This is why people think Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick are bad defenders

The Hawks had a lot of open threes on Saturday. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

These might be the consumate clips that define both Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick defensively. Both have their flaws, but their flaws are very different. Ultimately, regardless of difference, they were both exposed on a number of occasions in Milwaukee’s 103-102 loss Saturday night to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks finished the game 14-of-28 from 3-point range.

Here’s a little bit of why.

We’ll start with Ellis:

Video via: @jacob_frankel

You’ll never hear someone say that Ellis isn’t physically capable of playing defense. And this play has little to do with Ellis physically, but rather it’s a terrific illustration of the mistakes we often see Ellis make on the defensive end.

It’s one play, but it’s not unlike Ellis to wander away from his man, even when there is little reason to do so. Ellis quickly forgets about Devin Harris after a pass inside to a double-teamed Josh Smith. Yes, Coach Jim Boylan wants his entire team to make an effort on the defensive glass, as that’s been a glaring issue over the past couple of moths, but Monta has hardly made himself into more of a rebounder on this play by lightly helping on a double-teamed Smith.

Three Bucks are circling the paint and not a single Hawk outside of Smith is inside the arc. Ellis is far enough off Harris that he can’t even challenge his three, but far enough from Smith that he makes no difference on the pass being made. He’s in no mans land and Harris drills one of his four 3-pointers.

Onto Redick:

Video via: @jacob_frankel

Twice we see Redick help off of Jeff Teague to provide assistance in the post. The first occasion comes on a Smith post-up of John Henson. Redick makes an impact with his double, sealing off any path Smith may have had to the middle with his left hand. That’s effective. The problem comes when Smith kicks it out to Teague.

Redick is simply not quick enough to provide much of a challenge on Teague. When the ball is released, there’s a good two feet of separation between Redick and the shooter. He makes the effort, but his limitations are clear on the first attempt.

On the second attempt, after Redick again doubles the post, this time Al Horford. He cuts him off effectively and Horford’s forced to pass it out to Teague as Smith was before. But Redick is too slow to get out once again, this time putting even less of a challenge into it, and Teague connects on the open look.

Redick’s problems are not necessarily ones of poor recognition or effort, but more physically based out of his relative lack of quickness. It’s simply difficult for him to double and then get out and effectively bother a shooter thanks to his foot speed and size limitations. Monta? Sometimes he wanders, and it often seems like it’s the case when he’s guarding a player that isn’t quite as sharp of a shooter.

But Harris and pretty much every other guard in the NBA can make threes when they are left open and unchallenged. The Hawks showed the Bucks that over and over Saturday night.

Categories: Play breakdowns

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  1. Good stuff. In a way they sort of have opposite problems. I wonder if the coaching staff points this stuff out to them. Whether or not they do, Redick probably won’t get quicker because he’s basically at his max physically. And Ellis probably won’t fix his bad habits and thought patterns because he’s Monta Ellis and he has it all.

  2. Its great to have examples on film.

    but Im going to go ahead and disagree with you on the conclusion that Redick’s lack of physical quickness is the problem on these plays. Thats a little oversimplified.

    On the first play when Redick decides to double, the distance between him and his man on the perimeter is simply too large to overcome for most any player. His reaction time is also a bit slow and he should have been anticipating the kickout and been ‘half out the door’ to start with. Instead he has to shift his weight, push-off, and pursue, meanwhile the pass is already in the hands of the shooter.

    On the second play Redick seems like he isn’t at all anticipating the kick-out which he clearly should be in this situation, and his reaction time is slow. When he goes out to his man on the perimeter he certainly isn’t moving as quickly as he is capable of, he more or less squares up from a distance defending for a drive rather than a quick shot.

    Redick’s strategy of helping in the post and his mental quickness are more questionable on these plays than his actual physical quickness. He’s not going to be defensive player of the year but I’ve seen him move quickly enough. Just watch him run around screens and tell me he doesn’t have footspeed or the agility to quickly change direction.

    As far as Ellis, yea this type of thing is easy to witness multiple times a game. He stands straight up a lot and lets his guy go free, even in crucial parts of the game. He also overplays and gets a lot of steals, but when he misses steals he doesn’t make the effort to recover very often. Luckily we have Larry to minimize the damage.

    The fact that Brandon and Monta play such undisciplined defense is strange since Scott Skiles was their coach for a good duration. Did he just not care or did they not listen to him or not get it? Am I missing something?

    • I talked to Boylan after the game and he said the strategy was to double Horford in the post. I didn’t ask Smith, so on the second play, I think he was just doing what he was supposed to.

      I agree about the anticipation – you’d think that’d be a strength of his, but he did a poor job with both of those, then had to rely on quickness that he doesn’t have.

  3. Monta is small and quick. his game on defense is going for steals. thats it. if he didnt go for steals he would be completely useless as a defender. you want him to play heads up D? that would be disastrous.

    in this clip-
    his cheating into the passing lane actually messed up the Hawks timing on their fastbreak.
    on the three I’m fairly certain the shooter(Harris) wasnt his man. it was Redick’s. (his man was Teague on the near side of the court.) Teague is the smaller and quicker of these two so that would be Monta’s assignment.

    they were scrambling and Redick switched. Monta left Harris, who isnt much of a shooter to look for a steal.

  4. Game plan was to help in defending the rim/paint and get rebounds. They kept everyone except Horford from scoring and out rebounded them 58-41.

    That six players made 3pt shots at a team 50% rate was a gamble they took and lost. These guys tried to give help on defense and for the most part, they did.

    Our misfortune was that we were unable to pay them back with any more than 4 3pt shots ourselves.

    Which is not to say that the fantastic work done by Jeremy is not both enlightening and illustrative of a real concern for Bucks moving forward. A lot of work needs to be done and when these guys learn how to multitask, the rest of the league is in trouble!

    Go Bucks!

  5. Like in football, the key for good defense, perhaps,
    is to mix things up: to double-team low sometimes;
    then at other times to fake a double-team low and cover
    the perimeter instead; then maybe something else —
    including using different guys to guard the same player.

    It’s also a matter of minimizing the weaknesses
    of our guys by putting them in the right positions
    in the right situations, in harmony with the other
    defenders on the floor.

    Not that this is easy! Also, if guys consistently
    refuse to carry out their assignments, then the
    coach has to have the nerve to take them out and let
    them know why. I wonder if Brandon and Monta
    will at times disregard their coach — on offense and
    defense — and, in effect, dare him to take them out
    of the game. This gets back to the really good question
    Sillybilly asked at the end of his post. I’m interested
    in what Jeremy and other Bucks fans think. It gets down
    to whether we want to pay big money to guys who might
    be defying the coach!

    Finally, thanks to Jeremy and the other fans who posted
    above for analyzing the kind of things I often miss.

  6. I believe JJ gets an early pass because he only had one day of practice and it’s probably a little hard to get your defensive rotations perfect instantly.. he did a terrific job at staying in front of Teague on that first clip making them run a set.. his closeouts will come.. as for Monta as usual he is guarding no one.. and Jeremy’s point about Boylan wanting everyone crashing the glass is true, but you don’t go for a rebound when no shot has gone up goofball

  7. I agree that defense is a major flaw to this teams perimeter, especially with these two players, I think the most viable option would be to keep JJ because he’s a bit cheaper, and he doesn’t go 4 for 25 every other night (being dramatic). I dunno I see this team having so much potential, but they need to build this team with one of the three scorers, Jennings, ellis or JJ, and ship the rest out, these three players cannot gel together, I guarantee it. I would love to be proven wrong, I really would.

  8. Even the guys on the NBA network stated that Atlanta couldn’t keep shooting 3’s at 50% plus and that the Bucks should be happy to let them keep jacking them up. Their thinking was that the law of averages would catch up with the Hawks and that their 3-point shooting percentage would decline, which it obviously did not.

    I still believe we played a very good game, but came up just short becasue of the turnovers late in the game and not because of the lack of defense from Ellis or Redick.

    One guy was playing a new position and the other playing his first game with his new team. Let’s give the Hawks credit for hitting all those 3’s, instead of blasting our players for their poor defense. I certainly would have liked to see one of those guys rotate and give Sanders some help in the paint on Hortford’s last shot.

    My point is that we should be looking more at those late game turnovers as the reason we lost the game!


    • It does seem sadly ironic, if the strategy
      was to double Horford in the post, that the
      Bucks didn’t do it on the decisive play at
      the end of the game.

  9. Ummm… Monta Ellis is the best thing for the Bucks since Michael Redd. Win or lose he actually makes the games fun to watch.

  10. how about we show the clip were 6 foot 9 maybe 6 10 on a good day al horford backed larry (the god on defense to everyone on these forums) all the way down from the elbow and shot a straight up layup right through larry for the game winner? how about that one? who am i kidding when we lose every milwaukee fan blames ellis or jennings.

    • Good offense more often than not beats good defense in the NBA, if you want to blame the entire game on Larry Sanders getting beat one on one on the final play by a guy that is an All Star Center who has 25-30 pounds on Larry then that is your prerogative :)

      • funny when it comes down to one play with jennings or ellis than its ok to blame but because its larry its not, bunch a hippacrits

        • buncha hippacrits!

          Monta Ellis is a way better defender than Larry Sanders! buncha hippacrits ’round here!

  11. Redick’s been playing very good defense all year… think that giving him a pass for his first game, after one practice is probably a good idea…