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How Lebron’s deficit in defensive transition hurts the Cavs

Last week, I conducted a coaching clinic on defensive transition. Actually, it made me think about the fact that most coaches spend much more attention to offensive transition and how to create a lot of easy baskets in fastbreak, than the on the effort to prevent this on the other side. It is indeed an important key that can decide on the result of the game. Most coaches spend almost every team practice some attention to it. But in fact, it is only a game changer, RELATIVE to your opponent. One should rather look to the difference in scored fastbreak points minus the fastbreak points of the opponent team. Statistics show that this is a key to succes for some teams in the NBA (for ex. Golden State, Houston, Atlanta and the LA Clippers), while San Antonio proves to be succesfull in other aspects of the game, mainly due to an older roster.

based upon stats of NBA.com

Based upon stats of NBA.com

Very often, I see coaches going crazy during games when their team doesn’t sprint back fast enough and/or doesn’t communicate well enough while doing so. Are we sure as a coach that we teach our players HOW to run back (who has which responsability) and HOW to communicate (what to say in which situation)? If not, the players are not to blame…

During my clinic, I predicted that defensive transition might play a major role during the NBA Finals this years. While Lebron James is the best player of his generation, he tends not to focus in the defensive transition. Very often, after a made or missed basket, he gesticulates or celebrates towards the refs, the camera or the public. Against a team which most dangerous weapon are 3-point shots in transition, this could cost Cleveland an NBA title. I must admit that I was nicely surprised by Lebron during Game 1, also in transition. But at least one time in clutch time, he fell back in his old habit, resulting in an open 3-point shot of Klay Thompson. After a succesfull basket, with a 91-87 score on the board and 5 minutes to go, you see he’s not paying attention in transition:

Unnecessarily to say that these small mistakes can have a huge impact, for sure in an OT loss..

PS: Here are my clinic notes on defensive transition (in dutch).

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Recently I did a podcast with Chris Oliver of Basketball Immersion.