Nolan Smith is an excellent on the ball defender
Today I wanted to look at one of Nolan Smith’s major strengths, on the ball defense. Smith is another member of the great defensive guards legacy at Duke, which will be a key aspect of Duke’s title defense.
Smith is a great defender because he has a desire to play tough defense, superb lateral quickness and nice length for a guard. Let’s see how he uses those things to his advantage to hound opposing guards.
First, notice how he is moving laterally with his feet to keep his defender in front of him. You need to be able to shuffle your feet quickly when you are playing perimeter defense and Smith shows off his skill in this clip.
He is working extremely hard to keep Joe Mazzula in front of him and he does it without fouling (in fact, he draws an offensive foul). Notice how Smith does not go for the steal and reach in but rather annoys Mazzula with his hands up.
Smith is able to move laterally quickly due to how he shuffles his feet. He is moving his feet rather well, which helps him stay in front of the ball.
In the next clip, notice how he uses his length to keep Shelvin Mack in front of him and then contest his jump shot. He fights over the top of the screen because he knows Mack is a good shooter and his length allows him to contest the jump shot even though he is a step behind Mack.
Finally, here is a clip that sums up both of those points into one play. Smith once again shows how good he is at keeping his man in front of him, as he shadows Shelvin Mack around the court. Mack tries to turn on the jets and beat Smith to the basket but Smith stays in front of him.
This forces Mack to take a tough jump shot, which Smith contests with his length. Once again, Smith dominates a possession on defense and does not pick up a foul while forcing a tough shot.
Is Nolan Smith the best perimeter defender in the ACC? Coach K has shown he can really teach perimeter defense as we have seen from Wojo to Jay Williams to Smith. Smith is great at using his lateral quickness and length to hound opposing defenders into mistakes or tough defenses. He does this all without fouling (2.0 fouls committed per 40 minutes). I am looking forward to seeing Smith play D this year and how the opposition deals with him on the perimeter.