Wow, what a difference a year makes. Just last spring, I was writing about how non-existent the Denver defense was. With Allen Iverson now traded to the Pistons, and Chauncey Billups in Denver, it's starting to look like the Nuggets got the best out of that trade. But more importantly, the Nuggets are playing the kind of defense that can take them places deep into the playoffs.

I was really amazed watching the Nuggets against the Rockets last night. Admittedly, I haven't watched many games since the Billups trade, but Coach George Karl has them playing some great team M2M defense. They're taking charges, getting back on transition, stopping the ball, and playing great help-side defense. Take a look at a few sequences I took from the second half:

Force Baseline and Trap:

Among the great team defensive improvements the Nuggets have made, stopping the ball in the half-court is maybe their greatest. If you can't stop the ball, you don't have much of a chance at winning. In my opinion, you must stop the ball first, then the other things like taking charges, weak-side blocks, will come later.

Just great M2M defense here. In the setup, X4 and X5 form the defensive 'I'. X5 is there to protect the basket in a ball-you-man position. X4 is covering his man and also the high-post. Really, the only place O2 can go is drive baseline,

Once O2 takes the bait and drives baseline, X4 (who has switched) and X5 trap on the baseline. X3 has shifted down to take away the first pass to O5. X2 switches to cover O4 up top. And X1 is splitting O3 and O1. O2 tries to make the skip pass over the 2 tall defenders but ends up throwing it away,


I was actually amazed as well how much the Nuggets have changed offensively. I'll have to save that for another post, but gone is the dribble drive offense, and the Nuggets have gone strictly PNR, and post-isos with Carmelo and Billups. With the way the Nuggets are playing defensively, I don't think it matters what offense they play with, they will be competitive in every game.

For some defensive info from one of the greatest basketball minds there is, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on his Defensive Playbook for success. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.