Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team defense is a term used to describe the philosophy of a team’s defensive objectives. All teams try to make it difficult on an offense to score. There are different ways to accomplish that objective. Michael Asiffo shares his insights on team defense by separating teams that prioritize defending the 3 point line aggressively compared to a team defense that focuses more on defending the paint.

Many casual fans of basketball assume that team defense is just an effort thing. I cannot tell you how many times I hear “he’s got to want it more” when a player allows a dump off pass. While basketball is an effort thing, a lot of it has to do with system.

team defense defending the jumpshot

For any casual fans reading this, team defense is a system as well. Like in any system, there are better pieces than others, but the system that one operates in can make them a better defender. A coach can get into numerous defensive schemes. However, each system attempts to do one or the other. Either attempts to force the opposing offence middle or to force the offence to the edge or corners. In other words, a team will value perimeter protection or paint protection more. This has been highly contested among coaches and has only become more prevalent due to the emergence of the pick and roll.

If you need a professional basketball league example of this, look no further than the Raptors vs Pacers series that concluded recently. The Raptors team defense opts to defend the paint, almost at all costs (just take a look at their first game against the Cavs). This is a stark contrast to the Pacers’ team defense which played aggressively on the perimeter thus sacrificing paint protection.

Here are advantages and disadvantages to both:

Advantages

Defending the paint:

  • Teams do not allow back breaking easy buckets in half court sets often: this often means that big men do not get easy layups
  • Teams are able to contain penetration: for players whose games are predicated on the ability to finish at the rim, paint protection teams are their worst nightmare.
  • Force tough shots: the three is a tougher shot than a layup, therefore a paint protection team are “playing the percentages”

Defending the perimeter:

  • Force teams into live ball turnovers: perimeter players are typically the passers of the team. Thus, cutting off their passing lane to other perimeter players and big men allows for more bad passes. This ends up creating turnovers in live play, which usually lead to easy buckets.
  • Ball dominant guards struggle against perimeter defenders: ball movement is key against this defensive philosophy, if a guard holds the ball too long then disaster strikes for the offense.
  • The open three point shot is limited: players are shooting and making three points at a rate that we have never seen. The perimeter protection philosophy holds the shooters in check or at the very least to shot contested threes.

Disadvantages

Defending the paint:

  • The three point shot is typically open: if the ball is able to go inside then out (i.e. drive and kick, post up pass to three) then the perimeter shot is available.
  • Players who shoot well gives this team problems: a player who can shoot well from the perimeter in a spot up or pull up situation will have good nights against a team that follows this philosophy.

Defending the perimeter:

  • Big men tend to do well against this philosophy: big men typically get one on one situations or dump off opportunities against a team with this defensive philosophy, making it really easy for a big man to have a good night.
  • Fatiguing: it is hard for players to consistently move with a player, making it tiring to sustain energy with this Philosophy.

Obviously, no smart coach completely goes to one side of the spectrum with these philosophies. A team values one over the other depending on its personnel. This is why two-way players are so highly valued, and so rare, because it allows for a system to go as planned by the coach.