Biggest Snubs of 2013 NBA All-Defensive 1st and 2nd Teams
Alright, NBA fans, are you ready to summon some more awards-season outrage?
I certainly hope so, because there's plenty of it to go around now that the league has announced the All-Defensive first and second teams for the 2012-13 season.
For the most part, the NBA's 30 head coaches were spot-on (or close to it) with their selections. LeBron James, Tony Allen, Serge Ibaka and Chris Paul all cracked the first team, and the coaches created room enough to honor three of the sport's premier defensive bigs in Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and Tim Duncan.
Tyson Chandler probably belongs in that group, but the New York Knicks' defense regressed considerably this season, even when he was on the floor, per NBA.com.
That's not to say the bench-minders deserve pats on the back for a job well done—or that they should be voting on regular-season honors to begin with. Some had the gumption to waste votes on Kobe Bryant (six ballot points, one first-team vote), Tony Parker (two ballot points, one first-team vote) and Mike James (two ballot points, one first-team vote).
Which, as it happens, were the least of the travesties visited upon the All-Defensive teams by those charged with choosing them.
5. Luol Deng
Realistically, Luol Deng wasn't going to garner a spot on either All-Defensive squad. The forward spots were already full to the brim with the likes of LeBron James, Serge Ibaka, Paul George and Tim Duncan. It probably didn't help Deng's case, either, that the Chicago Bulls already had one representative among the chosen 11 in Joakim Noah.
For his own part, Deng's basic defensive stats (6.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.4 blocks) weren't all that awe-inspiring, and, according to NBA.com, Chicago actually gave up slightly more points per 100 possessions when Deng was on the floor.
That being said, it's still striking that Deng has only one All-Defensive selection (2011-12 second team) to his name after nine years in the league. He's been considered one of the NBA's premier perimeter defenders for at least the last few years now, but hasn't really received his just due.
4. Larry Sanders
Larry Sanders had himself a breakout year in 2012-13, to say the least.
He more than doubled his minutes per game from 2011-12 and used that extra playing time to finish second in the NBA in blocks and 12th in rebounding. According to Synergy Sports, Sanders ranked among the top 50 in the league in points per possession allowed on pick-and-rolls (47th), post-ups (39th) and isolations (22nd).
More importantly, Sanders' impact on the Milwaukee Bucks' defense was massive. According to NBA.com, the Bucks gave up 98.8 points per 100 possessions when Sanders was on the floor and 105.6 when he wasn't. That was approximately the difference between the San Antonio Spurs' third-ranked defense and the Phoenix Suns' 24th-ranked defense.
Sanders, though, missed 11 games and didn't start for Milwaukee until early December. Those strikes against him are particularly damaging when the field of worthy competitors among defensive bigs was this deep.
3. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala's case for inclusion on an All-Defensive team (and as a potential Defensive Player of the Year honoree) is akin to that usually made for newcomers in Coach of the Year balloting.
You know the drill: Team hires coach, team improves significantly (if not drastically) under coach, coach wins award.
Replace "hires" with "trades for," "coach" with "player" and add "defensively" to the second part of the above triad, and you'd have a solid approximation of what Iggy brought to the table for the Denver Nuggets this season.
In 2011-12 (i.e. Year 1 Before Andre), the Nuggets ranked 19th in defensive efficiency, yielding 103.4 points per 100 possessions. This season (i.e. Year 1 With Andre), Denver checked in at 11th in that very category—102.0 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The difference may not seem like much, but that roughly accounts for the gap between the Nuggets' D and that of the Houston Rockets, which nobody considers to be a stout outfit.
And that's before you take into account the havoc last year's lockout wrought on offenses and how inflated some of the defensive metrics were as a result...and how many fewer points per 100 possessions (4.8) the Nuggets yielded when Iggy was involved, per NBA.com.
Still, there's only so much outrage to be mustered over a guy who showed up on half of all ballots turned in and, as a result, was one of the first players to be left off the All-Defensive squads.
2. Roy Hibbert
As for Roy Hibbert...well, there's plenty of outrage to go around here.
It was bad enough that the writers didn't respect Hibbert enough to push him any higher than 10th among the 21 players who garnered votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Certainly, the coaches could've given more credit to a guy who finished third in blocks and 19th in rebounds, and who made the Indiana Pacers' already imposing defense 2.4 points better per 100 possessions whenever he played...right?
Apparently not. Roy Hibbert wound up with a paltry six ballot points (two first-team votes, two second-team votes). That left him behind Dwight Howard (nine ballots), who featured on the Los Angeles Lakers' 18th-ranked defense.
Have I mentioned that the Pacers' D (i.e. the one that Hibbert anchored) happened to be the stingiest in the entire league on a per-100-possession basis?
I don't necessarily think that Hibbert should've come out ahead of Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol at the center spot, but if ever there were a third big whose impact on an elite defense made squeezing an 11th man into the All-Defensive ring of honor a necessity, it was Hibbert in 2012-13.
1. Marc Gasol
I know, I know. Marc Gasol was voted onto the second team, so how could he be considered a "snub," right?
Well, for one, the Memphis Grizzlies' big man was the writers' pick for Defensive Player of the Year. There's certainly precedent for a DPOY being bumped to the second team; just last year, the coaches put Dwight Howard on the first team and Tyson Chandler on the second after the writers (perhaps out of spite amidst the ongoing "Dwightmare") gave the DPOY to Chandler, with Howard checking in third.
But spite and writer stupidity hardly explain the choices in this case. Gasol was a more-than-worthy winner of the award after the way he anchored Memphis' stifling defense.
He was also far more durable than those for whom he was eschewed. Gasol played in all but two of the Grizzlies' regular-season games, while Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, who tied for first-team All Defensive selections at center, missed 16 games apiece for their respective squads. Those minutes missed add up and, ideally, should count for something in the balloting.
But the greatest travesty of all wasn't so much that Gasol wound up on the second team, but rather the margin by which he wound up there. Gasol garnered votes from just seven of the league's 30 coaches (five first-team, two second-team) for a total of 12 ballot points. That's half as many points as the total at which Noah and Chandler tied and fewer than Andre Iguodala (16), Larry Sanders (16) and Thabo Sefolosha (15)—the last three of whom didn't make either team.
Apparently, 23 coaches didn't see the Grizzlies play this year, or didn't notice Gasol pointing out assignments, grabbing rebounds and making plays on the defensive end.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my head is about to explode with outrage.