Even as far as defenders go, Florida Launch captain Tucker Durkin is fairly quiet on the stat sheets. He only has five caused turnovers on the season. He’s a positional defender – and a bruising one – but he won’t swing for the fences with on-ball stick checks. The common defensive stats won’t impress, but dig deeper and you’ll find the underlying numbers are staggering.
When Durkin is in the lineup, Launch opponents are scoring 11.1 points per 45 possessions when initiating from X. For some context, that’s not only the best defense of X in MLL; that’s better than any team defends any action in MLL.
Nobody can manage to shake Durkin. Unassisted shots off dodges from X are falling only 22.5% of the time against the Launch – the lowest mark in the league.
Assisted shots in the same situation are somehow worse; Launch opponents are only 20.8% of catch-and-shoot looks from X. Typically passes from X produce some of the juiciest scoring chances – league-wide shooting percentage in those scenarios is 32.5%.
The Bayhawks forced Durkin and the Launch to defend lots of two-man games last week. Durkin managed to maneuver most picks at X and continually beat Lyle Thompson to his spot. Above the cage, the Launch defense was aggressive showing and switching.
Picks above the cage can produce shots in the blink of an eye. The Launch are comfortable switching – even if it puts a short-stick on a superstar like Lyle – and then seeing how the offense handles the mismatch. If they dodge the freshly created mismatch, then Durkin is nearby to flush it and arrive on hands.
Mike Unterstein and the Launch defensive midfielders have been aggressive chipping the ball-carrier. They’ve thrown off the timing of two-man games. The Launch are allowing 16.0 points per 45 pick-and-roll possessions – slightly better than the league average of 16.2. The Launch are struggling most with pick-and-rolls from the midfield (19.8 points per 45 possessions), and as you could guess, are dominant against pick-and-rolls at X (13.7 points per 45 possessions).
The switching strategy is working on the wing, too. Even the threat of switching is enough to change an offense’s strategy. Tim Edwards shows against this Lyle-Myles Jones pick-and-roll, causing Lyle to go underneath right into a waiting Durkin. Blocked shots won’t make a highlight reel, but when they stuff crunch-time actions drawn up during a timeout, they’re pretty damn valuable.
Durkin hasn’t won a Defensive Player of the Week Award yet this summer, which is a crime. He’s the best defender in the league from week-to-week – and he should be destined for his first Defensive Player of the Year Award.