Jakes Take 11/06/10: Milwaukee's Royal Defender
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs. Hornets
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is the most valuable defender in the NBA. Boom. There it is. I said it, and I believe it. Think about it, let it marinate, and we'll come back to it later. But first, let's discuss the usual contenders and how they don't hold a candle to The Prince.
Orlando center Dwight Howard is the two-time defending holder of the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. And for good reason. He defends the paint well, rebounds and routinely sends back three shots a game. Howard recently stated, though, that he blocks shots out of bounds on purpose. He tried to validate the method to his madness by saying it "sends a message." Me, I think it gives the other team an extra possession. That's not typically considered a good thing.
Other big men like Tim Duncan and the Celtics big man whose name shall not be typed have long been considered among the league's elite defenders. While they're both still effective on the defensive end, they're also both past their defensive primes.
On the wing, Kobe Bryant can turn on the defensive intensity when he needs to, but his offense is usually needed more, causing his defense to waver slightly. LeBron James is the same way, but he gets some additional acknowledgement due to his proclivity for chasing down blocks on the fast break. Atlanta's Josh Smith can make some amazingly athletic defensive plays, but too many mental lapses takes away from his overall effectiveness.
At the point, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo are both excellent thieves and can press full court with the best of them. They also both tend to take unnecessary chances in the passing lanes that force their teammates to cover up for their miscues.
That brings us back to The Prince, the occasionally recognized but routinely overlooked hybrid defender for our Milwaukee Bucks. Let's knock out what he won't do first so we can get the good stuff. He's not going to block three shots a game like Howard and he's not going to swipe multiple passes per game like Paul or Rondo. His defensive efforts aren't going to show up on SportsCenter anytime soon either. Playing defense is much more than highlights and the glory statistics, though.
Neither of the aforementioned players offers the kind of play-in and play-out defensive versatility that The Prince does. Not even close. So far this year he's guarded a brute in Kevin Love, he's defended against high-flyers Gerald Wallace and Tyrus Thomas, he's taken LaMarcus Aldridge in the post and Brandon Roy on the perimeter, he's chased Ray Allen around screens and he's followed Danny Granger all over the court.
All told, that's six all-star or borderline all-star players he has defended this year - all of whom play different positions and boast different skill sets - and he's done so effectively. The Prince is such a flexible and willing defender that I don't think it's a total stretch to say that he could successfully guard any player in the NBA. He may not be the most exciting defender, he may not be the most athletic, and he may not pack the box score as much as some, but I challenge anyone to find a more valuable defender.
I never found myself excited to watch someone play defense prior to The Prince coming to Milwaukee. Whenever I see an opposing player isolated on Luc, I immediately move to the edge of my seat. There's not a doubt in my mind that he'll put the clamps on whoever is silly enough to think they can take him. I'm 100 percent confident that the Prince will force said player into a bad shot or a poor decision. I rarely see anything different.
I often read about or listen to folks talk about who they'd pick to take the last shot in a game-winning situation. I've never heard anyone talk about who they'd pick to defend a potentially game-winning shot, though. My theory: That discussion is never had because there is no discussion to be had. Why? Because the answer, plain and simple, is Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
- Carlos Delfino's hands are looking extra quick this season. He's never been a proficient thief by any means, averaging over one steal a game for the first time last season. Delfino's hands have been in and out of passing lanes all season long thus far, though. It's been a combination of taking the opponent's dribble from them and reading the passer's eyes and jumping the passing lanes. Delfino is at 1.7 steals per contest so far this season, including another theft in the first half tonight.
- You can put me in the group of people who are not a fan of New Orleans' uniforms. I actually don't mind the alternative yellow jerseys, which is weird because I usually hate everything yellow, especially Hummers. The teal, though, that's a whole other story. Aside from the questionable teal coloring, I'm also not feeling the pin stripes. I usually love pin stripes, but New Orleans' pin stripes seem too far apart, plus they're multi-colored. Finally, the debatable teal coloring has encouraged Hornets players to sport purple shoes. David West has chosen what appear to be Marty McFly's shoes from "Back to the Future Part II", except in purple. On a quasi-related note, the second "Back to the Future" took place in 2015. That's a mere four years and change away from being the present day. Personally, I think our innovators need to pick up the pace. I need me a hoverboard.
- The first-half shooting percentage might not be the best indication, but the Bucks showed improved ball movement in the opening stanza. There was good player movement and the ball rarely stayed in one place very long. The Bucks tallied nine assists on their 15 first-half buckets, which is a vast improvement over their previous assist-to-basket ratios. For the season, the Bucks are assisting on just over 50 percent of their baskets.
- I think one of Chris Paul's greatest skills is his ability to keep the tempo where he wants it. He keeps a great pace, never goes too fast, never goes too slow; he goes just as quickly as he needs to get the job done. Paul's pace control allows him to rarely miss an open passing lane or an opening for penetration. His court awareness and general wiliness should also be noted. Early in the second quarter, Paul had an open court ahead of him and was cruising in for an easy deuce. The Prince was closing in from behind to try and pin the shot against the backboard but Paul put a little extra arc on the layup, putting it high off the glass and out of the defender's reach. It's this kind of on-court savvy that separates the haves from the have-nots.
Closing It Out
Tonight's contest was a perfect example of "too little, too late." The Bucks struggled offensively through the first three quarters, scoring just 54 points on 35 percent shooting. They turned up the offense in the fourth frame with big buckets from John Salmons and Brandon Jennings, but it wasn't enough. One quarter of good offense and three quarters of bad offense doesn't typically get the job done.
Andrew Bogut was the only Buck who did much of anything in the first three quarters, finishing with 19 points, 14 boards and three assists. Salmons added 14 points and Jennings 12, but neither shot the ball particularly well. The Prince, as if on cue, continued to show his defensive versatility, shadowing Paul in the waning moments of the game and forcing some miscues. To Milwaukee's credit, it took much better care of the ball tonight, committing just 10 turnovers compared to 17 total assists. The 17-to-10 assist-to-turnover ratio marked Milwaukee's best showing of the season.
Paul did hit a key floater in the late going to pretty much seal the deal, though. While Paul was clutch down the stretch, West was again the biggest mismatch for the Bucks tonight, scoring 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting. In two meetings this season, West has averaged 23.5 points on 73 percent shooting.
For three games in a row the Bucks have fallen behind by sizeable margins and found a way to battle back. I give them all the credit in the world for not giving up, but they can't continue to put themselves in that position. Quicker starts and consistent offense is what the Bucks need. Now it's just a matter of if they can find it.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.