Revisions, Pt. I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 10, 2010 under Commentary | 27 Comments to Read


Last week’s foray into the positional revolution was a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. As I noted previously, Drew Cannon’s positional system isn’t coming out of the internet womb fully-formed; a lot of adjustments and tweaks are necessary for the model to become viable. Still, Cannon’s design offers a welcome starting point for both discourse regarding positional fluidity and, hopefully, some eventual long-term change in the way we think about and define positions.

There is no end to this process. Even if we successfully shed the five traditional positions in favor of some other system, players and their roles will continue to evolve. It’s critical that we’re constantly challenging the limits of positionality to match with the on-court product. Note that those limits aren’t being tested without reason. It’s important that positional rhetoric remains descriptivist in nature. We’re not saying “this is the way that position X should play,” but rather “this is the way that position X does play.”

With those things in mind, any model proposed here needs to be poked and prodded. Finding the leaks is an important step in the process. I’ll be the first to concede that no positional model will ever be perfect, but tinkering with the system’s imperfections is the the path that will bring us all closer to that flawless standard.


Thus far, Cannon’s defensive positions seem to be the source of the most controversy. While there is some confusion over what Cannon’s designations do and should mean, the most glaring problem was captured perfectly by Tom Ziller:

The problem with the way this new development is framed is that it still relies on demonstrably imprecise labels. If Rodrigue Beaubois is a “D1″ — meaning he guards point guards despite often playing shooting guard next to Jason Kidd or J.J. Barea — then you’re assuming there are “1s” for him to guard, which is just the type of assumption the Positional Revolution aims to destroy.

The point of a new nomenclature is to do a better job describing what players actually do, and do well. If “1s” no longer exist, in favor of the Cannon/Mahoney use of “scorer” or “creator” for offensive roles, what does a “D1″ do? And is that by necessity (due to size or athleticism) or ability? Is calling Beaubois a “D1 Scorer” any different from calling him a “guard”? A more useful classification might be something like “DPick-and-RollA+” or “DPostC-”.

In their original context, defensive designations like D1, etc. are actually very counterproductive. If the hope is to move away from traditional positions, it makes little sense to lean so heavily on them.

Yet Ziller’s suggested variant, while useful, is both highly subjective and goes well beyond what position is thought to bring to the NBA discussion. There are some skill valuations inherent to positional delineation, but in my eyes (and this point is certainly up for debate), it’s important that positions describe and group without necessarily assessing how well a certain player executes their role. Those types of appraisals require far more nuance, and using them to define players via position sacrifices the accessibility of those classifications.

In addition, the wide variety of defensive abilities each NBA player is asked to display makes it difficult to pin down a primary role via skill set. For purposes of convenience, the defensive positions should be as short as possible, so saying that Dwight Howard is a “DPick-and-RollB+/DPostA/DHelpA+/DHelpPostB/DRebounderA+,” while descriptive, is probably a bit silly. Yet, if we’re going to classify players by their skill (and skill level, in this scenario), Howard’s post defense is no more important than any of those other facets. How would one accurately and succinctly convey all of that information in a usable (and more importantly, re-usable) manner?

I think the key is to step away from skill descriptors, particularly at such depth. While it makes sense to describe a player’s offensive role as a “scorer” or “rebounder,” defense functions much differently. A player’s defensive position (not utility, position) hinges on, again, not how well a player defends, but what purpose they serve. Or, for simplicity’s sake, what types of players they’re able to defend.

Who a given player is able to defend certainly ties into the respective skills of both the defender and their offensive counterpart. At a more basic level though, a player’s defensive range is determined by the various heights and speeds he’s able to counter. I’m not talking about the height and speed of the defender, but rather, the ranges of those two variables that a defender is physically able to contest.

Thus, I offer the following modification of Cannon’s defensive positions:

New Positionality Redux

We’ll use the original D1, D2, D3, etc. designations, but with each describing a certain range of relative size and speed. D1 no longer represents a player’s ability to defend point guards per se, but their ability to defend shorter, quicker opponents. Likewise, a D5 would indicate one’s ability to defend bigger, slower players, regardless of one’s own size and speed (Chuck Hayes, for example, is 6’6”, but would be a D5 because of his ability to guard taller, stronger players).

A few notes:

  • With this system, we eliminate the idea that there are 1s or 2s to guard, and instead simply assume that there will be players of different sizes on the court. Someone will need to guard them. Teams don’t have to match small with small, but they do need to match a small opponent with a D1 (even if that D1 would be a shooting guard or small forward by most conventional standards).
  • It’s important that the boundaries between the size/speed of D1 vs. D2, D2 vs. D3, etc. are nonspecific. This is not meant to be measurable, as creating the necessary framework would involve drawing far too many arbitrary brightlines.
  • Positions are meant to be convenient. As such, we really do need to sacrifice some depth for the sake of easier use and better understanding. The point isn’t to create some undecipherable code that no other NBA fans can solve, but to create a relatively uniform system that’s a bit more descriptive and accurate than the current one.
  • These positions are different from traditional ones, particularly because they account for defensive versatility and cross-matching. For a basic example, let’s take Rodrigue Beaubois. He may start at shooting guard this year, but in the Allen Iverson mold, will mostly be cross-matched on opposing point guards. So from a positional standpoint, it makes far more sense to call him a “Scorer, Creator/Handler, D1″ than it does a shooting guard. It gives us a bit of insight into what kind of players Beaubois will be guarding, as well as his offensive responsibilities.
  • For a more complicated example, look at LeBron James. He’ll be listed as a small forward, but we know his offensive role is more far-reaching than the limits of a traditional wing. Additionally, LeBron has become such a useful defender that he can guard all kinds of positions. Thanks to his incredible combination or size, speed, and strength, one could make a legitimate argument that James is actually one of the few players capable of defending all five traditional positions. His ‘SF’ label has never done him justice on offense, and now it’s just as constricting defensively.
  • There’s still something to be said about how a player defends that’s completely unaccounted for. It’s distinct enough from the question of ‘How well?’ that it could technically be incorporated, but I see no simple way to incorporate it. Something to put on the wish list, for sure, but at this stage those distinctions seem a bit too complex.
  • Another concern is addressing players who can’t really defend anybody. Regardless of where we put the bounds of a positional system, there are going to be exceptions. There will always be someone who doesn’t fit neatly into the given categories. Tentatively, these players will be addressed as ‘D0,’ but it’s certainly an idea worth revisiting.
  • Please, leave questions and concerns over this system or propositions for other defensive positional models in the comments. Feedback is a crucial part of this process, and every reader is an invaluable part of the refinement of this system.

Special thanks to M. Haubs, Matt Moore, and Zach Harper for spiritual guidance.

  • finzent

    This is really getting somewhere.

    Some quick thoughts (not necessarily criticisms, just pointing out the fairly obvious):

    - I think it's very useful to leave the skill level out of it, for the reasons you mention. Therefore I'm also sceptical about the D0 level; it certainly should have it's use, but more as a punchline and not as a real part of the system. (But I might just be a little annoyed that Terry was put forward as the paradigm case of a D0 in the old thread. Come on, guys! He's bad, but he's not THAT bad).

    - It might be worth pointing out that the system doesn't capture cases where it might pay off to have a certain type, say a D5, on the floor even though the opposing team plays small and the D5 is matched against an offensive D4, someone who he ideally should not guard. Playing the D5 might still be the right move (even if not minding offense), because of stuff the D5 can do that a D4 couldn't; like rebound, protect the paint, etc. (I'm thinking Dampier against GSW, of course). So, while the D# would suggest playing the D4, it might be wrong. It's hard to hold that against the system, though, because incorporating certain skills is, as you point out, impractical.

    - The number of types of D is actually arbitrary. One might have less or more than five levels, and while the number five is in some ways the obvious choice, there's really nothing obligatory about that number. That's not to say that another number would be better, just that one shoul not be led to the opinion that the 'proper' situation is one where there are one of each D# on the floor at the same time. There's really nothing proper about that, it all depends on the situation.

    • Rob Mahoney


      D0 is something that's still very much up in the air. Not sure if it has a place in this discussion at all. Completely agree on Terry, though. JET isn't a good defender by any measure, but there are far worse out there.

      I think the choice mismatch scenario you describe is, in a way, a part of the system. Just because it may make the most sense to have a D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5 on the floor at a given time, for example, doesn't mean a team has to do it (as you noted). There are concessions that teams can make on both ends, and these positional designations would simply make it easier to spot where those concessions are taking place.

      Completely agree on the number of D classifications. Sticking with 5 may make it confusing for some, but conceptually I think it helps people to lean — if only a little — on what they know.

  • Aleks

    One thing I noticed while thinking about this: It's awfully hard not to fall back into the conventional positions. Traps like 'okay, so D1 defends the opposing PG' or 'so, Miami doesn't have a classical PG, so it doesn't have a creator' are everywhere. My mind seems to think PG/SG/SF/PF/C whenever it thinks about a basketball player. It is not difficult to say 'X is a D4', but my mind immediately seems to say 'in addition to being a PF'. Or, worse, my mind simply replaces the old nomenclature with the new words, for example, SG = scorer = D2. If you look at the comments to Rob's first posting, you can see that other people fall into similar traps. It really is hard work not only to invent a new system, but also to get rid of the old one.

  • Rex

    No offense, but from what I recall, the point of this post was pretty evident in Cannon's original post. He argues that 5 defensive positions are necessary to match up with the full spectrum of speed/size possibilities, so that the “1″ in “D1″ referred not to the opposing PG, but to the fastest/smallest player in that spectrum.

    Where I thought Cannon's piece needed work was on the offense side. He's got 4 roles distributed among 3 players, without any comment on (1) what you need offensively from the other 2 players (e.g. corner-threes, # of rebounders, # of scorers, etc.), and (2) need for various speed/size players for offensive purposes, as well.

    • Rob Mahoney

      @Rex: This is the exact wording from Cannon's piece:

      “You need to have a player capable of guarding each of the five traditional C-PF-SF-SG-PG positions. We’ll call the players capable of defending each position 'D1' through 'D5,'respectively, with speed/athleticism on the x-axis and height/strength on the y-axis.”

      While the basic idea is the same, the translation of the concept is not. From that wording, I assumed Cannon based his designations on the speed/size of the defender, rather than the speed/size of the opponents a defender is capable of guarding. That's an important distinction.

      Additionally, even if this is something of a moot rhetorical point, the success and long-term viability of a system such as this is entirely dependent on the eradication of the current one. You can't say “Let's get rid of point guards!” and then define the D1 as someone capable of guarding opposing PGs.

      Not sure I follow on the criticism of the offensive positions. The point is that there isn't a pre-set model any team needs to subscribe to. One might have three scorers and two rebounders. One might have two creator/handlers, two scorers, and one rebounder. One might have one scorer, one creator/handler, and three rebounders. There are so many ways to go about team construction, and positional evolutions such as these only represent the true fluidity of that process.

  • Jedaco

    I love the fact people are discussing positions! It's been a long time coming.

    I think classifying players has to be done in two distinct ways. First establish the physical type of player (the who) and then the style(s) they play (the how).

    Assigning a player a size/speed score should be the starting point (i don't think it should be tied to defence only). I think the score should also incorporate half points as most players won't fit neatly into the whole numbers (example: LeBron 3.5 or Kobe 2.5). From here you have an idea of what this player is like physically.

    Once a players physical type is established then the descriptive style types could be added like creator, rebounder, shot blocker, 1on1 (defender), post scorer, shooter, slasher, etc. These descriptors in conjunction with the physical score would give a well rounded view of how the player plays.

    LeBron 3.5 – creator, slasher, rebounder
    Kobe 2.5 – creator, slasher, post scorer, 1on1, shooter
    Kidd 1.5 – creator, rebounder
    Iverson 1 – creator, slasher, shooter, steals
    Howard 5 – shot blocker, rebounder, 1on1, post scorer

    • Parthenon

      But how is this system any different than the one we have now – what does it tell us other than “Lebron is a beast who can defend anywhere” and “Kobe is a big guard” and “Kidd is a PG who can defend SGs”…. it doesn't really change how we talk about these players in any meaningful way – which we should want to do! KG for example – he is/was a total defender, and we should want to describe that skill set, but what the KG 4.5 – post scorer, shot blocker, etc etc etc does it just draw out what should be a much more direct statement – that KG like LeQueen or Battier or whoever is an all-round defensive player in so many different ways.

      I think the means by which we can describe players are greater than the tools by which we describe them.

  • Nick

    The original article was more about the college game, where the players are less likely to have the skill sets to be able to guard more than 1 or 2 traditional size/speed combinations, and are far more likely to actually encounter teams that actually are built to look like the traditional PG/SG/SF/PF/C than you would be in the NBA (and why this is is actually the whole point of the article: Players who plays SG on offense but guards PGs on defense or vice-versa are often overlooked during recruiting, so looking for a pair of generally overlooked players in this mold might nab you 2 excellent players that were passed over by the big schools).

    It's hard to do the same thing in the NBA because different teams have such different players in their offensive roles. LeBron is probably the best example, where he's a really big guy who is also the main ball-handler on his team when he's on the floor and is faster than most guys smaller than him (and all of the ones bigger than him). On your grid that would make him a 1 in speed and 4 in size. Trying to find a guy with the defensive tools to guard him is going to fail (like it does in real life). You don't see those guys in college. Well, not for long, anyway.

  • Edgar

    Sorry if someone has already suggested something like this, but why not just label players according to the position they are intended to occupy on the court? This already seems to be the idea with the designation of center and forward. Why not say that a team plays with two wings, two forwards and a center? In other words, in trying to come up with a good nomenclature, let's not focus on what skills a player has or what other types of players they would defend, but what positions (literally) they take up on the court, both on offense and defense. Thoughts?

  • Michael

    LeBron would be an obvious exception to this new set of rules. Probably to any set of position-defining rules imaginable.

    I think the vast majority of players could be neatly described by assigning a set of PRIMARY and SECONDARY characteristics. Roddy B, for example, will get most of his playing time as a “Scorer/D1″, but there will be times when he will be required to play as a “Creator/D2″ instead.

    This primary/secondary classification might be an easy way to analize a team's overall strengths and weaknesses for scouting and personnel management decisions, or for indicating which player groups should work best on the floor for defining players' roles and building substitution patterns.

  • Fabian Nguyen

    Ok here are my thoughts, before defining how the positions should be named and what they should mean, we should define what we need them for. I am an European so I will make a soccer example here. In soccer positions tell me something about the system a team employs and therefore HOW they play. Say I look at a team that employs two holding midfielders I know they value possession foremost. If I see a team that has two wings and a striker but no center striker, I know they attack with a lot of short passes instead of wide passes.

    With that in mind, how should we determine positions in basketball? It isn´t as easy as in soccer because all players have a defensive and offensive duties. Still we should be able to have a single (and not two as in your proposed system) name that shows us how this player plays and how this effects the system of the team. Say for example I list you this six man rotation:

    speedbased creator
    three and D
    athletic scorer
    rugged enforcer
    highpost creator

    and offensive joker

    Would you know how they play, could you guess which team this is? If I say that this team is the Spurs with Parker, Mason, Jefferson, McDeyss, Duncan and Manu listed you propably wouldn´t be surprised.

    The names I took here aren´t perfect but that is the direction I am looking in.

    • Jedaco

      I like the adjectives you used to describe the players. Athletic and rugged in particular really give a sense of the type of player your describing. I do think there should be both offensive and defensive descriptions for all players and the size/number score to give a fuller scope of a players playing style.

      Duncan – 5 – high post creator/inside presence
      Manu – 1.5 – creative scorer/gambling defender
      Jefferson – 3 – athletic scorer/average defender

      • Fabian Nguyen

        Yeah I am not so sure about the second description. Average defender is kind of a useless denominator. As long as the style of defense you play isn´t influencing the style of your team don´t mention it. Dwight for example would surely be described by his defense inside presence etc. But Manu or Jefferson shouldn´t be classified by their defense.

  • Parthenon

    At first, when you started discussing the idea of DHelp5+/DPost5+ etc etc I got really excited. I would love to be able to look at a player's profile and see a concise explanation of a) what they could do offensively b) who they could defend and how… all in a short statement. I think you have helped in this regard, with your improved matrix, but I don't think it goes far enough, and maybe there is room for improvement.

    I think we should start by considering what sorts of defensive obligations there are. Post, Perimeter, Pick and Roll, Help, etc etc. We need a tool to describe not just a defender who can do some of these things well, but maybe does all of them well, or one of them really well and another really poorly. We need to, essentially, describe a complex 'shape' of ability, or 'equation', in a way that doesn't confound… really, what we need to do is make calculus symbolic in such a way that is useful for describing individuals. (note: next basketball revolution is describing players and complex formulas and using these equations to fill out pre-determined spaces in an abstract space… or something like that)

    (also, reflecting on Aleks' comments, I think we shouldn't be afraid of really jumping away from our current vernacular to describe what we need. We should be willing to break these bonds, which I think are reinforced by the D1, D2, etc system)

    So how can we accomplish this without breaking our skulls and carrying around our T-85s. My first thought was, dumb it down. If I am trying to describe a bunch of different points of ability, which describes a shape in space, why not just describe the magnitude of those points in sequence. So, if there are 7 defensive attributes, why not use some scale that rates from 0-9, and, say Dwight howard is a 1114569, and Battier is a 5653341 and so on and so forth. People can remember numbers and sequences pretty easily, and it wouldn't be terribly hard to remember what the numbers mean: ball pressure, outside the line man D, playing lanes, mid range D, post D, boards, blocks… I mean – why let the positions shape our descriptive terms – why not just toss those out and accept that many players do many different things to many different levels (this same nonsense could even be used to classify other skills; 7 offensive skills, 7 intangibles, 7 physical attributes, and you could average them for base ideas; dwight is a 7-6-5-3, etc…)

  • Aleks

    Fabian's soccer example is quite interesting. In German soccer we had a similarly rigid positional system in place for 2 or 3 decades, basically prototyped by the 1972-74 national team. Every team had to have a 'libero' in the Beckenbauer mold, a '10' in the Overath/Netzer mold, and a middle striker in the Mueller mold. Players tried to emulate these role models and basically all professional teams played like this. It took the last decade to change this and to adopt more flexible positional assignments, particularly the Beckenbauer-style Libero was very difficult to get rid of. But it happened and it led to more attractive, more diverse, and more liberated styles of play. At least as far as I can tell.

    This demonstrated nicely that abandoning rigid positional concepts is not just an academic exercise. It will encourage players not to emulate a certain superstar, but to play find their own style. It will also help in putting together unconventional teams.

    With that in mind, the main goal for an improved concept should be to be simply, purely descriptive and as flexible as possible, without trying to put players in a narrow niche. In that sense Rob's system is already quite useful, and most of the suggestions in the comments look like heavily overloaded systems, which are fine for detailed player evaluation, but do not give the type of quick, simple information which is required here. The only thing I would really add is one more distinction on offense, to split up the scorers in shooters and finishers (scoring at the rim), because it seems to me as if a team really needs both to be successful (and the Mavs have a lack of finishers).

    • Fabian Nguyen

      I am German as well, hence the example ;)

      The thing that bucks me about Robs system is that it doesn´t describe the players and how they play all to well. In biblical times we knew how a C played and we knew how a PG played. We don´t anymore but neither do we know how a scorer plays. As you said we need at least the distinction of finisher or shooter, I say you can add highpost or lowpost scorer. Mostly I have a problem with the defensive descriptions because two position variables seem contra to simplicity and D1/D2 says nothing to the untrained eye.

  • Wrhfhfh

    Just thinking but could we have a system with two sets of numbers one for size and one for speed, I mean I know a lot of you would of seen KG defend point gaurds at numerous times throughout his career like seb telfair once in 2008 so I was thinking we could instead of having like D1 for the pg or main ball handler/setter of the offence that it could be eg D11 or the first number for their size relative to the five positions of the league and the second number for their speed.

    so size could be 1-5 with 5 being the biggest and speed could be 1-5 with 1 being he fastest.

    This I thought could let us not just see who a player could mark in terms of the bigger guard ie sg but if Lebron James could marks most of the league as he might be a D32 or somehting like that.

    Just a lil idea.

  • Ignarus

    what;s wrong with calling a guy a “D1-3″ if he's big enough and quick enough?

  • ignarus

    isn't the NBA more attuned to players who can do something extremely well while college ball is more all-around oriented? that might complicate the analysis if we're lumping the two together.

  • Head

    Lots of good intentions here.
    Some comments:
    The reason the discussion naturally devolves into all the sub-classifications is because the different attributes of individual players comprises such a wide range of variables & combinations of variables that simple numerical classifications do no justice. But to honestly call someone a Scorer/Rebounder/Shooter D4 C+ Sub Something- you might as well just describe the individual player.
    There are player types, and player molds. But those molds are constantly being broken. Nearly every NBA team has a player who challenges traditional classifications. And while this is precisely the impetus for this discussion in the first place, it seems the problem is that because of the fluid nature of the game, and its rapid evolution & constant development, simple classifications will continue to leave us wanting, and will mislabel players as well.
    For the sake of this conversation I offer this:
    We must consider, when factoring a player's ability to guard a certain position, that these classifications change game by game and minute by minute.

    In the Golden State game that Beaubois drops 40, Don Nelson doesn't play a single player taller than Ronny Turiaf. At any point in the game, Beaubois could have guarded 3 players on the court (at least as far as height, speed & strength were concerned). This is a Don Nelson anomaly, you might say, but the point is implied nonetheless.
    Guarding Steve Nash, Jason Richardson & Hedo is a completely different task than guarding Boston's 3 “wings”, especially when you consider the 4 & the 5 for each team.
    Can Chuck Hayes guard the 5? Or could Chuck Hayes guard the 5 in Houston, a team where he was surrounded by other strong defenders and a defensive team mindset?
    The point is, to call a guy a D1 and have it refer to a player type or even a zone on the court, it becomes ineffectual when the combinations of actual players are plugged into the system.
    “Post player who is a below average one on one defender but a good help shot blocker and off ball rebounder at both ends” is a skill set that fits quite a few players in the league. All of these contributions suggest a need for a team to contribute to, but they also suggest weaknesses that need to be compensated for by that team. Find the right combination, and you have success.
    I don't think Chuck Hayes could guard the 5 in Orlando any more than I think Rashard Lewis or Hedo could guard their positions anywhere else.
    It gets into really the most fundamental point in Cannon's original piece. Basketball is about scoring and preventing yr opponent from scoring. Systems, theories and playbooks on how to most effectively achieve these tasks are infinite, and many have proven to be theoretically unstoppable- provided that the right players play the right roles. As the systems are different so too are type of players they covet.
    If we are going to re-examine labels to individuals, we must take into account their contributions & detriments to the teams they have played on. And since the goal is ultimately to reassess a players true value to the team he is playing on or is considering playing for, it really is a case by case basis determined by the system and players in place vs the other teams system and players. Maybe more of a team minded approach based on the different team philosophies should be infused into the discussion.

  • Quetzpalin

    I absolutely love the idea of this…but the reality of it is really, really vexing. The biggest problem I am having with it is the difference between capability and role. Like it or not (and I think we can all agree that we don't like it much) the current positional designations at least attempt to describe both. Seen in the harshest light possible, does the D3 designation really tell me much more than I would learn from knowing the guys height and weight?

    If we agree that Russel Westbrook can be a D1, D2, and possibly even a D3, seeing that doesn't really tell us much about what his role is on the team. The Lakers are also an extreme example, where it would be extremely difficult to classify a lineup of Fisher-Kobe-Barnes-Odom-Gasol. What would the D classifications be, and what would they tell you? As flawed as it is, telling me that Kobe is SG, and Odom is PF in this lineup gives a me a sense of how the unit is meant to function.

    And it's even more problematic on offense. Kobe is capable of performing just about any named skill on offense, but what role does he actually play for his team? Any new system, for me, would have to not only be an improvement on the current positional system, but also on the informal modifier-positional system. An example of which is actually used in the post itself (blog post, not low post) – Iverson SG. That tells me quite a bit about the attributes and roles of the player. My assumption would be that an Iverson SG is a small, fast, skilled guard who defends the smallest, fastest guy on the other team. There are lots of these, of course. A Bowen is a lock down wing defender who does nothing but shoot threes on offense. We have also gotten to the point where we'll say “he's a traditional PF”, which is really just another modifier.

    Of course, there are tons of problems with this informal “system”. Someone might think that an Iverson SG necessarily takes tons of shots, so that designation would be misleading in describing Beaubois in that respect.

    Might I suggest that a two word combination, one of which is for defense and the other for offense, would give the best chance to succeed as a system that provided the requisite simplicity and adaptability. Any and all potential systems are going to have their flaws, and have holes which will be difficult to deal with. As Artest ages, his size axis profile stays the same, but his speed axis profile changes, but you couldn't move him from a D3. If one could come up with a good solid list for both sides of the ball, then he could be moved from the descriptor that indicates an ability to defend both strong and quick wings, to the one that specializes on strength.

    The easy way out would be to have a modifier and number for each. So, on defense, there would be something along the lines of Tough, Fast, Combo, and Team as modifiers, then a number to indicate the size range. Five years ago Artest was a Combo49 to indicate that he could guard fast and strong players from 6-4 to 6-9, but now he's a Tough59 defender. Fisher is a Team14, who isn't great 1-on-1, but concentrates on executing a team defense scheme against guys under 6-4. It would be much, much better, though, if it just had the seven or ten most common combinations summed up in one word each. The whole thing would still be fairly legible even if you were to go to more words. Artest could be a Shooting Tough Indy Wing, which would tell you that on offense he's a shooter and plays physical 1-on-1 defense against wing players.

    To be able to come up with the naming system, then have everyone agree to it would be tall order, though.

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  • Sam

    By that graph, only short players are quick, surely it would make more sense to have a graph that is two dimensional, and not assume all big guys are slow? I mean ideally you'd have an area on that graph where people like LeBron would be able to guard a big square, and someone who could only guard one type of player would have a small area on the graph.

  • Henrik Broman

    I see another factor: players that can be guarded by everyone, ie the Bruce Bowen category.

    As Quetzpalin explained it, in his modification of the DX-system Derek Fisher normally could be seen as a Team14, meaning he's a good team defender that can do a decent job on players 6'1 to 6'4. But, he definitely could guard Bruce Bowen, even when BB was in his prime. A lot of teams hid their worst defenders, regardless of position, by having them defend Bowen. Honestly, outside of Earl Boykins I can't come up with a single player that with the help of some team defense concept couldn't have done a good enough defensive job on Bowen.

    Other players that come to mind in the Bowen category, the so called swingman stopper, are Trenton Hassell and Quinton Ross.

    Suddenly Fisher is a Team18, and Yao Ming is a Team8-7'7. I guess my point is that you'll need to someway match defensive ability with the skill level and athleticism of the opponent.

    And what is the description on offense for someone who can be guarded by most players?

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