Friday, May 22, 2009

The LeBron Stoppers

In the coming years, Eastern Conference foes will be searching for ways to slow down the Cavs and LeBron James. Defenders effective against them will have tremendous value. Which five-man player combinations excelled at doing this in 2008-09?

The units in the chart had the best defensive efficiency against the Cavaliers with James on the court this season. Defensive efficiency is the number of points allowed divided by defensive possessions times 100.

This list includes the five-man combinations that posted a defensive efficiency below 95 while on the court versus Cleveland and James. To put that figure in perspective, the league had an average defensive efficiency near 108. The average against the Cavs with James playing was 115.1. Among the 71 units that faced them for at least 10 minutes this season, only these 16 posted a defensive efficiency under 95.

The red ink shows the player likely to have guarded James from each unit. In some cases, teams may have zoned or rotated defenders on James.

Units (Team) Def. Eff.
1 Brown-Hamilton-McDyess-Prince-Stuckey (Detroit) 79.4
2 Artest-Battier-Brooks-Yao-Scola (Houston) 80.5
3 Ford-Granger-Hibbert-Jack-Murphy (Indiana) 82.2
4 Deng-Hinrich-Nocioni-Rose-Tyrus Thomas (Chicago) 82.4
5 Brand-Iguodala-Miller-Williams-Young (Philadelphia) 82.6
6 Blake-Fernandez-Outlaw-Przybilla-Roy (Portland) 84.0
7 Iverson-AJohnson-Prince-Stuckey-Wallace (Detroit) 84.8
8 Hawes-Jackson-Martin-Nocioni-Thompson (Sacramento) 86.2
9 Howard-Lee-Lewis-Nelson-Turkoglu (Orlando) 87.1
10 Anthony-Chalmers-Haslem-Marion-Wade (Miami) 88.0
11 Brown-Hamilton-Iverson-Prince-Wallace (Detroit) 88.9
12 Azubuike-Biedrins-Ellis-Jackson-Morrow (Golden State) 89.3
13 Alston-Howard-Lee-Lewis-Turkoglu (Orlando) 90.5
14 Bibby-Horford-Johnson-Smith-Williams (Atlanta) 91.4
15 Deng-Gooden-Rose-Sefolosha-Tyrus Thomas (Chicago) 92.6
16 Dalembert-Evans-Green-Iguodala-Miller (Philadelphia) 93.3

Detroit had three of the top 11 defensive units versus James and the Cavs. The only player in common to all three groups was Tayshaun Prince, who guarded James himself. The Magic had the ninth and 13th place units, which could loom large in the Eastern Conference Finals. The only different between their two groups was at point guard with Rafer Alston taking over for the injured Jameer Nelson to join their other four starters. The Sixers and Bulls also had two units apiece on the list.

While these combinations excelled defensively against Cleveland with James on the court, they may not have limited his scoring. But they slowed down the other four players enough to succeed.

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