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How to Limit the Impact of A Team's Best Player

Hello Smash Fans! I hope you all are having a great day. In this week’s installment, I want to talk about a concept that is rarely covered in sports media: how teams attempt to slow down superstars and limit their impact on the game. I want to talk about the three main techniques teams try to stop the best player on the other team and how this affects the game.

The first option is quite simple. Stick your best defender on the opposing team’s best player and play your normal defensive scheme. We have seen this strategy work to varying levels of success. Some notable examples of when this technique worked were in this year’s playoffs with the success Patrick Beverley had while guarding Devin Booker in the Western Conference Finals, in last year’s playoffs where Lu Dort frustrated James Harden, and most notably, Kawhi Leonard locking down LeBron in 2014. The major obstacle to the successful execution of this technique is personal. There are very few defenders in the league that can go toe to toe with the best of the best the NBA has to offer and still hold their own. Additionally, this strategy is risky to use long-term as over time a player can figure out a defender, and then the strategy backfires. However, if a player does not figure out the defender and that defender is great at his job, then you get the most effective defensive strategy in the game because you are able to take the best player out of the game while still having the flexibility to run other defensive actions to slow down the other players.

The second type of defensive strategy is a scheme defense designed to slow down the star. A great example of this is the wall technique used to slow down Giannis. The biggest advantage to this type of defense is that it is durable and is hard for offenses to scheme around. For example, it took 2 years for Giannis and the Bucks to find a way to beat The Wall, and even now it is still a decent defense for the Greek Freak. However, it is very hard to scheme up a defense like The Wall. First, a coach has to find a flaw in the opposing player’s game that they can exploit, then they have to create a defense to exploit it, and finally, that coach has to have the right personnel to run the defense. In addition to the above, these strategies also give the team, as a whole, easier shots because your team is so focused on one player.

Finally, there is the “we are going to force the supporting pieces to beat us” strategy. This strategy is pretty self straightforward. You play strictly straight-up defense with little to no help on the opposing team’s best player and you stay home on the other 4 people. This strategy will give the opposing team’s best player the opportunity to put up historic numbers, but one person can’t beat a team, so if you are able to shut the other 4 players down, then you win the game. Now, the advantage of this strategy is that it forces inferior talent to beat you. However, if the aforementioned talent is all start talent, you can’t use this strategy because you will just allow 2 players to score 40 apiece and then the other 7 people in the rotation can give a combined 30 points to give the opponent a win. A great example of this strategy being used correctly is in 2018 when the Warriors just let LeBron be LeBron but made sure no one else could do anything.

Thank you Smash Fans for sticking with me until the end. If you want to talk about this topic or any other topic sports-related, please email me or text me using the information on the contact page. If you want to support me even more, please consider following my Spotify as well as subscribing to my YouTube channel and blog for weekly podcasts and articles. Until next time, PD Smash signing off.

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