come May and June hasn't changed.
Teams with stingy defenses usually find themselves playing deeper into the summer months.
While we're only just getting into the second month of the NBA season, some teams could already use a major defensive transformation.
The full-court press is one of basketball's oldest and most basic defensive strategies, but it can be very effective in small doses.
With some teams suffering from consistent defensive blunders, they could certainly utilize a desperate tactic like the full-court press.
Here are desperate NBA teams that should situationally utilize the full-court press.
Note: All statistics are as of Nov. 30.
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The Phoenix Suns haven't seen their name at the top of any defensive categories for quite some time, dating back to the Mike D'Antoni-Steve Nash-led squads in the beginning part of the millennium. While they were usually a top 10 offense, the defense always lacked.
This season, the Suns are currently the worst defense in the league, allowing 102.6 points per game. The Suns' perimeter defense is awful, allowing opponents to shoot 43.2 percent from three-point line, which is also dead last in the NBA. Their opponents' overall field goal percentage isn't much better, at 47.1 percent, which is third worst in the league.
Being that the Suns actually force a decent amount of turnovers, almost 15 per contest, they could benefit from full-court pressing their opponents.
Phoenix has an athletic backcourt duo of Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown, with an equally athletic Michael Beasley to back them up in the frontcourt. The backcourt duo averages a combined 2.7 steals per game, with Dragic's 2.1 per game tied for the fourth most steals in the NBA.
Dragic is extremely quick and fast, and with Brown's strength and size, they would pose an effective press in particular stretches.
This is a team that gave up 115 points to an anemic Orlando Magic offense and 117 against an equally awful Detroit Pistons team. A desperate move is needed at this point.
The Toronto Raptors suffer from a paltry defense, contributing to their 4-13 record. They allow 101.5 points per game, good enough for fourth worst in the league. They also allow opponents to torch them from the field (46 percent) and the three-point line (38.3 percent), while posting a minus 5.6 scoring differential.
Toronto's defense has failed to get key stops down the stretch (vs. Phoenix, Indiana and Detroit) and from not having a true defensive anchor on the roster.
The Raptors are a great example of a team that should employ the full-court press as a move of desperation. They possess one of the more athletic backcourts in the NBA, with point guard Kyle Lowry and the freakishly-athletic wing DeMar DeRozan.
Both are strong defenders, combining for 2.9 steals per contest and can use their athleticism to create matchup problems. The Raptors defense has been especially bad in late-game situations this season, so the press could work well for them.
According to 82games.com, the Raptors five-man unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas allows 0.94 points per possession, which is their top defense unit for players that have played at least 18 minutes together.
Lowry and DeRozan have the ability to make an effective full-court press for the Raptors in short spurts.
The young Cleveland Cavaliers have many aspects they need to improve on defensively. They currently give up 100.2 points per game, while allowing opponents to shoot a league-worst 49 percent from the field. The team's scoring differential is -5.7, which is third worst in the NBA.
As a team, they allow nearly 107 points per 100 possessions, which is just behind New Orleans for last in the NBA, according to HoopData.com.
Kyrie Irving's absence obviously has put a huge damper on the Cavaliers season early on, while their youth and inexperience has cost them in close games numerous times this season.
Fortunately for the Cavs, they have a wealth of athletes on the roster, who are solid individual defenders.
Alonzo Gee and Dion Waiters would form a potent full-court press duo up front, while Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao could back them from the frontcourt. The foursome combines for 5.4 steals per game.
The key to the press, however, would be Gee. The athletic combo guard averages 2.54 steals, blocks and charges combined and can cover plenty of ground with his speed and size.
Gee and Waiters could bring a great trap in necessary situations to help with some of Cleveland's defensive woes. The Cavaliers have nothing to lose, so a desperate move like the press isn't a bad idea.
The normally stout Boston Celtics defense hasn't been as intimidating this season. While their 9-7 record is nothing to panic about, the Celtics' defensive numbers may be something to be concerned about.
With the Celtics being one of the oldest teams in the league, they aren't exactly the most high-octane offense. They get their points when they need them, but Boston's defense has always been its staple during the Big Three era.
This year, however, the Celtics are allowing an uncharacteristic 99.7 points per contest, while allowing opponents to scorch them from the field at 46 percent and 38 percent from beyond the arc.
The Celtics have allowed the Magic, Pistons and Wizards combine for 307 points on them this season, while allowing seven 100-point games as well.
It might be time for Coach Doc Rivers to use a different defensive strategy in select situations.
Rajon Rondo and and Courtney Lee are both very athletic, feisty players that can play the necessary scrappy defense for the full-court press.
That duo could anchor the trap, with an athletic Jeff Green acting as a power forward and Kevin Garnett quarterbacking the press at center. Rondo has shown his ability to cause pressure on great ball handlers (see LeBron James in 2010 postseason), and the full-court press could revitalize a rather stale Celtics defense so far.
The Miami Heat are in no way, shape or form desperate. But, defensively? You could make a case for that.
The Heat have arguably been the best and most consistent defensive team in the NBA over the past two seasons. Since LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived in South Beach to pair up with Dwyane Wade, the team's mindset has been defense first.
Defense was the Heat's blueprint in their championship run last season, and it has been a motto for the team.
Suddenly, Miami's defense has gone from suffocating to any random bench player may have a career night against them this year.
The Heat still have the ability to suffocate opposing offenses due to their unique athletic ability across the roster, but it usually comes at a cost. When they lock down the paint, open three-point shooters have been scorching them. When they are effectively guarding the perimeter, team's are having a field day inside the paint.
According to teamrankings.com, Miami's opponents rack up 26.7 percent of their points from three pointers, which is second worst in the league. The Heat also allow 40.9 points per game in the paint.
This isn't to say the Heat are desperate and need a radical defensive alteration, because they are still 11-3, and there is no reason to be desperate with that record.
But, if any team could be successful with the full-court press, it's the Miami Heat. More often that not, James and Wade act as the Heat's backcourt, both bringing up the ball on offense, as well as guarding point guards that Mario Chalmers cannot on defense.
While the Heat have obviously been outstanding in clutch time this season, and shown the ability to clamp down defensively in order to pull out a victory, they've been bailed out by Ray Allen's unbelievably clutch shooting more than anything.
Allen will eventually miss the big shot, and the Heat will need to rely on staunch defense and getting turnovers to win close games. If James and Wade utilize the full-court press during clutch time, opponents would have a very difficult time bringing the ball up the floor against two elite defenders.
Obviously, Miami wouldn't want to employ this too often so they don't expend too much energy, but the press could be a very successful strategy in select late-game scenarios or times when the Heat are simply getting rained on from all areas of the floor.