I think @Netw3rk said it best, “Ronnie Brewer isn’t a shooting guard he’s a guarding guard.”
Ronnie Brewer is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league, but if you haven’t heard of him, it’s likely because he isn’t very flashy on the offensive end. One thing is for sure: he gets the job done on defense. To show off Brewer’s, dare I say elite, defensive skills, I took a look at how four very talented shooting guards fared when going up against the defensive powerhouse that is Ronnie Brewer.
Before I get into this, it should be noted that Ronnie Brewer played fewer than 25% of his total minutes with Omer Asik, a defensive anchor upfront, so a lot of his defense came with a limited backstop. Yeah, I just tooted his horn.
(Keep in mind that all head-to-head statistics are per 36 minutes)
First up, Kobe Bryant.
Now, last year, the Bulls and Lakers only played once, and in that game, Kobe played 35 minutes. 15 of those minutes were against Ronnie Brewer, while the other 20 were played while Brewer rested on the bench. With Brewer on the bench, Kobe proceeded to score 32.4 points, on a scorching 67% shooting. He also attempted 10.8 free throws, which stem from Kobe’s ability to draw fouls on inferior defenders.
However, with Brewer on the court, Bryant’s scoring decreased to 24 points, on just 36% shooting, and he only attempted 2.4 free throws. It’s worth noting that the field-goal percentage Brewer held Bryant to was more than 10% below Bryant’s average field goal percentage of 43%, 16.3% below, to be exact, for the entire 2011-2012 season.
Kobe was 1-7 from midrange, an abysmal 14%, when Brewer was on the floor. Compare that 14% to Kobe’s 42% field goal percentage from mid-range last year, and the number is even more impressive. Also, With Brewer on the bench, Kobe contributed 43% of the Lakers’ turnovers, but when Brewer was on the floor, that number ballooned to 63%, which isn’t surprising, because we all know how much Kobe loves having the ball in his hands – even if he’s going against a pesky defender.
Yes, Bryant’s scoring and shooting percentage dropped with Brewer on the floor, but perhaps the most impressive drop was in free throw attempts.
A good defender might defend his opponent well but end up losing the battle by fouling. A great defender doesn’t give his opponent the chance to get to the free throw line… Brewer was able to pressure Bryant enough to decrease his scoring production, as well as shooting percentage, but he also avoided fouling Bryant, and kept him from going to the line. That’s a very big deal when you consider that free throws would have helped the Lakers much more than loosely-contested jumpers would.
Next up, Kevin Martin.
Thanks to a shortened, lockout induced season, the Bulls did not have the opportunity to play the Rockets last year, but during the 2010-2011, full length season, these teams met twice, with Kevin Martin playing 70 minutes in those two games. With Brewer on the bench, in 38 minutes, Martin scored 25.6 points, on 47% shooting, and attempted 9.5 free throws. With Brewer on the court, those numbers decreased to 5.6 points, on 25% shooting, 43% below his season average, and just 1.1 free throws attempted.
One interesting thing is that with Brewer on the floor, Martin resorted to finding teammates, rather than attempting to generate offense on his own. With Brewer on the bench, Martin scored 31% of the Rockets’ points, compared to just 9%, when Brewer was on the floor. At the same time, Martin contributed 31% of his team’s assists, while Brewer was on the floor, compared to just 16%, when Brewer was on the bench. Thanks to Brewer’s defense, Kevin Martin, one of the leagues best pure scorers, was forced to focus his attention more on distributing the ball, rather than scoring it, as he was locked up by Brewer.
Next up, Manu Ginobili.
Last year, the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls didn’t play, but two years ago, during the 2010-2011 season, the teams matched up twice, and Manu played 67 minutes, in total. 27 of those minutes were against Ronnie Brewer, while the other 40 saw Brewer on the bench.
With Brewer resting on the bench, Ginobili scored 26.1 points, while shooting 58% from the floor. With Brewer on the court, Ginobili’s scoring declined to 9.3 points, on just 18% shooting. Furthermore, without Brewer on him, Ginobili managed to avoid turning the ball over, but when Brewer entered the game, Ginobili contributed 50% of his team’s turnovers.
Manu is one of the most difficult players to defend because of the way he incorporates his european flare into the game, in order to keep his defender on his toes. Despite this, Brewer was able to limit Manu’s shooting percentage to just 18%, a number that should not go unnoticed. While it’s impressive to limit any scorer to 18% shooting, it’s even more impressive limiting one of the trickiest scorers to 18% shooting.
Finally, Dwyane Wade.
In 2011, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat matched up in a seven game playoff series that only went five games. Of the five games played, Wade played in 198 of the possible 240 minutes. 36% of those minutes were against Ronnie Brewer. With Brewer on him, Wade was held to a paltry 15 points, on 38% shooting, and attempted just 4 free throws.
While Wade didn’t have the greatest overall series, the most impressive thing Brewer displayed was his ability to avoid fouling – something I spoke about earlier. Dwyane Wade is one of the best scorers in the league, and even though the NBA just inserted a flopping penalty, the fact of the matter is that the best scorers are experts at selling fouls and getting to the free throw line. Wade, for instance, has a career average of 8.9 free throw attempts per game. While some of those come from aggressive play, the number is padded by Golden Globe worthy performances.
In the Bulls vs. Heat playoff series, Brewer’s ability to limit Wade’s trips to the stripe to just 4.0 times a game, should not go unnoticed. This means he didn’t bite on a majority of Wade’s fakes, nor did he get caught with his hand in the cookie jar, two things made especially difficult when going up an offensive powerhouse like Wade.
So, as I’ve shown you, Ronnie Brewer is a superb defender. He alters the games of even the best scorers in the league. While he might not have an offensive game (well, he does, but it’s god awful), his defense more than makes up for that loss. Brewer will give the Knicks a guy that can pester the opposition’s shooting guard all night long. I’m looking forward to a long year of defense from Ronnie Brewer!