When Pittsburgh All-American candidate Lamar Patterson struggled offensively in a home loss to Rodney Hood and the Duke Blue Devils, the immediate media reaction was to applaud Hood’s defensive performance. He spent most of the game guarding Patterson, who finished with 14 pts 4-14 FG 5-6 FT 1 Ast 5 TOVs, which is a decidedly bad line for a normally efficient scorer.
It’s natural to assume that some significant portion of credit goes to Hood, and it raises the possibility that I have been underrating his defense and/or he has improved throughout the season. The team as a whole has recently been playing better on that end, so it’s fair to wonder if Rodney Hood is transforming from a sieve to a passable defensive player.
I compiled the key plays to display how Duke shut Patterson down:
-Hood was only guarding Patterson for 1 of his 5 turnovers, and it was when Marshall Plumlee came to help for the trap. It does not require much defensive acumen to force a turnover in that situation.
-Pitt’s bad spacing and elite help defense neutralized Patterson almost every time he penetrated. He got all the way to the rim only twice when Jabari Parker failed to cut off his drive and fouled him for free throws.
-Did anybody notice Hood doing anything impressive? He contested a couple of shots and he ripped away the ball on the trap, but that’s it. None of his good plays are indicative of an ability to hang with NBA SF’s
-There were four occasions on which Patterson badly faked out Hood. Aside from having questionable tools to hang with NBA SF’s, Hood exacerbates his projection by being easily juked. Consequently he gets blown by regularly, only this game he had Amile Jefferson at his back to keep him from looking too bad.
Overall this shows why measuring defense by counterpart performance is entirely worthless. The main credit goes to Coach K for finding a way to mitigate the impact of Hood’s defensive deficiencies, and Amile Jefferson for playing good help defense. At both the NCAA and NBA level defense is a team effort, and Hood’s role against Patterson could have been fulfilled by any wing draft prospect. In the NBA Hood will once again be reliant on help from his teammates, except it will be more difficult to find a solution when all of the good NBA offenses have far better spacing than the Pittsburgh Panthers.