METAIRIE, La. -- Defense has been and will continue to be one of the key subplots of the New Orleans Pelicans' 2016-17 season. New Orleans has finished in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency in each of Anthony Davis' four NBA seasons, with last season's No. 28 ranking tying the low point set in Davis' rookie year.
The issues on that end come up often in the media, yet no one articulates the granular details of what's going on better than Solomon Hill, who joined the Pelicans this summer after three seasons with the Indiana Pacers and has already become the unofficial leader of New Orleans' defense.
With that in mind, we introduce a semi-regular series in which we offer up the unfiltered analysis that emerges from Hill's media scrums.
Date: Oct. 15, 2016
Record: 0-0 (1-3 in preseason)
Defensive ranking: 30th (110.6 points allowed per 100 possessions)
What did you see from the defense in China?
Hill: Respect to the Houston Rockets. They're going to space the floor really good, they've got guys that can roll, that can get above the rim. With a healthy Ryan [Anderson] and Eric [Gordon], James Harden's going to be able to probably lead the league in assists.
One thing we've got to do, though, is we've got to be more in scramble mode. One through 4, we have to be able to stop the roller, get out. If we make them take contested 3s, we can live with that. There's gonna be a lot of teams where you're going to have to live with contested 3s. We'd rather have contested 3s and keep them out of the paint. They had a lot of opportunities when they got it at the rim: James Harden throwing lobs, guys rolling to the rim being untouched. Those are the things we got to work on. We want to make sure they beat us from the perimeter. If they beat us from the perimeter, we'll tip our hats to them.
Coach Alvin Gentry mentioned closing out too hard. Is it just that or is there more to it?
Hill: It's a combination of both. I think we kind of start out, we try to run in to get the roller and now it's a full sprint to a shooter instead of being in early and then we get a good closeout to the shooter. Guys are trying to do a lot of things at one time. I think if we just bide [our time by] staying in and helping one another, then that could make [defending] draw-and-kicks a lot better for us, or make the one more rotation a lot better for us.
So you feel like you have to be better on switches?
Hill: That, too, but with a team like Houston I don't think we're ever going to [switch] 1 through 5 again. Where we put [rookie] Cheick [Diallo] in a situation where he's never guarded [NBA guards and he's] guarding James Harden right from the jump. Hopefully we don't really have to do that yet. We just have to get better at communicating.
They are a unique team. The game of basketball now is a lot of small ball. So communication is going to be key with switches, with matchups. Sometimes we want to keep certain matchups. If we want a guy on James Harden, want a guy on Ryan Anderson -- that's what we want. We're going to get to the point where we're going to be able to communicate what we want out of our defensive schemes instead of just being like, "OK, we're just going to switch everything."
What's the reaction, as a veteran, to the production on defense thus far?
Hill: I'll say what I've always said: We can score the ball. We came back against Houston. The first game we were right there against Houston. We all know we can score the ball. We have a lot of guys that have a great opportunity to score the ball. Now it's about just defending our matchups. In preseason, we're just going out there and playing. Next game, I'm pretty sure we're gonna break down stuff. We have a lot more game film, we've got personnel. So guys will go out there and know what to expect from the guys they're guarding. I think we were kind of just out there. We know what Houston wanted to do, but we had never really seen the action. Everything we do in practice is about us.
So now we'll better prepare ourselves for what's ahead and better understand actions. When we get in practice we'll go over some of their favorite plays, their player personnel, what they like to do. I think that will add a little bit to it, but we still have to be the aggressors on the defensive end.
This has been: State of the Pelicans' defense, with Solomon Hill.