Ranking the Defense of the Starting Shooting Guard for Every NBA Team

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2011

Ranking the Defense of the Starting Shooting Guard for Every NBA Team

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    Kobe Bryant has made more NBA All-Defense teams than any shooting guard in NBA history. 

    How does he rank now among the top defensive shooting guards in the NBA though?

    Following up on my rankings of the starting point guard for every team, here are the shooting guard rankings. 

    I want to qualify a couple of things that some people seem to have missed though from the previous rankings. 

    First, these aren't "my numbers." They come from Synergy, the most respected scouting agency in pro or amateur basketball. The only thing I've done is taken what they've provided and trimmed it down to positional rankings. 

    Second, these are "soft rankings." By that I mean that yes, there is such a thing as nuance and there are differences in rankings based on team defenses and so on. So why put them in this order?

    Because numbers do tell a large part of the story. We can't simply ignore what the numbers tell us because we don't like what they say. Looking at things this way also tells us a kind of "bulk trend." 

    For instance, with the guards there was a trend which showed that players who gave up a high percentage of jumpshots fared worse overall than those who gave up more points on penetration.

    While there are sometimes different reasons for this, the trend indicates that perhaps defending the jump shot is a more important aspect of defense than is normally attributed. Ergo we learn something about defense from the numbers.

    Numbers don't tell us everything, but they do tell us something. The goal here is to "learn" more than it is to "prove."

    I like to say if you've honestly never been proven wrong by your research you've never done honest research. Anyone can simply just post whatever reinforces the prevailing opinion. That's not the goal here. It's to see whether the prevailing opinion is right.

    It is true that there are some cases where the player is better or worse than his ranking suggest and I have taken a great deal of time to account for that. 

    For each player I've watched about five to 10 minutes of footage of them playing defense specifically at Synergy. That's more than it sounds. It takes about a minute and a half to watch all a players defensive plays for a game when their put together like this.

    I've watched games too. I know it comes a surprise to some that someone that spends inordinate amounts of time crunching numbers might have enough interest in the game to watch but it is true. I watched ever team in the NBA play at least  five games last season, and most more than that.

    I have also researched other writers and considered their scouting reports in my write ups. While the rankings are strictly numerical, I will be including in each section some subjective analysis of how the players play and when appropriate, whether the numerical rankings might be misleading.  

    If you want to know more about the methodology please consult the point guard article. As to how I came by the starter on some teams, it's a bit difficult. There was no hard and fast rule. Generally though I tried to go with the current starter if they had ample minutes to do so. In cases where there was a reason for doubt, I explain my reasoning in the slide. 

30: Marco Belinelli, 29.50

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    Overall PPP: 1.04 (30)   

    Isolation PPP: 1.17 (30)

    Opp FG Percentage:  45.6 (29)

    Percent Scored: 45.0 (29)

    Help Rating: 0.13

    For those that are looking for a reason that Chris Paul was further down than expected in the point guard rankings,  part—but not all—of it lies here. 

    Marco Belinelli, simply put is just an awful, awful (and for good measure one more) awful defender. The main reason Paul gives up more points is that people tend to shoot over him. He's short. He can't help it. 

    What doesn't help is Belinelli constantly needing help defense though. Watching the tape it seems that frequently Paul gets scored over  because he's trying to get back to his man because he's helping Belinelli. It's hard to guard to players on the perimeter at the same time, even if you're Chris Paul. 

    You could really make a game out of it where you trying to find your help defense. One person yells "Marco" and then someone else has to run over to him and give help defense.  Upon arrival they yell, "Belinelli." I encourage all high school coaches to run this drill. 

29: Anthony Morrow, 28.75

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    Overall PPP: 1.00 (28)

    Isolation PPP: 1.06  (29)

    Opp FG Percentage:  44.3 percent (28)

    Percent Scored: 44.5 percent (30)

    Help Rating: .06

    Anthony Morrow tries so hard on defense that at times it appears as though he's on the verge of waking up. It is truly amazing to me that even at 6' 6" he can't defend a jump shot. I get that he's slower but there's a difference between being slow and being slow and lazy. 

    Kyle Korver is a similar type of player, i.e. a great shooter who is too slow.  Korver is by no stretch a good defender. However, coming off the screen where just trying can make a difference he gives up a 25.9 percent field goal percentage compared to Morrow's 44.8 percent. 

    My point is that while it's true that Morrow can only do so much, he isn't doing nearly as much as he could. He is frequently out of position. When he's closing a gap on a jump shot he's ambivalent about getting to the ball. He puts forth almost no effort and that's being generous. 

28: Ramon Sessions, 27.00

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    Overall PPP:  1.00  (28)

    Isolation PPP:   .91 (22)

    Opp FG Percentage:  47.3 percent (30)

    Percent Scored: 44.5 percent (28)

    Help Rating: -.09

    Let me preface this by saying this is one of the teams where it was hard to determine who the starter was. Anthony Parker's contract expired. Ramon Sessions is currently listed on Yahoo as the starting SG. Maybe some people would arrange it differently, but that's the way I chose to do it. 

    Ramon Sessions is a liability but he's more of a liability in some ways than others. Where he really gets hurt is on the pick and roll. He just doesn't fight through them, he ambulates around them. You might say his attitude is "cavalier" on the pick and roll. it's his attitude on defense generally. 

27: Kevin Martin, 25.25

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    Overall PPP:  .97 (26)

    Isolation PPP:   0.89 (21)

    Opp FG Percentage:  43.2 percent (27)

    Percent Scored: 43.9 percent (27)

    Help Rating: -.08

    Kevin Martin is a highly adept offensive player, but he's not a very good defensive one. Some might want to try and blame this on things like team defense or come up with excuses. The thing is that the Rockets as a team are better than Martin is as an individual. If anything he gets help from the team defense.

    He struggles mightily in two areas. First he's not good at defending the spot up. He gives up 1.16 points per play, which is downright horrid. I specifically watched 25 jump shots made against him and of those 25 he was completely out of position on 23 of them.

    He also has problems defending the pick and roll. He doesn't fight through them. He has a tendency to go under the pick when he should go over it. By the time he gets to the shooter, he's already released his shot.

    In isolation he reacts slowly and when he does, it's often to the fakes. He at least shows a little effort then, but only a little. 

    Martin has the physical tools to be a good defender but he doesn't have the mental commitment to it.  

26: DeMar Deroazon, 24.50

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    Overall PPP: .94 (23)

    Isolation PPP: .97 (26)

    Opp FG Percentage: 42.5 percent (23)

    Percent Scored: 43.8 percent (26)

    Help Rating: 0.03

    DeMarcus Derozan right now is the best player on the Toronto Raptors. He could really have a break out year next season if there is one. He needs to work on his defense though, not in terms of effort but in terms of skill set. 

    He struggles in the pick and roll, but in his case it's a little more forgivable. At least with DeRozan it's not a lack of effort. In fact, you might argue that he's trying too hard. By that I mean he forces things. 

    Namely there are three things that I noticed watching the film. First he will get burned going for steals. Sometimes it works, but more times than that it turns into points for the other team. Second, he really tends to bite the fakes. Third he tries too hard to sell the foul.

    All of these are things that can improve with experience and coaching. Look for Derozan to move up next season. With both names beginning with "D" you expect it. 

25: Monta Ellis, 22.75

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    Overall PPP: .91 (17) 

    Isolation PPP: 1.04 (28)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  42.8 percent (25)

    Percent Scored:41.8 percent (21)

    Help Rating: .13

    Monta Ellis is an enigma. He does a great job on the pick and roll giving up just .74 points per play which is among the best in the league. On the other hand he's awful against the isolation defense. 

    Now normally you would look at a split like that and say that it's because of great help defense and it would make perfect sense. Only thing is when you watch the footage for a while, that's not what happens. 

    Ellis actually plays the pick and roll pretty well. He fights over it consistently and he comes off under it well. His speed works to his benefit. When he gets behind he closes the gap quickly. His quick hands get in the way and challenge shots. 

    On the other hand when he's in isolation he just gets destroyed. I don't know how to describe this except to say it looks like he plays scared. When he plays against the iso he overreacts to everything. The slightest fake results in full commitment.

    What's worse is that when players come straight at him, he doesn't react at all. It seems that when he's in isolation he just has no confidence and that's why he gets destroyed.

    He's a little undersized so he'll always have some struggles but he has speed and quickness. I think if he worked on it, built up his confidence and settled down, he would be a much defender. 

24: Joe Johnson, 21.75

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    Overall PPP: .93 (20)  

    Isolation PPP: .88 (20)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 42.6 percent (24)

    Percent Scored: 42.2 percent (23)

    Help Rating: -.05

    Joe Johnson is a star, but mostly it's just because of his offensive game. He's not much to write home about on defense. 

    Johnson picks up the off-screen well, but not much else. Off-screen he gives up only .68 ppp and a 33 percent field goal percentage. That accounts for 13.3 percent of his defensive plays. 

    Against the pick and roll he gives up 1.05 ppp which isn't so good. In all honesty, on just about everything else he isn't very good. In fact, he probably is worse than his numbers reflect. He seems to get bailed out a lot by help defense from Horford and Smith.

    After watching the tape  for a while I thought I would focus on penetration. I counted off 50 plays just tallying how many times he gave up penetration. Of the 50 plays, he gave up penetration on 42. Of the eight remaining plays there were two steals, one foul and three jump shots. Two of the three jumpers went in.

    Pretty much anyone faster than Quentin Richardson gets around him at will. If it weren't for Horford and Smith he would be even lower on the list.  

23: Raja Bell, 21.25

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    Overall PPP: .99 (27)

    Isolation PPP:  .77 (7)

    Opp FG Percentage:  43.0 percent (26)

    Percent Scored: 43.0 percent 25

    Help Rating: .22

    Raja Bell's placement here quite honestly came as a surprise to me because I generally think of him as a good defender. 

    Hollinger's report on him agrees with that assessment saying, "Feisty, physical defender who battles opponents off ball and draws charges."

    The stats show two things. Against the penetration type plays, pick and roll man, he does splendid, giving up .77 ppp in isolation and just .86 against the ball handler on the pick and roll. Against the spot-up jumper there's another story.

    The general reason that you like a guard to stop penetration is that it forces him to the outside, where he will make shots at a lower rate shot.

    However, with Bell, in isolation he yields a stingy field goal percentage of 31.6 percent. Against the spot-up, 46.9 percent, and 42.9 percent on threes. His effective field goal percentage against the jump shot is 62.4 percent. 

    After watching a bit of film it's evident what happens. Bell overplays the ball. I watched just the field goals that were made against him to get a feel for what was happening, and almost every time it seems that he is biting on a fake and the shooter buries a step-back.

    It's the same when he's off the ball. He has a bad habit of overplaying the ball and opening up the back door. He completely loses track of his man and then his man knocks down wide open shots. 

    This isn't about help defense or team defense. It's Bell losing track of his responsibility. As weird as this sounds, his man is more dangerous when he doesn't have the ball. Bell will lose track of him and then, as a result he gets good shots. 

    No matter how good your penetration is you still have to be aware of your man and get a hand in his face to stop the jump shot. Bell's reputation is inflated because of his failure in this regard. His placement here is actually pretty accurate. 

22: Marcus Thornton, 20.75

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    Overall PPP: .92 (19)   

    Isolation PPP: .98 (27)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 40.7  percent(18)

    Percent Scored: 40.8  percent (19)

    Help Rating: .06

    Marcus Thornton surprises me here because I would have expected him to be lower. His overall points per play is actually very good. His isolation defense, not so much (in case you're wondering in cases like this I put their combined season stats form both teams).

    Now part of the problem with Thornton is that he didn't get a lot of playing time in New Orleans. In fact, he had about 50 percent more minutes playing with Sacramento than with the Hornets. That puts the number of plays run against him in total at just 471. When you split them up it makes it hard to determine what was a result of teams and what was a result of sample size. 

    Thornton actually has the effort, which is good to see. He does hustle. He closes well. He tends to get caught out of position well, though I noticed that more with the Sacramento team than with the Hornets. He's a young player with decent athletic ability and he's stronger than most shooting guards, so he could develop into a top 10 defender. However, he's not going to be making the All-Defense team any time soon. 

21: Nick Young, 20.50

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    Overall PPP: .94 (23)  

    Isolation PPP: .95 (24)

    Opp FG Percentage:  39.8 percent (15)

    Percent Scored: 41.3 percent (20)

    Help Rating: .01

    Nick Young's defense can best be described as a work in progress, but there is real progress. On the ball he is improving. In fact after the All-Star break his isolation defense improved to .67 ppp and his pick and roll defense improved from .86 to.73 ppp. That's some pretty dramatic improvement when he's on the ball.

    Off the ball, there still is a need for work. He gets caught out of position a lot. He loses track of his man and then when he catches the ball to spot up, he's not aggressive enough in closing. He's still a young player though and seeing the improvement on the ball is hope for off the ball.  

20: Landry Fields, 20.25

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    Overall PPP: .93 (20)  

    Isolation PPP: .83 (15)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  41.7 percent (22)

    Percent Scored:42.7 percent (24)

    Help Rating: -.10

    One thing to keep in mind with Landry Fields is that he's about the only one on the Knicks that plays defense. His opponents' points per play was the lowest on the team for whatever that's worth. He is a blue collar worker on the defensive end. On a more defensive minded team he could be much higher.  

    He seems to be a very smart player. He makes the right play and is rarely caught out of position. On the few occasions where he is it's because one of his teammates is getting in his way, which happens surprisingly often. I watched about 50 plays and another Knick accidentally set a pick on six occasions.

    Having said that sometimes he is just over matched. He knows what to do, but he can't do it. Give me a guy who tries and fails rather than a guy who fails to try any day of the week though.  

    I really like Fields. He's an intelligent hard working player who has earned his way into the NBA. He should have a decent career. There will always be room for guys like him on an NBA roster. 

19: Wesley Matthews, 19.75

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    Overall PPP: .94 (23)

    Isolation PPP: .84 (16) 

    Opp FG Percentage:  40.7 percent (18)

    Percent Scored: 42.1percent (22)

    Help Rating: -.10

    Wesley Matthews is another defender who does fine when it comes to stopping penetration but is ineffective at stopping the jumper. He tends to be extremely aggressive defensively and that works for him in stopping penetration.

    It also makes him extremely prone to the step back jumper. He overreacts to the fake towards the rim and that allows the ball handler to create space. As a result Matthews gives up an extremely high 1.13 points per play against the spot-up jumper.

    This is another case where that part of defense gets ignored. Defending the perimeter is crucial, but if the shooter can step back and drain the jumper with impunity then the defender wins the battle but loses the war. 

18: Vince Carter, 18.00

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    Overall PPP: .93 (20)  

    Isolation PPP: .95 (24)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 39.9 percent (15) 

    Percent Scored: 39.7 percent (13)

    Help Rating: .02

    It's hard to know what to make of Carter's numbers as he has the "Howard factor" going. Howard isn't just a great team defensive player, he's a team defense all by himself. 

    But that's what makes Carter's numbers so strange. Believe it or not, his Suns numbers are better than his Magic numbers. The only explanation that makes sense is sample size. 

    The thing about Carter is that when he really tries to defend he's not that bad. The key word though is tries. He does that about 10 percent of the time. He backs away from the ball handler and avoids contact fouling only about six percent of the time and drawing only 19 fouls on the season. 

    Carter is a fading star (if not faded) and honestly, it's just like he gave up on his career at some point. It's sad. I don't know if I would describe him a "nonchalant" but putting him more than a step above that would be giving him too much credit. 

17: Paul George, 16.25

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    Overall PPP: .90 (15)  

    Isolation PPP: .87 (18)

    Opp FG Percentage: 40.3 percent (17) 

    Percent Scored: 40.0 percent (15)

    Help Rating: -.03

    This is another one of those teams where there might be some confusion over who the starting shooting guard is. I went with George for two reasons. First, he's listed that way on the Yahoo depth chart and second, he spent twice as many minutes at shooting guard as small forward.  

    Paul George has all the makings of an elite defender in the NBA, and it's only a matter of time before he's looking at being on the NBA All-Defense team.

    Watching George there are two things that jump out at me. First he uses his length very well and second he uses his feet very well. He's remarkably quick for his size, and that combination allows him to be able to guard a variety of players ranging from Derrick Rose to Carmelo Anthony.

    George's placement here is more of a technicality than anything else. He really started to develop after Frank  Vogel took over. Since then George's points per play dropped to .73, which would put him with the best defenders in the league.

    Watch for him to have a real break out year next season. 

16: Richard Hamilton, 14.25

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    Overall PPP:  .88 (9)  

    Isolation PPP: .82 (14)

    Opp FG Percentage:  41.4 percent (21) 

     Percent Scored: 39.7 percent (13)

    Help Rating: -.06

    For all the things the Pistons have gone through, and in part because of Richard Hamilton, you would think that Rip's defense might have suffered this year. In fact, he still brings effort on the defensive end. Surprisingly, his opponent PER has gone down this year.  

    He still keeps himself between the ball handler and the basket and he still gets up to challenge shots. He still brings effort on that end of the court. He's a competitor and has personal pride. It's not excusing his lack of leadership but he is still a solid defender.

    One just wishes he had some of the same pride for the name on the front of the jersey that he does on the back of it, particularly since he won a championship there.  

15: Arron Afflalo, 14.00

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    Overall PPP:  .90 (15)

    Isolation PPP: .81 (12)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 38.7 percent (11)

    Percent Scored: 40.6 percent (18)

    Help Rating: -.09

    Arron Afflalo is one of the bright young shooting guards in the NBA and is usually noted for his offensive talents. However he is also a budding star on the other end of the ball.

    He improved as the season went on, yielding just .83 ppp during the postseason in spite of spending the majority of it guarding Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

    He is adept at defending both form penetration and from outside. He shows a consistently high effort through the game. He is aggressive and persistent, staying up far enough to challenge jump shots without over gambling. He really is a complete package kind of player. It's little wonder the Nuggets want to keep him around.   

14: Jason Terry, 13.50

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    Overall PPP: .88 (9) 

    Isolation PPP: .91 (22)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  39.2 percent (12)

    Percent Scored:39.6 percent (11)

    Help Rating: .03

    I'm actually surprised to see Jason Terry this high in the rankings. I think there's still a tendency to dismiss Dallas Mavericks players as poor defenders because of the Nelson days. The truth is that they've actually become a pretty good defensive team.

    It's true that the Mavericks run a match up zone defense, and run the zone more than any team in basketball. Don't dismiss Terry on that alone though. It's still only 10.8 percent of the time.

    It's also a matter of execution. The team can run a zone, but that still needs to be executed by the players on the team.  

    There's a tendency to carry perception from one year to the next, particularly bad ones. The Mavericks were a team that focused little on defense and that perception lingers. If "team" counts for good defense then shouldn't it count for bad defense as well?

    The point being, Terry probably does benefit from the Zone as the .91 in isolation indicates, but he does bring solid effort and sound fundamentals on defense as well. He isn't afraid of contact and he does what he is supposed to do. His placement in the middle of the pack is about right. 

13: Keith Bogans, 12.00

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    Overall PPP:  .87 (6)

    Isolation PPP:  .79 (8) 

    Opp FG Percentage: 40.8 percent (19)  

    Percent Scored:40.0 percent (15)

    Help Rating: -.08

    Keith Bogans gets a lot of credit for his defensive prowess, but honestly, probably more than he deserves. His defensive numbers aren't that great in spite of his playing on the best defensive team in the NBA. In part it's because he often gets credit for the work of Ronnie Brewer and Derrick Rose. 

    For example he gets credited with Dwyane Wade's getting shut down against the Bulls. The truth is though that he only guarded Wade for 32 plays the entire series. When he did guard him he did very well, keeping him to 22 points. 

    Where Bogans struggles is not against guards like Wade who penetrate though, it's the jump shooters. Defending Joe Johnson in the Atlanta series he gave up 32 points on 33 plays. 

    One thing that I've really developed an appreciation for in doing this research is the value of defending the jump shot. Those long twos are low percentage shots, but if they go in with a high percentage, it negates the whole goal of stopping penetration. Bogans gave up 41 percent on the spot-up last season, lowest of all Chicago guards. 

    So you might be asking, if he's only an average defender, what on earth is he doing in the starting lineup? He sure doesn't have any offense to brag about. The biggest reason is something that doesn't stand out on stat sheets, his brain.

    He understands the defense and is the primary general on the court. As a result when he plays, the Bulls are a better defensive team, giving up four fewer points per 100 possessions, which is impressive considering the Bulls bench defense is the best in the league.

    Bogans is not an elite defensive player but his contributions make the Bulls an elite defensive team.  

12: Wesley Johnson, 11.00

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    Overall PPP: .91 (17)

    Isolation PPP: .75 (3)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 38.2 percent (7) 

    Percent Scored: 40.2 percent (17)

    Help Rating: -.16

    Johnson plays on a horrid defensive team that runs at a very fast pace. That combination of things make for the appearance of Johnson seeming to be worse than he actually is. 

    His isolation ppp is third best among starting shootings. His spot-up field goal percentage against is only 34.7 percent and that accounts for 36.6 percent of all his plays.

    Where he struggles is on pick and rolls, and that's putting it kindly. He often looks completely lost and confused. A more accurate description would be "flailing" as he tends to flail at the ball handler running past him after Johnson gets completely flummoxed by the pick.

    He has a chance to join the top 10 eventually but he's presently not really even as close as his overall score indicates.  

11: Jason Richardson, 10.75

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    Overall PPP: .89 (13) 

    Isolation PPP: .79 (8)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  38.7 percent (11)

    Percent Scored: 39.1 percent (11)

    Help Rating: -.10

    Jason Richardson: the tale of two shooting guards. His points per play defending the iso was .17 points higher when he was with Phoenix than he was with Orlando. In other words, "Dwight Howard." 

    Richardson has decent length and is a good jumper, so he defends the jump shot well. However his lateral movement isn't very good. Ball handlers can get around him pretty easily. With Howard backing him up he was able to get away with it more, so that masks how bad he is in iso. 

    Howard covers up his weakness while his strength is allowed to shine. Richardson is really not as good as his score might indicate, and his help rating is really masked by Howard. Richardson is more accurately a middle of the pack defender. 

10: Dywane Wade, 9.50

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    Overall PPP: .88 (9)  

    Isolation PPP: .87 (18)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 36.8 percent (4) 

    Percent Scored: 37.5 percent (7)

    Help Rating: -.01

    Dwyane Wade breaks our top 10. Honestly I'm a bit confused about why he's higher than I would expect. It's pretty clear that the only reason he's down a bit is his isolation points per play is fairly high.

    Against the spot-up he's a little high though at 1.04 ppp, which accounts for 39.5 percent of his plays. That raises his overall rate percent. He's a very generously listed 6' 4" and that means that shooting guards will generally have a height advantage on him.

    That's the bad. Now, here's the good. 

    His points per play against the pick and roll is incredible, giving up just .62 ppp.

    Another thing that doesn't get shown up in these rankings is help defense and Wade is a great help defender. A lot of his blocks come down form chase down blocks in help defense. He is arguably the best shot blocking guard in the history of the game. His 1.0 blocks per game is the most in NBA history by a guard. 

    In reality Wade is better than 10th. It is hard to say that he's the "hands down" best defensive shooting guard in the game, but he's on the list of three or four players in the conversation. 

9: Kobe Bryant, 8.50

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    Overall PPP: .89 (13)

    Isolation PPP: .76 (5)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  37.7 percent (6)

    Percent Scored: 38.7 percent (10)

    Help Rating: -.13

    Kobe Bryant has been on more All-Defense teams, 13, than any guard in history and is tied with Michael Jordan for the most starts at 11. He really doesn't care where he gets ranked on this list. 

    With Bryant, there are some things to consider, primarily his age and his knees. When he's determined, he is one of the best on the ball defenders in the league. The thing is, he doesn't and shouldn't be throwing everything into every defensive play any more.

    He needs to calculate when to expend that energy and how much. Even in this measured capacity, he's still one of the top on the ball defenders in the league. His placement here is fair though. If you aren't just looking at how good a defender "can be" but how well he actually is through the season, it makes sense. 

    However, if you were going by peak performance, Kobe would be in the top two or three with an argument for first. 

8: Andre Iguodala, 8.00

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    Overall PPP: .81 (3)

    Isolation PPP:  .85 (17) 

    Opp FG Percentage: 37.9 percent (7) 

    Percent Scored:37.1 percent (5)

    Help Rating: .04

    Andre Iguodala is one of the best wing guards in the NBA. Physically, he has all the tools. He's big, strong and fast. He is fast up and down the court and laterally quick. He's long and has quick hands. 

    Igodala is also strong both in perimeter defense (.85 iso and .77 against the pick and roll) and a good defender against the jump shot with .82 against the spot-up. 

    He's not just a very good defender, he's a well rounded one. He stays in front of the ball handler, he keeps good spacing and he knows where his man is when he's providing help defense. He is not only gifted with all the right physical attributes, he is also fundamentally sound.

    All of that puts him as a legitimate top five defender.  

7: Gerald Henderson, 7.00

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    Overall PPP: .88 (9)  

    Isolation PPP: .75 (3)   

    Opp FG Percentage:  38.3 percent (9)

    Percent Scored: 38.2 percent (7)

    Help Rating: -.13

    His defense is good, but not this good. Henderson's numbers are helped by the fact that he spent the majority of last season as a backup. Therefore he was guarding, for the most part, less talented players. Needless to say that makes a difference. 

    Henderson is a good athlete and tends to have good instincts. He's quick, aggressive and persistent. He likes to swat at the ball and just generally disrupt the ball handler.

    While he's a good defender and growing, he really isn't the seventh best. We'll have to wait and see how he does as a starter before we give him too much credit. However he is on his way. 

6: Stephen Jackson, 6.25

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    Overall PPP: .87 (6)   

    Isolation PPP: .79 (9)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 37.6 percent (5)

    Percent Scored: 37.3 percent (6)

    Help Rating: -.08

    Stephen Jackson might be one of the more underrated defenders in the league. While I wouldn't put him any higher than this, I think it's about where he belongs. He is a well rounded defender and very competitive. His numbers are low across the board. 

    He brings a lot of effort which compensates for being not as quick as some other shooting guards. One thing  impressive about Jackson is that he has a remarkable ability to play hard without committing a lot of fouls. He committed only 24 shooting fouls on the season.  

5: Manu Ginobili, 5.75

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    Overall PPP: .81 (3) 

    Isolation PPP:  .70 (2) 

    Opp FG Percentage:  39.3 percent (14)

    Percent Scored:36.7 percent (4)

    Help Rating: -.11

    Is Manu Ginobili the best South American Player in the history of the game? I don't know anyone else who would even be in the conversation.

    Ginobili is often overlooked in the conversation of best shooting guard in the league, but you could make an argument that after Bryant and Wade he's the best there is. That goes for his defense as well. 

    His defense is similar to his offensive style. One thing about him, you don't hear people say, "he reminds me of..." On both ends of the ball he is utterly unique. He is a highly athletic defender who takes risks but they usually pay off. When they don't he is quick enough that he can recover without worrying about the consequences.  

    His hands are everywhere and he likes to be disruptive, whether it's challenging shots or passing lanes. And when all else fails, he can flop. His 48 fouls drawn were the seventh most in the NBA last season, and some of them might have even been real!

4: James Harden, 5.50

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    Overall PPP: .87 (6)  

    Isolation PPP:  .76 (5) 

    Opp FG Percentage: 38.2 percent (8) 

    Percent Scored: 36.4 percent (3)

    Help Rating: -.11

    Haden's remarkable numbers are all the more remarkable when you consider that the Thunder are not a defensive team. He is a good example of how much a player can grow defensively in his sophomore year.

    There is still some marginal room for growth though. He gets caught out of position from time to time. When he does sometimes he's able to recover but sometimes not. Most of the time he's scored on it's either because of that, or he did everything right but the shooter just scores anyway. 

    Mostly what Harden needs more than anything is more defensive commitment from the rest of the team. The Thunder have the athleticism to be a shut down defense; they just need to start applying it there. 

3: Eric Gordon, 4.25

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    Overall PPP: .85 (5) 

    Isolation PPP: .63 (1)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 36.3 percent (3) 

    Percent Scored: 38.3 percent (8)

    Help Rating: -.22

    No player was a bigger surprise to me on this list than Eric Godron. I think one thing is safe to say: It's not that stellar interior defense the Clippers provide that's helping him look good. 

    The truth is he uses his quickness and strength to keep the ball handler in front of him. He just does an exceptional job of not allowing his opponent to get around him, even on picks. Then, he pushes the ball outside and challenges the jump shot. He does what a defender is supposed to do, and does it very well. 

    It would be easy to think "Clippers" and dismiss Gordon, but his placement in the top five is not entirely unfair. If he's not top five, he's very close to it. 

2: Ray Allen, 4.00

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    Overall PPP: .79 (2)  

    Isolation PPP: .80 (11)  

    Opp FG Percentage: 35.6 percent (2) 

    Percent Scored: 35.8 percent (1)

    Help Rating: .01

    Just a pitch for JR Smith going to the Bulls here.

    When I see this I think about how George Karl had problems with Smith and couldn't get him to commit to defense. He had similar problems with Ray Allen. Then Tom Thibodeau straightened him out. Could Thibs do the same with Smith?

    Anyway, that's not the point. My Bulls fandom is getting in the way.

    The point is that Allen has improved tremendously over the years as a defender. Is he the second best defensive shooting guard in the league? No. His isolation points per play is a strong indication that he gets a lot of help defense.  

    He usually is smaller and slower than the man he's guarding but he is generally pretty effective all things considered. The help defense is a big asset for him, but so is his effort. I would say that fairly, he is a top 10 but probably not top five. It does go to show that just effort and fundamentals can go a long ways in making up for physical attributes. 

1: Tony Allen, 3.00

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    Overall PPP: .77 (1) 

    Isolation PPP: .79 (8)  

    Opp FG Percentage:  34.3 percent (1)

    Percent Scored: 36.2 percent (2)

    Help Rating: .02

    What does it say about Tom Thobodeau that he coached the top two defensive shooting guards, and the top two defensive point guards in the last two seasons?

    Tony Allen is a modern day Bruce Bowen. His job is to play defense and he does well in all areas. He is tenacious. He gets in the opponent's head. He gets his hands everywhere.

    He stays in the lane. He gets steals without getting burned. He blocks shots.  Most importantly he stops his opponent from scoring. 

    If you want to know how good Allen can be, consider this: He guarded Westbrook or Durant on 71 plays in the semifinals. On those plays he gave up only 31 points. That's an average of .44 points per play against one of the best one-two punches in the NBA.  

    Allen deserves his placement not only as the top defensive shooting guard, but the top guard period. He is the best defensive guard in the NBA. 

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