Less Significant for the NBA: Defense or Milwaukee?

Tim SeemanAnalyst IMay 1, 2009

CHICAGO - MARCH 06:  Luc Mbah a Moute #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks to go up for a shot under the basket against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The NBA announced its first and second all-rookie teams for the 2008-2009 season, and a curious absence for those who know about this guy is that of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a second-round pick who started games for the much-improved Milwaukee Bucks this season.

It's not even the fact that he didn't make either of the cuts that bothers me.  Guys on the second team like Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez definitely deserved the honor.  What bugs me is that Mbah a Moute didn't get one single vote.

His measurable stats weren't jaw-dropping by any stretch (7.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists), but what he brought to the Bucks can't be measured by any statistics. He played just a shade under 26 minutes per game under new head coach Scott Skiles because of his superior defensive abilities.

His job when he was in the game was to defend the opponents' best offensive player.  He effectively defended a wide variety of offensive styles including those of Kobe Bryant, Andre Iguodala, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade.

He did his job in all 82 games for the Bucks, starting in 52, and the improvement in Milwaukee's defense was evident. In 2007-2008, the Bucks were 23rd in scoring defense, allowing 103.9 points per game. This season, the Bucks were 16th, allowing 100.4 points per game.  

Three and a half points may not seem like much, but it accounted for an eight-game difference in the standings and five more road wins for a team that only won seven away from Milwaukee last season. And these improvements came, for the most part, without the Bucks' best players, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut.

I'm not attributing all this improvement to Mbah a Moute because Ramon Sessions, Luke Ridnour and Charlie Twitta-nueva all played important parts in this season, but when a second-round pick comes in and plays in all 82 games, that player must be doing something right.

Evidently not.  And this all leads to the question posed in the headline.  The Bucks are on a growing list of teams that are at risk of being relocated much like the Seattle Sonics a season ago.  Rule changes have made "defense" and "NBA" oxymoronic terms.

That all added up to a second-round pick who started in more than half of his team's games and played in every game, played outstanding defense, and improved his team getting completely snubbed, while a injury-plagued guy, Greg Oden, who is technically in his second year of professional basketball and averaged four fouls in 21 minutes of playing time in only 61 games got a first-team vote.  Come on.

I'd make a big deal about Robin Lopez earning a first-team vote as well, but it's highly likely that the voter mistook Robin for his twin brother Brook of the New Jersey Nets.