Starting a new series (an idea I'm stealing from Sactown Royalty) called "30Q" where we ask 30 questions about the team to help generate discussion on days like today when there's no new news to discuss. Enjoy.
Thibs is out, Frank is in. Perkins is out for many months, Jermaine O'Neal is in. Sheed is out, Shaq is in. So what will the net effect be on the defense?
The bread and butter of this team for the last 3 years has been defense. In fact, the offense sputtered at times in last year's playoffs and they still got to within a quarter of a title. So even if the defense slips a little bit, they could still be one of the better units in the league at getting stops (when motivated that is).
The good news is that most of the players are back and they know Tom Thibodeau's defense down pat. When Thibs left the Rockets, Houston didn't see a big drop in production. Most of the team is back so continuity helps matters quite a bit.
Perhaps it is a bit unfair, but the responsibility to fill Tom's shoes falls to Lawrence Frank. Frank is a diligent worker with head coaching experience. He'll provide a different voice and perhaps take a fresh approach to the lead assistant position. However, he's not Tom Thibodeau and perhaps he shouldn't be expected to be just like Tom. For the last three years Tom has essentially played the role of Defensive Coordinator, but most teams don't define roles that strictly. Frank is certainly going to help out with the defense, but he'll have some say in the offense as well. In fact as I've mentioned, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him groomed to take over for Doc if and when he leaves. It remains to be seen if the loss of Thibodeau will hurt the team or if they'll actually benefit from a fresh take.
By most accounts Jermaine O'Neal is a solid defensive player. He's clearly not as big as Perkins and he's lost a step or two from his peak but he can rotate and help well (which is key with this team defense). Shaq on the other hand is just a mountain in the lane. He doesn't rotate well and has been called the worst pick and roll defender in the world. So unless the team finds a way to counteract that, he'll be a downgrade when he's on the floor. Of course the hope is that he can rebound and score enough to make up for it.
The other thing to account for is age and injuries. Obviously the team is a better defensive unit when Kevin Garnett is healthy. The veterans are going to have to grind out another year and if last year is any indication, they might just take a week or a month to coast along with non-max effort to stay fresh for the playoffs.
So what do you think? Will this team be better or worse on defense?