The NBA: Low Post Defense and the Title

TylerContributor IAugust 2, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 28:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics attempts a shot as he falls and was fouled against Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 28, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The joining together of the Super Friends—Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh—down in Miami has sparked a world’s worth of debate over whether or not the Miami Heat should be considered the favorites to win the NBA title. We’ve already had two posts on the topic here and here , both taking separate sides. Over the past few weeks I have found myself on both sides of the debate.

One the one hand, the Heat have a ton of talent. They boast two of the top five players in the NBA. Both LeBron and Wade are elite defenders and offensive players that have led teams deep into the playoffs, and one of them already has an NBA title under his belt.

The Heat also have not had as much trouble filling out the roster as some of us, myself included, had hope they would. The Super Friends took less money so they could convince a few less than super friends to tag along for the ride. Really, it’s the kind of thing we all say we wish athletes would do and it’s kind of amazing that it’s happening.

On the other hand, there are questions about how is this team going to work. Who is going to be the playmaker? Are they all really going to be happy sharing the ball? Who takes the last shot in a close game? Can you really throw together a bunch of stars and have the championships start pouring in?

I see both sides, and I have to admit I was leaning towards thinking the Heat were going to plow right over the league. Maybe the Heat are not as good as the Lakers yet, but they have to be the favorites for the East and one you are in the Finals anything can happen, right?

Then looking over the Heat roster I noticed that they seem to be a little weak as far as front line defense goes. Sure, Chris Bosh has put up some nice block shot numbers in the past, and he definitely pulls down some rebounds, but is he enough?

I started to wonder who on the Heat was going to stop Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. I looked at Bosh’s numbers against some of the elite post scorers and I thought I had found a chink in the Heat’s armor.

I floated this issue to a friend of mine, Brendan, who writes on the fantastic blog The Ship Be Sinking . Here is Brendan’s response:

"I’m honestly thinking that the Heat have the kind of perimeter talent which is so awesome that they aren’t really going to have to guard Gasol/Howard/et al. all that much. With Gasol you just ask Bosh to slow him, with Howard you collapse, foul him, or else make him kick it out and use athleticism to recover, and the rest of the time they just out-score everyone. LeBron is also an underrated defender who may put more effort out on that end now that he’s a No. 2 option on offense. He has the physical tools to guard four positions when he’s trying, and both he and Wade are going to generate a LOT of turnovers on defense.

Part of what make the Heat so scary is that so many of the other great teams these days are aging. Kobe’s visibly slowing, the Celtics were mediocre all year until they found a late kick and are all in their mid-30s except for Rondo, the Suns have fallen apart, the Spurs are old at the core, the Mavs are ancient…the Lakers are really the only team I could see beating Miami heads-up, and I would not favor them right now. From here on out it’s only going to be favoring the younger Heat."

Brendan is a smart dude. He knows his sports and I have a world of respect for him. So when I was faced with that retort I figured I had two options, the first was to accept that Brendan is smart as hell and probably right, or do some research and see if I can come up with anything to support my instincts. I choose to just accept Brendan is smart and really I just wanted to waist your time. The end.

Well, that would have been a stupid post. Maybe it would have a little funny to waist your time there, but I’ll have plenty of time for pointless, time wasting, stupid posts in the future. I decided to do some research. As it turns out I did a little more than I expected, and some of it I won’t get into my upcoming posts.

I want to keep things fairly simple. I want to make sure that whatever results I come up with passed the common sense test. Really, I want anyone who did not bother to look it up would say “that seems about right," while at the same time I want to make sure that I have some numbers that either support my assumptions or make it clear that I’m barking up the wrong tree.

Over the course of the next few days, I’m going to take a look at low post defense and how it relates to teams winning the NBA title. Part of this will be looking at what I think these findings mean for the Celtics and the Heat as well as other teams around the league.

So let’s climb into the "silly blogger uses silly numbers (probably incorrectly) to try and prove a point" car and take a ride.