[Ed. Note: More great stuff from bwoodsyx as always. Enjoy! -Jake]
I will now, in honor of some recent Wizards teams, pay extensive lip service to perimeter defense, but will go into it without really fully committing myself and without a coherent, effective plan. And, if things get too hard I might let it go and either let Brendan Haywood come over and help or just wait to get the ball back.
Backcourt Defense: Defensively, the Pistons of 07-08 were sort of an outside-in team, which I just can't see the Wizards replicating. There is too much bad history there.
The Pistons held opposing PGs and SGs below league-average PERs while opposing frontcourts did a bit better. In fact, Detroit's opposing guards were kept consistently below-average for as far back as 82games has the good +/- and opposing PER stats (03-04). It is hard to know where to give credit for this. Neither Billups nor Hamilton have ever had reputations as big-time defenders. Moreover, they were together for so much of the critical part of their careers that it is hard to learn much by looking at their stats individually. Subjectively, Billups certainly has the size to bother a lot of opposing point guards and to spend time on or switch easily onto most of the league's shooting guards, which is a big plus and something well within Arenas's physical ability. Also, Detroit's opposition point guard PER really jumped this season while the shooting guard PER was fairly consistent. On the other hand, the replacements for Billups (Stuckey/AI) were probably well below-average defenders anyway, which only magnifies things.
Rip is brilliant at using space on offense, which probably translates well to defensive effectiveness. And, it probably helps that his counterpart is having to chase him more than he'd like at the other end. His size really isn't that bad, either, and it probably made both Billups and Rip more effective that they could switch without generating mismatches very often.
Still, it is tempting to give some of the credit to the big-man help they had over the course of their tenures there. Sheed is often more likely to help a teammate than stick his own man (the most infamous example being Game 5 of the 04-05 Finals when he left Horry open in the corner). And before Sheed there was Big Ben, who in his day was awesome at jumping out on perimeter screens and switching if need be. I can't see any such help defender walking through the door, however, and Haywood is actually quite good with help but still not nearly on the level of the Wallaces as a help defender.
Arenas and Miller have so many physical tools going for them on the defensive end, and should have the benefit of a Flip matchup-zone/man scheme that does not somehow manage to BOTH encourage dribble penetration AND leave open outside shooters they way the Wiz have in recent years. But, it would be foolish to just assume this will come together the way those Pistons did when these guys have never actually done it. I think just holding opposing guards to something like league-average production would be sufficient, given what these guys should do at the other end. Enough offensive potential is there to maintain a similar margin over opposing guards even while allowing opposition guards to do more than the Pistons' opponents managed. At least that's true of the starters.
The backups are, shall we say, not exactly stoppers. Foye and Young both have offense-first reps and need to prove a lot on D. I didn't think Young was AS bad last year as the bearded one made him out to be, but still somewhere less than adequate. Foye sort of had the opposite of help defenders behind him, which makes him hard to evaluate individually, and he was an acceptable defender in college, so we can't rule him out, but he hasn't proven much to date. He has some athletic ability, but then so does Nick.
And then the real wildcards in backcourt defense will be (1) whether McGuire gets used to cover SGs at all and (2) whether DeShawn is still around and healthy. The Locksmith probably got a little bit overrated for his defense, understandably so since he was a lot better than the other guys in the backcourt. But, he definitely took pride in his D and that is huge. McGuire's ability to cover an opposing SG for spells is probably the sort of thing that could come in handy in the playoffs more than having a meaningful impact in the regular season.
So, to sum up--Good luck, Flip.