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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