This morning I was listening to the CBS Eye On Basketball podcast, more commonly known as the Pick and Troll podcast, hosted by Zach Harper (@talkhoops) and Ethan Sherwood Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss), and it's a podcast I highly recommend. In the second half of the podcast Ethan makes some assertions about Dirk Nowitzki, mainly about him being a bad defender on a team that struggles with defense.
I can see how he'd come to that conclusion. Dirk's had trouble moving for nearly two years now, with a few small exceptions, and he's a liability in one on one match ups. However, his help defense has always been underrated. But that got me to wondering: who is the worst defensive player in the Dallas rotation?
This is a mainly subjective question, because basketball is a team game and I'm sure we could all find stats and data to back up a particular assertion. In fact, I encourage this in the comments because while I have my opinions, and I'm going to share them shortly, I'm not convinced I'm right. So let's go player by player, and I'll share my thoughts and you all can vote below and discuss in the comments.
Chris Kaman - Mr. Kaman has taken a great deal of criticism for his game as of late, but his defense has been a much larger problem for Dallas than his shot selection. It's not that he doesn't try, in fact I believe Kaman plays very hard. Rather, it's that his athleticism and lift are non existent and in a pick and roll league, he's been unable to hedge screens, recover, or protect the rim with consistency. His defensive rebounding and shot blocking comes and goes, because he's had a number of fine games. Other games though, particularly against teams with offensively talented bigs, Kaman has had a lot of trouble on the defensive end, to the point where Carlisle has not played him for stretches of games.
Darren Collison - He is actually my vote for worst defensive player for Dallas. Collison may seem like a decent defender just because he manages to get a good number of steals, but if you focus on his defense for stretches of games you'll see why I feel this way. When covering the ball handler he usually has no idea where a screen is coming from, which is odd considering his teammates announce them. Even without screens Collison has trouble staying in front of offensive players, getting taken to the paint with annoying regularity. In terms of help defense, he makes the wrong rotation A LOT. I've seen instances of Shawn Marion pushing him towards the correct rotation after making the wrong one. That sort of thing shows a misunderstanding of the Dallas defensive scheme as well as a lack of faith in the rotations of his teammates. Some of this poor defense is related to not having a solid rim protector, because as I've stated defense is a team effort. He should still be much better than he is, considering his speed and quickness.
Mike James - James is a tough call, because he's 37 so what should we expect? Then again, he got caught trying to block Jared Dudley last night so I feel he has a spot on this list. Similar to Collison, James has trouble staying in front of guys, but unlike Collison I believe it has more to do with age and waning athleticism than confusion. Paired with front court players who aren't great defensively only exacerbates his defensive short comings. He's honestly down on the list of problem guys, in my opinion, which probably isn't fair to Collison since James is the starter.
Dirk Nowitzki - Dirk's always been an underrated defender. His hands are quick and his timing is top notch. For a guy who occasionally has problems jumping over a phone book, he really understands what he can and can't do. Unfortunately these past two seasons we've seen the impact of age, injury, and reliance on teammates who are also sub-par defensively. In one on one situations, Dirk has problems with virtually all of today's smaller, quicker stretch fours. Dallas can survive a bit with Dirk on larger centers, but that also tends to cause rebounding issues.
Remember, I could be very wrong on all of these players, so let me know. One thing that isn't in question is the defensive prowess of Dallas, which is bordering on terrible. Heading into the off season Dallas has so many problems it's hard to know where to start, but an anchor big man on defense has to be a top priority.