I Hate When the Denver Nuggets Switch Screens

There are numerous ways to defend screens in the NBA.  You can trap, show and recover, hedge, lay back and guard the rim or attack and rotate.  The worst of all the options is the straight switch although lay back and guard the rim is pretty bad itself.  There are some situations where it is appropriate to switch screens such as with two seconds or less left in a game when you just need to make sure you can challenge the shot.  Switching nearly every single perimeter screen for an entire game is pure lunacy. 

For some reason the Denver Nuggets chose to do exactly that against the Sacramento Kings. 

The result was a disinterested defensive effort, mismatches galore, foul trouble for Nene and open shot after open shot for the Kings.  Fortunately for the Nuggets after the first 15 minutes of the game the Kings grew  board from making so many easy shots and started daydreaming about the end of the season.

The idea behind switching is that you never allow your opponent’s perimeter shooters to be left open coming off of a screen.  For some reason the Nuggets version of the switching defense had the opposite effect.  Denver’s bigs were so eager to help when a guard was stuck playing defense in the post the Kings were rarely able to work the ball inside.  Denver’s guards did a good job of fronting while the weak side help, particularly Kenyon Martin, did a great job of tipping or intercepting the lob.  The bad news is Sacramento was able to get open jumpers from fifteen feet and out whenever they wanted.  Against a better offensive team Denver would have been lit up.

I have put some clips together so that the Nuggets themselves can demonstrate the folly of switching screens.


If going into the possession you know you are going to switch screens you might as well start off in the mismatch and when the screen is set you can switch into a normal matchup.  Needless to say I hope this is the last time I have to watch Denver use this tactic.

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  • BeefySwats

    I hate to say it, but I’m sure that this won’t be the last time we have a highlight reel of Denver switching on screens.

    Nene and Kenyon should NEVER switch on screens, especially to a smaller player!

    It’s so frustrating to watch obvious defensive lapses like these. I really hope that Denver can improve it’s commitment to fighting through these screens and make sure that they stay with their man. Obviously, there will occasionally be the need for doubles and help defense, but Denver has to have better court awareness if they expect to compete with the top defensive teams (Cleveland, Boston, Orlando) in the league.

  • Stumbleweed

    And I can’t help but think that this is some defensive master plan by our fearless leader, George Karl. The players probably don’t want to find themselves in these matchup problems any more than we do as fans, but it seems like it’s a team philosophy (much like gambling for steals was the past few years). Another thing to pin on George Karl I guess. Can’t wait until it’s finally cheaper get rid of him than to keep him… then we can really get on to some winning.

  • Kay

    How do we do the fan post here?

    Anyway just wanted to stay Melo isn’t a starter for the All Star game, and I doubt the coaches will vote him in. You would think he would be on Lebron’s and DWade’s status, a shoe in. It irks me to compare him to them but God, one has a ring and the other is “king” (I use that word loosely). But I guess not. It’s a popularity contest anyway. Hmph, but I’ll still be watching like always.

  • underworld

    Karl was talking about how the team would be practicing a new zone defense to be used particularly while Jones is hurt. He still doesn’t trust JR on D.