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Nate McMillan not the defensive coach he’s cracked up to be

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

To see how much a difference pace can make, here’s how McMillan’s teams ranked in points allowed per game/points allowed per possession:

2000-01 SuperSonics: 24th/24th*

2001-02 SuperSonics: 12th/17th

2002-03 SuperSonics: 6th/17th

2003-04 SuperSonics: 24th/27th

2004-05 SuperSonics: 13th/27th

2005-06 Trail Blazers: 18th/28th

2006-07 Trail Blazers: 14th/26th

2007-08 Trail Blazers: 8th/17th

2008-09 Trail Blazers: 4th/13th

2009-10 Trail Blazers: 3rd/15th

2010-11 Trail Blazers: 7th/14th

2011-12 Trail Blazers: 18th/23rd**

And his teams usually perform well offensively. After all, if his defenses do poorly, there has to be some reason his teams win more often than not.

There’s plenty of variation in rankings for McMillan’s teams offensively (using points scored per possession) — 10th, 5th, 19th, 3rd, 2nd, 30th, 20th, 14th, 1st, 7th, 10th, 11th — but they certainly skew to the positive.


  • May 3, 20134:05 pm
    by G


    This ignores the fact that he never had a legit stopper in the middle and his teams lacked good individual defenders almost across the board.

  • May 3, 20134:35 pm
    by jprime18


    As a guy who watched a lot of those Sonics games, he never had the personnel to have an elite defensive team. The one year Jerome James was above average, they took the eventual world champion Spurs to 6 games

  • May 3, 20135:16 pm
    by mike


    I don’t understand the McMillan apologists. In POR he dealt with injuries, in SEA he didn’t have any defensive players. etc etc…

    Sure it may all be true, but that doesn’t mean in any way that if he has talent he would know what to do with it and be any better.

    I trust Phil’s opinion on coach’s, so if he vouches for McMillan I’ll be on board, I just don’t see anything from him that says he’s going to become a great coach one day.


    • May 3, 20135:28 pm
      by oats


      But if he didn’t have any talent and he made the most out of what he had, doesn’t that suggest he’d do better with better players? I’d think so.

  • May 3, 20135:22 pm
    by City of Klompton


  • May 3, 20135:39 pm
    by frankie d


    what is obvious is a clear pattern.
    in both portland and seattle, he took over teams that were plain awful defensively.  in each instance, he greatly improved their performance.  
    the numbers are pretty clear.  
    the last couple of years in seattle and his last year in portland, the teams were both decimated by personnel moves and injuries and the record reflects that.
    and as someone who watched both the seattle and portland teams, the idea that mcmillan did not improve the defense of both teams is laughable.

    • May 6, 20138:42 am
      by G


      Agree. The best defender McMillan ever had was 2 partial season out of a mostly washed-up Camby.

  • May 3, 20136:11 pm
    by Vic


    Porter or Oladipo or even James Ennis + Drummond = not a problem

    • Jun 3, 20139:32 am
      by Quannage


      Problem is, at #8 you’re not getting any of those guys.

  • May 3, 201311:08 pm
    by robertbayer


    Good Article by Feldman … Nate M. is better than Lawrence Frank as a choice but still not good enough. Pass.

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