During Linsanity, a lot of critics (especially the Haters) complained about Lin’s poor defense. I think this had more to do with them trying to find things to criticize Lin on. I always felt that Lin’s defense was highly underrated and he’s clearly showing that this year. I think last year, a big reason why Lin’s defense didn’t shine through was because of D’Antoni’s system, which encouraged a lot of switching on defense, rather than on ball defense. When Woodson took over, Lin showcased some of his defensive capabilities, because he was encouraged to fight through screens and stick to his man, rather than switching. But by that time, his unjust reputation as a poor defender, thanks to the Haters who just couldn’t see how an Asian kid could stop any NBA player, was already ingrained.
McHale is big on defense. I think that’s what McHale cares about the most, which is ironic, because Houston is such a high-scoring team. I think McHale and a lot of Houston fans are starting to come around on Lin’s defensive prowess. In fact, it’s a big reason why McHale has left Lin in the game in the most recent stretches of games where Lin has struggled offensively. He has seen Lin shutting down guys like Vasquez and even Westbrook (these guys went off on Douglas and that’s how they were able to get the bulk of their scoring and get a rhythm going).
Last year, I thought Lin was a highly underrated defender. This year, I think he’s one of the best complete defenders in his position. Lin has always been a good help defender (sometimes helping too much), but what I’m seeing this year is that Lin is also a great on-ball defender. The only time Lin has trouble is when he’s defending a mouse like Nate Robinson. Lin is actually better defending bigger men. I’m not as familiar with other Point Guard’s defensive abilities (I assume Rose and Rondo are good), so I can’t say definitively if Lin should be included in the NBA All-Defensive Team, but I think he should definitely be in the conversation. My concern is that because of his reputation and because Lin doesn’t look the part, he won’t be recognized for his defense.
As a tribute to Lin’s defense, I’ve compiled some of his best defensive efforts here (in no particular order) and would really appreciate you adding to the list.
I still remember this defense by Lin from last season against the Bucks in which he single-handedly forced Jennings to put up a horrendous air ball with the game on the line and the clock winding down. Unfortunately, the Bucks got a lucky loose ball tip in by Ilyasova. This is, perhaps, my favorite Lin defensive effort, because of how critical the possession was. At 3:50 in this video:
Of course, everyone remembers the block on Rose. He also had a great steal on Rose in that game:
Lin good help defense, strips Nowitzki (at 1:18):
Lin good help defense block on Josh Smith:
Lin’s defense on Kobe and the Lakers. One of my favorite defensive efforts by Lin is the one where he forced Kobe to throw up a shot falling out of bounds on the baseline behind the backboard. Lin also provided good help defense on Metta World Peace in this video and at 2:04, he provided good help defense on Kobe to force a rare air ball. It’s no wonder that in last night’s game, Kobe respected Lin’s defense and played very cautiously when Lin was on him. I remember a possession in the third quarter when Lin was guarding Kobe one-on-one, which Lin did a quite a bit in the second half of this game, and Kobe kept hesitating and finally put up a deep fade away over Lin which missed.
Lin is actually even better when he’s defending bigger men on-on-one. Here’s a great example of Lin giving 6′ 10″ Gallinario all kinds of trouble, forcing Gallinari to put up a horrendous prayer with the shot clock winding down at 4:36:
Good helpd defense to take the ball away from Bosh at 2:01. Draws an offensive foul in transition on Cole at 2:36. Lin does this quite a bit, which is very difficult to do in transition. It requires a great deal of anticipation to get there in time and a willingness to be completely still and sacrifice your body, which Lin has no qualms about. I love this defensive effort by Lin one-on-one at 2:56 on Lebron. Lebron thought he would get an easy drive to the hoop, but Lin forces him to lose the ball.
Good help defense on Zach Randolph to force a jump ball at 2:48. And at 3:23, Lin is a pest to Randolph again.
Lin forces a Nash travel, which the refs didn’t call at 7:29, after Lin woke up from his 1st half slumber in last night’s game against the Lakers. At 8:20, Lin blocks Nash. Kobe respecting Lin’s defense and hesitates when Lin is on him at 11:15, putting up a deep fade-away, rather than trying to drive on Lin. At 14:34, Lin single-handedly forces Metta World Peace to put up a horrendous short-distance air ball one-on-one.
Great help defense by Lin on Nash to force a jump ball at 2:20. The level of difficulty here is very high, because it could have easily been a foul if Lin didn’t have quick hands and perfect anticipation.