San Antonio Spurs' Best Options Against Switching Coverage
Now to what's become the NBA's new standard. To avoid getting burned by elite guards complemented by modern 3-point spacing, most teams have built their defenses around switching coverage. When executed well, this tactic prevents penetration off a pick and roll, stops defenses from needing to collapse on a driver, and saves defenders energy as they don't need to fight hard every screen - they can just switch who they are guarding.
The weakness with this plan is that now inevitably, most teams switch everything, and I mean everything to simplify their schemes. This means all offenses need to do to get the favorable matchup of their choosing is run a pick and roll involving the player on their team they want to use and the player being guarded by the defender they want to be switched to him. Simple, right?
The complication comes from the obvious but still true cliché that no two defenses are quite the same in basketball. This means that since the Spurs currently lack a true superstar, the team will need an "it takes a village" approach because mismatches will vary on any given night.
Playing a team that keeps switching a great but slower rim protector on to guards? Let Dejounte Murray and White go to work and blow by them, make the extra pass, or use the midrange game just discussed.
What about teams with more agile big men like Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo? Well, why involve them in the pick and roll switch at all? Sub in shooting bigs like Doug McDermott or Jock Landale to keep those types of defenders away from the play and have the guards run pick and rolls featuring Keldon Johnson. I pity the smaller guard that steps up to challenge him with his momentum heading towards the rim.
The Spurs' Best Options Against the 2-3 Zone
Surprisingly enough, the 2-3 zone, a defensive tactic partially reintroduced to the NBA to stop the Tim Duncans and Shaqs of the world from dominating nearly two decades ago, has not only stuck around but become more frequent, even in an era where spacing and shooting is everything and the post-up is all but extinct. Why do teams still use this?
Well for starters, three defenders down low mean the paint is protected. But beyond that, picks are far less useful since defenders are covering zones instead of opposing offensive players. Lastly, the teams that use it the most are SUPER long and athletic like the Celtics, Lakers, and Heat.
Still, 2-3 zones are super vulnerable from the corners and high post area. Not to mention, zones make it far tougher to rebound since even though you have three players defending inside, boxing out opposing players becomes far more complicated. These weaknesses can be exposed in major ways, as the Laker did to the Heat en route to their 2020 championship.
The 2-3 zone should be the Spurs' best friend when they see it used against them. McDermott, Landale, Derrick White, *insert additional Spurs shooter name here,* can have field days against the 2-3 when stationed at the corner.
Dejounte, White, and Keldon, and Thaddeus would all serve as exceptional middlemen to facilitate the offense from that exposed free throw line area. And when the inside defense finally steps up to challenge the mid-range, that means either a corner is open, or the actual inside is now exposed for Jakob, Thaddeus, Keldon and the Spurs are ready to score an easy one off a pass or a putback.
Whatever the case may be, it always comes back to the cliche: the Spurs are going to have to take what the defense gives them.