Coach Spins' Clipboard: Jaylin Williams Charges, Poeltl Paying Dividends, & Kuminga's Activity
A special defense-first installment of the clipboard looks at some interesting ways teams and players are getting stops.
Happy Friday Morning! It’s the All-Star Break, and before watching some glorified pick-up, celebrity chuckers, and disappointing dunks. When the players pack their bags and head to Salt Lake City, one thing they won’t throw in their suitcases is the ability to play defense.
So to cleanse our pallets before the mind-numbing offense-fest on Sunday, let’s focus on the best defense from the week that was. Come with us into charge-taking, shot-swatting, clamp-placing moments that caught our eye lately.
Jaylin Williams, Charge Maestro
It is possible to hate that something is a rule and respect the way guys finesse the rule as it exists. The charge is an infuriating call, particularly at lower levels like college and high school. Primary defenders who collect charges do so not as an attempt to challenge the shot but to look for a quick bailout to the play. I can understand the need to have secondary defenders standing near the rim providing help and establishing position. It’s the primary guys who just go limp and hope they can take contact squarely that give me headaches.
Dating back to his days at Arkansas last year, Jaylin Williams was always elite at drawing charges. He anticipates well, stays light on his feet, embellishes contact perfectly, and gets their early enough to make his style of defense somewhat defensible. We even put a full section in our pre-draft scouting report on Jaylin about how he draws these (the video starts at the section here:)
Since moving into the starting lineup, Williams has been a charge menace for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s the ideal style of defense for them; the Thunder are a tad smaller and Jaylin won’t be a major rim protector, but he gets everyone on the other team in foul trouble. He drew three charges against the Houston Rockets and two against the New Orleans Pelicans just this week:
Look, the block-charge thing is tough to call (there’s too much contact to be a no-call most times) and I haven’t been able to propose a better alternative. But it does feel like a cheap ploy is getting rewarded too often. Kudos to Jaylin for quickly becoming the best in the NBA at doing it. I hate it and respect it…
The Transfer Poeltl
When the Toronto Raptors made the move to aggressively buy Jakob Poeltl at the deadline, many around the league were confused. Intel and rumors had the Raps linked as being sellers, not making a move to get a big man on an expiring contract.
Since arriving back in Toronto, Jakob has been absolutely excellent. He had six blocks on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, all of which came in the second half. Poeltl is unbelievably solid on defense, and he does so many little things on defense. Take this one possession below, where he plays angles well on a Zoom action, gets to three-quarter inside position with a hand up to deny a post entry, then disengages perfectly to go and challenge a drive at the rim:
Many of those little aspects go unnoticed. He covers up potential scoring opportunities before offenses can exploit them, and the solid nature of his rim protection is what makes Poeltl one of the most underrated players in the game.
The fit was going to be unique in Toronto, though. The Raps are fairly aggressive on the perimeter (which they can be with Poeltl behind them) while also being pretty switch-heavy. We were curious to see if Nick Nurse would curtail some of his switches knowing that he has a rim protector in Poeltl, opting to keep the big man closer to the basket.
Poeltl has been switching actions frequently in Toronto… and he’s done remarkably well. He moves his feet, stays square, and alters a ton of shots. Guards and big wings like Markelle Fultz and Franz Wagner thought they had advantages attacking Jakob in space, only to quickly have their shots sent backward in an emphatic fashion.
At 28-31, Toronto is in the 9-spot in the East currently and only 4.5 games back of the six seed. A big run up the standings is possible, especially if they can completely shut teams down defensively. We have questions about their offensive production in the half-court still. A defense with Poeltl playing like he has thus far could make the Raps so stingy that those questions don’t matter.
An Energized Kuminga
Speaking of activity and pressure, Jonathan Kuminga has drunk the Kool-Aid. The reason the second-year wing is getting a consistent role with the Warriors is that he’s bought into being a defensive-stopper, playing with energy and doing the little things to maximize minutes. He’s so athletically talented and can give fits to many type of scorers. He’ll chase guys off screens, switch pick-and-rolls, or hound handlers far away from the basket.
This one play against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday was sensational, where Kuminga chased Kendrick Nunn off a baseline screen, fought over the step-up pick, and then recognized the late switch while keeping his hands active:
Kuminga is averaging 21 minutes a game since January 20th, and is averaging 10.7 PPG in that span. The scoring has been efficient, but let’s not kid ourselves. The defense is why he’s playing. He, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney… the Dubs still have such good defensive personnel on this roster. Once they get healthy, they’ll be a scary postseason team — and they’re only 2.5 games back of the 4-seed out West.
The Importance of Josh Green
After the Kyrie Irving trade, the Mavericks are… let’s just say short of defensive specialists. Third-year wing Josh Green is one of the best guys left behind on the roster. He’s become a vital part of their rotation, and not just because he’s the best of what’s around. Green is a legitimately really good on-ball defender who has grown up a lot these last several months.