In our discourse on the benching of Mikki Moore (pre- and post-decision), defense has been a common topic. To me, it's obvious that Moore is a better team defender than Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes or Jason Thompson. He makes rotations quicker, guards much tighter on the perimeter and communicates well.
But clearly, Moore isn't the difference between the league's worst defense and a passable version. Hell, to this point Moore hasn't been the difference between the league's worst defense and the league's second worst defense. Yeah, laugh at the Warriors and their "giving up 135 points to the Knicks" all you want, because adjusted for pace Sacramento has the worst defense in the league.
Scott Howard-Cooper discusses Hawes' defense in a morning blog post. Scoop's gist is that we once thought Hawes would be an awful defender, and now it looks like he'll be at least a passable defender and possibly a good defender. And Scoop is absolutely correct in the sense that Hawes is destroying all expectations on that side of the ball. The blocks are the visual/visceral sign of life, but the rebounding numbers (a stable 15% rebound rate) and a few key vignettes (including his sequential abuse of Pau Gasol) have given us some hope on this thread.
But is good enough in the future?
Thompson's rebounding is about even with Hawes', except that Shock gets a bigger chunk on the offensive end, whereas Hawes has been skewed to the defensive glass this year. Are two 15-16% rebound rate bigs enough to be at least average on the glass? Remember, last year the Kings had a 15% Reb center (Miller) and a 12% Reb power forward (Moore). The team was 27th in defensive rebounding and 22nd in offensive rebounding.
Houston is third in defensive rebounding this year. Its starting center and PF (Yao Ming and Luis Scola) have near matching rebound rates of 15%. But every other starter -- Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston -- is banging the boards better than their positional average, and all the bench bigs are good 15%ish rebounders as well.
Kevin Martin has been a slight plus at the two in rebounding in his career. John Salmons is a small minus at the small forward. Beno Udrih is a slight plus. Basically -- assuming the prospective bench rebounds well; Francisco Garcia is good for a two-guard but poor at the three -- this team, with Shock and Hawes as the Big Future, can be a good-to-very good rebounding team. It just requires great improvement from either Hawes (unlikely) or Thompson (plausible if unlikely) or an upgrade at the three.
This is where I note that despite his overall struggles, young Donté Greene has been a great rebounder at small forward.