My 2014 NBA No-Defense team: Starring Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, James Harden, Monta Ellis and many others
Posted on June 9, 2014 by Tim Kawakami
Hey, it’s a new NBA day: Individual defense is watched and evaluated, oh my goodness, what a great thing.
In a sudden rush of info and attention, the analytics revolution is busting up the the-only-things-that-matter-are-points-rebounds-assists monopoly, and, more and more, defense is being measured and weighed with a statistical precision that almost matches the offensive obsession of the previous decades.
Of course, when I started doing this No-Defense list six years ago… well, let’s just say that things were different and readers’ reactions to stats like the plus-minus and on/off comparisons were not always complimentary, and leave it at that. (How dare anyone critique Kevin Martin’s Sacramento-era help D!)
Now there are many, many more great ways to measure defensive performance–some I’ve incorporated in this edition, some I’m still figuring out or checking through for later use; I’m sure there will be many more to come.
General big-picture summary: An Old-Time Double-Double Machine like David Lee (sorry DLee, it’s just the best example I have!) often simply isn’t as valuable as so many used to think he was, because his bad defense often hurts as much or more as his offense and rebounding numbers help.
And it’s measurable. But let me also announce right away: Lee is NOT on any part of this season’s list; he’s a measurably better defensive player than he used to be. Thanks to the new stats we can see this.
Which is attributable to good and careful coaching by Mark Jackson (I’ll get to my new favorite DLee-influenced term–Courtesy Defensive Assignment–a bit later) and sturdier play by Lee.
The stats help us see that–the Warriors were better defensively with Lee ON the floor (opponents scored 102.3 points per 100 possessions with Lee ON the court and 105.6 points per 100 when he was OFF) and even rebounded better with him ON the court for one of the few times in his GSW career.
And the eyeball test works, too. Lee isn’t any kind of great help defender and no, he’s not ever going to protect the rim, but he was better at staying in front of his man on D and playing the passing lanes this season probably than at any point in his career and I salute it.
So… how about that! I like the full-circle sense of this: Lee deserved the criticism and now he has worked his way to deserving the non-criticism.
(This season his offense/defense tilt actually flipped a bit: He used to be a heavy offense-value player and terrible on D, but this season DLee was an impressive +1.36 in defensive plus-minus, but was a minus in ORPM, at -0.12.)
Anyway, that’s the drum roll. This item already is much too late. So let’s move on to those players who DID make the No-Defense teams and honorable mention this season…
For historical purposes, last year’s No-Defense Player of the Year was Kevin Martin. Carmelo Anthony was the NDPOY in 2012, it was Al Jefferson in 2011; in 2010, it was Hedo Turkoglu, in 2009, it was Martin. The inaugural NDPOY was Steve Nash in 2008.
* My usual quick No-Defense philosophical review: Offensive skills are important, but I think the value of defense is often overlooked; I definitely think that the cost of lousy individual defense is never highlighted enough.
Lousy defense hurts just as much, or more, as lousy offense. And great offense ALWAYS gets praised–by the media, fans, coaches, execs, PR people, owners, TV people…
There’s room for at least one subjective list of the worst defenders, and I’ve decided to compile it, six times now.
As always, I use the Eye-Ball Test first and foremost, which is best summarized by two questions:
-Do opponents’ eyes light up when they realize they’re being guarded by one specific player?
-Do coaches have to change the defensive system strictly to protect one player, and if they do, does the guy still screw up, and do those issues show up on the team’s defensive performance?
-Last note: I lean towards the bad defensive players who get the most minutes (and therefore hurt their teams the most) and often to the teams with the highest payrolls/expectations (because the bad defense is less explainable in those situations).
-General rule: My cut-off point was playing at least 30% of the team’s minutes this season (about 1,200 total minutes) to qualify for this list.
Players who get more time and have more responsibility and seem to still pay the least attention to defense get the nod over those who are terrible defenders but just don’t play much, because those who play the most can hurt the team the most with lousy D.
-New stat: As you already tell, I’m using the “real plus-minus” figures (developed by Jeremias Engelmann) very heavily, not as a one-stat-proves-everything result, but as a healthy filter through which to view a player’s relative weaknesses and strengths, especially on defense.
The RPM numbers (broken into DRPM, defensive real plus-minus, and ORPM, offensive real plus-minus) are essentially how much the player helps or hurts his team per 100 possessions–or a standardized NBA game.
—–My 2014 No-Defense FIRST TEAM/
*2014 No-Defense Player of the Year: PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland. OK, Irving might not be the pound-for-pound, minute-for-minute, mistake-for-mistake worst defensive player in the league. He’s assuredly way up there, but probably not Numero Uno.
[For that powerful competition, I'd volunteer Jimmer Fredette obviously, and then James Harden, Steve Nash, J.J. Redick, Brandon Jennings, Kevin Martin, Steve Novak, Jodie Meeks, Andrea Bargnani and a few others, if you just factor pure lack of defensive value regardless of role.]
But this is not just about pure poor footwork and vision. This award is largely about willful indifference to defense. This is about bad defense by omission. On purpose.
Nothing kills a team (in my opinion) more than an important player who plays atrocious D just because he knows nobody will hold him accountable for it.
And there’s Kyrie Irving’s first three years in the NBA, in a nutshell: Almost intentionally bad defense, I’m sorry to say.
Another Kyrie nutshell: Great, but scattered offensive talent, horrendous on D, tons of losses for your Cleveland Cavaliers.
It takes something special to stand out as a bad defensive player amid all of Irving’s wobbly defensive teammates on the Cavaliers. Yet he keeps doing it.
For one thing, how in the world was St. Mary’s own Matthew Dellavedova so clearly a “plus” player (and he was) and Irving such a wild “minus” player (and he absolutely was this season), when Dellavedova largely subbed in for Irving, and Irving is the former No. 1 overall pick due for a max extension and Dellavedova was an undrafted free agent?
It’s mostly because Dellavedova played D (the Cavs were +6.6 points on D per 100 possessions when Dellavedova played than when he didn’t) and Irving didn’t (Cavs were -4.1 for Irving’s on/off minutes per 100 poss’s).
One quick note: Dellavedova was part of all 10 of the Cavalier’s best 10 five-man units in plus-minus this season. Meanwhile, Irving was only part of 1 of those top 10 line-ups–obviously the one in which he was paired with Dellavedova.
And that’s just one macro look at Irving’s deflating D.
Basically, Irving’s no-defense put extra pressure on Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters and the Cavaliers’ sketchy team defensive philosophies and rim protection… and whenever he was in the game, Cleveland was terrible on D in general. Jack was about neutral statistically on D, Waiters was actually a plus, Dellavedova was obviously a huge plus…
That leaves Irving as the singular perimeter defense calamity. That’s quite a feat.
Of course, there is no arguing that Irving is a thrilling offensive talent, but he probably will also always be an atrocious defensive player.
He has all the classic weaknesses: Irving allows himself to get bumped by every screen that comes his way and then gives up on the play if and when he does, he is lousy on the ball, he’s weak in transition D, and when he is off the ball in half-court defense, he is just as likely to lose his man for a back-door lay-up as he is to forget who actually was guarding, anyway.
I’m not sure if this adds up to him being much more than a borderline star at any point in his career. That’s how bad he is on defense.
And right now he’s not a dominant offensive player, either: Irving was +1.99 in offensive real-plus-minus this season, which ranks him 43rd in that category, alongside the likes of Steve Novak, Martell Webster and Matt Barnes. Just as an offensive player.
Defensively in RPM, he’s -3.38, which ranks him 416th in the league, alongside the likes of Tony Wroten, Marco Belinelli and Jose Calderon.
Overall, Irving put up a -1.39 RPM, behind super-non-max players like Luke Babbitt and Hasheem Thabeet.
When you’re supposed to be the NBA’s next point guard superstar and yet those guys are your peers, and Jarrett Jack looks like a defensive stopper next to you, and Matthew Dellavedova as a rookie is so much more valuable in real terms than you…
Well, you are a deserving No-Defense Player of the Year, that’s what you are. Congratulations, Kyrie!
* W James Harden, Houston. This probably should’ve been my first-ever NDPOY tie, with Harden and Irving, who have so many dispassionate-D/what-the-hell-are-you-going-to-do-about-it similarities.
But I just didn’t want to pull that kind of cop-out, so Harden got bumped down a notch. Harden did a lot to deserve the award this year, and did so much for showing the world what porous D really, really looks like, and I don’t want to forget that.
James Harden doesn’t play defense, doesn’t care if you know that, and he’s such an amazing offensive player that… what can anyone do about it?
Harden so habitually refuses to move his feet from the start of any defensive possession and surrenders in open court or just casually forgets to guard his man off the ball, which leads to easy lay-ups… that he has made himself the star of many video-clip horrendous-D montages. All by himself, Harden is popularizing the bad-D video.
He has all the No-D moves…
-The Kobe Special: Oops I ran into a screen and I now shall stumble around like a Mean Joe Greene just sacked me for the entirety of this possession, so what if my guy is now wide open at the three-point line.
-The Frozen Man: If the ball moves to the other side of the floor and there are rotations necessary, Harden rarely bothers to actually, you know, rotate. He likes to just stand in place and maybe jump around a little. I don’t know why he jumps around.
-The Corey Brewer Special: Yes, Harden was guarding Brewer when he inexplicably went for 51 points this season. Ought to be impossible.
-The Forget About Transition D: If Harden ever happens to be the last man defending a fast break, it’s a lay-up or a dunk, unless he executes the fancy swipe steal. 90% of the time: Lay-up or dunk. There is no player in the NBA who lights up an opponent’s eyes more than Harden, as the last line of D.
-The No-Look No-Defense: Just watch that video. It’s magical.
And Harden took his No-Defense to a whole new level in the playoffs, showing off his astonishing inability to stay with his man through screens, on a dribble-drive, or any time Harden’s mind wandered.
All this forced Houston into all kinds of complicated defensive machinations just to make sure they didn’t give up a basket every possession Harden was on the floor, which essentially meant that Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard had to guard just about everybody, all at once.
He’s a great offensive player, though, reaching a level that Irving, for instance, hasn’t come close to achieving.
Harden had the most lopsided offense/defensive RPM that I could find: Fifth-ranked ORPM (+5.97 behind only LeBron, Curry, Durant and Paul), but the 398th ranked DRPM (-2.84).
–Interestingly, the near reverse angle of that lopsidedness was Andrew Bogut, fifth-ranked in DRPM (+5.05) and ranked 381st (-3.12) on offense. For further Warriors specifics, Andre Iguodala was 8th ranked on D and Draymond Green was 12th-ranked.
Some guys, like Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant in his later years, usually try to at least look like they’re manning up on D, even though they’re not really. They’ll give it 5 or 10 showy seconds of manic activity to draw attention–”look, I’m digging deep on D!”–and then they just fade away once the ball is passed a couple times.
Not Harden. He just almost never even pretends he’s playing D. What are you going to do about it?
* SG Eric Gordon, New Orleans. He’s still young, and it’s not clear if this is who he is now or if he’s not quite yet all the way back from his early-career injuries.
But if we use the last few seasons as a baseline… Gordon is just not a good player any more and he’s getting worse and worse specifically on D, which is killing the Pelicans.
He has slow feet and a large disinterest in chasing offensive players through picks or paying attention to the strong side when he’s currently standing on the weak side.
A stat: Gordon’s -4.75 DRPM this season ranked him 432nd in the entire league, which is almost last. Into Jimmer Territory.
Another stat: The Pelicans were +6.2 points on defense per 100 poss’s when Gordon was OFF the floor vs. when he was ON, which was the second-largest bad-D deficit I could find for any individual player in the league.
Last stat: New Orleans out-scored its opponents when Gordon was OUT; New Orleans was out-scored by 7.1 points per 100 poss’s when he was IN the game.
* C/PF J.J. Hickson, Denver. Probably the worst all-around big man to get consistent rotation minutes. (Marreese Speights would be a tough guy to beat in that race, but he only played 25% of the Warriors’ minutes this season.)
To his credit (?), Hickson was probably worse for the Nuggets offensively (way too many turnovers, big dip in FG%) than he was defensively, but really, he killed them both ways.
He’s basically the Old DLee, grabbing a lot of rebounds, getting his share of points… and not doing anything that really helps Denver win. The New DLee is much better than the current J.J. Hickson, by the way. But similar, too.
* C/PF Andrea Bargnani, NY Knicks. He and Amare Stoudemire were virtually the same amount of terrible, in a very similar amount of limited minutes, for the same bad team.
I’m giving the nod to Bargnani because what I saw this season was so perfectly Bargnanian–like the worst of his worst Raptors days, all rolled up into 1,257 head-spinning minutes.
Even on this bad defensive Knicks team, Bargnani was the worst of them. When the Knicks put him out there, they were playing 4 on 5 defensively, which often doesn’t work out too well.
He doesn’t protect the rim, he doesn’t rebound much, he kind of just floats out there on defense, like always.
Bargnani barely qualified at the minutes cut-off–he has been incredibly injury-prone the last three seasons, and I say “incredibly” because it’s not like Bargnani’s sacrificing his body out there usually. And, like Hickson, Bargnani was actually worse statistically on offense than he was on defense.
But still… the Knicks were -7.1 per 100 poss’s overall when he was on the floor, and +1.3 when he wasn’t.
And it’s not like the Knicks were any good generally. But they were average to mediocre when Bargnani was NOT playing, and horrendous specifically when he was.
* No-Defense Sixth Man of the year: G Rodney Stuckey, Detroit. Oh man does this guy need a revival, at age 28, and maybe Stan Van Gundy can make it happen. We’ll see.
Because if it doesn’t happen now, it probably never will and we’ll think back to those glorious days when Stuckey was a reason to watch the horrid Pistons instead of a big reason why they’re so horrid, which is what he was this season.
SVG did good things with Jameer Nelson and a few other guards; plus, I don’t know if anybody knew what was going on with the Pistons the last few years, so there’s hope for Stuckey.
Otherwise, it has been a collapse for Stuckey, who came off the bench this season again and was devastatingly bad in that role. Boiling it down, Stuckey had Jamal Crawford’s defensive game and none of Crawford’s offensive firepower.
Stick-out stat: Stuckey had a -3.24 DRPM this sesaon (anything below -1.5 is very bad, anything below -2.5 and your team basically cannot win with you out there for very long).
Stick-out note: He had Brandon Jennings and Greg Monroe on his team, and Stuckey’s defense was still the worst on the Pistons.
Stuckey shot it OK (43.6%, his best in a few years, mostly aided by reducing his three-point attempt rate, thank God), but otherwise Stuckey, in his seventh season, was adrift under Maurice Cheeks and then John Loyer, and that showed up most of all on defense, which was theoretically one of his strengths early in his career. Not any more.
—-NO-DEFENSE Second Team/
* PG Damian Lillard, Portland. Lillard might’ve been the third-worst defensive player in the league, but Irving and Harden were both clearly worse, and they grabbed the 1st team, guard spots, so Lillard gets shoved to the 2nd team, just like that.
So let’s talk about the Courtesy Defensive Assignment thing.
It’s the term I’ve started to use for star offensive players who mainly get shuffled off to guard the worst offensive player possible, either because of their lack of defensive skill and strength or their coaches’ desire to rest them some on D, or usually all of the above.
That’d be Lillard, right there, and probably will be for his entire career. There are several other CDA headliners: Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, of course, and DLee, and Harden and Irving and a lot of people on this list and past lists.
The idea of how CDA players affect team-value is parallel to what Doc Rivers was getting at when he praised his guy–Chris Paul–over Curry because Rivers pointed out that Paul always guarded the best opponent point guards (like Curry) while Curry almost never did (including almost never getting matched up with CP3).
It’s true. That adds to Paul’s value and lessen’s Curry’s (and increases the value of Klay Thompson, who invariably draws the tough assignments).
While Curry might very much want that assignment, his coach decided it was best not to put Curry on Paul and send Curry over to Matt Barnes instead; clearly, Paul is such a good defensive player that his coach never even thought about giving him the CDA and that helps the entire balance of the Clippers’ D.
–A whole other subset of analysis could spin off of this about the poor offensive players who regularly draw the CDAs, and what they cost a team. (By allowing the opponents’ great offensive players to get a break on defense.)
–CDA-targets aren’t always horrendous offensive players, though they often are. They’re players who just don’t have skills to threaten the basket or play pick-and-roll or generally force their defender to do too much other than stand in place and make sure they’re not wide open all the time.
–Thabo Sefolosha is the king of the CDA-targets. (OKC’s great weakness is that it has two huge CDA-draws–Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins–in its usual starting line-up.)
–Throw in Tiago Splitter, Shane Battier, Matt Barnes, Tyson Chandler and Nic Batum when he’s not shooting well.
–It’s a warning sign for Andre Iguodala, who is a great defensive player (he got his first-ever first team All-Defense nod this season, deservedly) but who was the hand-picked CDA-target for Warriors’ opponents this season. That’s not entirely Iguodala’s fault because teams are so fearful of Curry and Klay Thompson.
–But the warning sign is that Iguodala didn’t do much–whether because of his leg injuries or the stagnant offense or whatever–while being guarded by J.J. Redick in the playoffs, for instance.
–I think that’s a big focus for Steve Kerr. Can he turn Iguodala back into an offensive player that opponents fear?
OK, back to Lillard. His regular CDA posting meant that back court mate Wesley Matthews (a solid but not a great defender) always had to cover to the opponents’ best perimeter player and it often cost the Trail Blazers, who habitually over-rotated to compensate, got out of position, and got frequently roasted.
Summary: Portland isn’t good enough overall on D to cover up for Lillard’s deficiencies against the best opponents.
Lillard has time to get much better on D (as Curry has done, incrementally), and he’s a wonderful offensive player, no doubt.
But Lillard remains particularly bad in transition D and always gets lost on screens, and the result: He was the 370th ranked player this season on DRPM.
If Portland is ever going to play true playoff-style defense, they need Lillard to figure this out, very rapidly.
* PG Jose Calderon, Dallas. The Mavericks faced a crucial late-season game vs. Phoenix’s tough guards and what did coach Rick Carlisle do? He limited Calderon’s minutes severely in favor of Devin Harris, because there was no way Calderon could handle either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe.
And that’s one of the definitions of No Defense. The fact that Dallas was +6.6 points per 100 poss’s better on D when Calderon was OFF the court vs. when he was ON is another.
Calderon, a frequent member of ND teams, edged out his back court mate Monta Ellis, his former Toronto teammate DeMar DeRozan, Detroit’s Brandon Jennings, two-time NDPOY Kevin Martin, and the Clippers’ J.J. Redick for this very competitive last guard spot.
That’s a lot of no-defense options!
–This is parochial, but watching Curry so much allows us all to spotlight the guards who cannot handle him. And whenever he sees Calderon anywhere near him, it’s almost an automatic shot and basket by Curry. Usually a bunch of them.
* PF Mizra Teletovic, Brooklyn. His ON/OFF stats are a bit skewed because he often subbed in for Kevin Garnett, a huge plus-defensive player. But the numbers were awful for Teletovic (-5.9 ON/OFF defensive difference) and the eyeball test wasn’t kind to Teletovic, either; he just doesn’t guard anybody.
And his 374th ranking in DRPM (which tries to normalize the minutes separate from KG’s numbers) doesn’t help his case, either.
* F Carmelo Anthony, NY Knicks. I gave a pass to Amare Stoudemire for this spot and put Carmelo here just because I believe Anthony can play decent defense–and still does, for stretches–but the times when Carmelo chooses not to are so blatant.
And I just don’t think Amare can summon even that any more. So I try not to knock him for it.
Along with Lillard, Anthony is the most blatant of the CDA superstars, often drawing some of the East’s worst centers (and there are MANY) and forcing Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler over to chase a decent power forward.
And still, Anthony was -1.03 in DRPM. (Curry was -0.38 in DRPM. Meanwhile, Curry was the No. 2 offensive real plus-minus guy in the league, behind only that LeBron Guy. Carmelo was 52nd ranked in ORPM at +2.75.)
* W Gordon Hayward, Utah. Richard Jefferson was a much worse wing player for Utah this season, in every way. Heck, Jefferson probably was one of the four or five worst rotation players in the league this season. (Others: Arron Afflalo, Mo Harkless, Bargnani, and either Al-Farouq Aminu or Tony Wroten.)
But I’m putting Hayward on the ND 2nd team because he had a -1.59 DRPM, ranking him 339th, and he just never looked like he was ready to emerge from the Jazz’s defensive morass.
I keep waiting for Hayward to show that he’s figuring it out… and he hasn’t shown anything like that yet.
* Sixth Man and No-Defense Rookie of the Year: SG Ben McLemore, Sacramento. He joins the list of immediately over-matched premium-pick guards, which includes Wesley Johnson (#4 in 2010), Fredette (#10 in 2011), Jonny Flynn (#6 in 2009), Randy Foye (#7 in 2006) … Austin Rivers (#10 in 2012).
That is not a good group. In fact, if you’re the Kings, that is a very scary group for your young guard to deservedly join.
But McLemore was awful as a rookie, just thoroughly lost on offense and I don’t know what that was he was doing on the defensive side, but it wasn’t anything close to good.
On offense, Michael Malone obviously told McLemore to just go stand in the corner and don’t muck up anything Isaiah Thomas or DeMarcus Cousins was doing. Not a bad way to do it for Malone.
But I think McLemore got confused and did the exact same thing on defense, too. Oops!
Plus, it’s not like McLemore was incredibly young as a rookie–he’s 21 right now, almost two full years older than Andrew Wiggins and a year and a half older than Giannis Antetokuonmpo.
In a thin group from the 2013 draft class, McLemore beat out Tim Hardaway, Jr., Antetokounmpo, Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams for this nod. All are intriguing offensive players with almost no defensive game as of yet.
* Coach: New Orleans’ Monty Williams. The Pellies had injuries, for sure, but what the hell? They were tied for the fifth-worst defensive efficiency and were third-worst last season, and that’s not just about injuries.
Something has gone wrong here. For a few clues, just look at Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon’s recent career arcs.
Yes, there were many horrendous defensive teams this season–the Lakers under Mike D’Antoni, Philly under Brett Brown, Utah under Tyrone Corbin, etc.–but New Orleans is the team that probably should’ve been better and I think was trying to be better. And definitely was terrible.
—No-Defense Honorable Mention/
* W Tyreke Evans, New Orleans. His four-year, $44M deal kicked in this season–the same deal that Curry got. Both have three years left. Curry is a better defensive player than Evans (#427th ranked in Defensive Real Plus-Minus this season). And we don’t even need to go into the offensive comparisons.
Evans’ DRPM was -3.72.
* SG Monta Ellis, Dallas. Should’ve made one of the top 12 spots, but there were so many bad guards this season, I couldn’t fit Ellis in there. And yet this was one of the worst defensive seasons of his very bad defensive career.
For example: 37-year-old Vince Carter was statistically better defensively for the Mavs than Ellis was this season. I mean, it wasn’t even close. That’s worth a wow.
* C/PF Pau Gasol, Lakers. Gasol and Tyson Chandler are two old buffaloes who can still put up decent defensive numbers (both were still pluses this season), but who don’t look so good lately in the eyeball test compared to their former active selves.
Hey, it happens. The legs just lose their liveliness, the bumps and bruises accumulate and sometimes you get stuck on a bad team going nowhere no matter if you play great defense or don’t.
But when Wesley Johnson’s the best defensive player on your team, and you’re Pau Gasol, that’s bad.
* SG Jodie Meeks, Lakers. Possibly the worst defensive player in the league this season, pound for pound, so how come I didn’t get him into one of the top 12 slots this season? Because Meeks is such a bad defensive player that I didn’t want to waste a spot for him.
And: The Lakers were so bad on D this season, they were practically a throw-away for purposes of this item, the way Charlotte used to be. (But Charlotte was very good on D this season, full credit to coach Steve Clifford.)
* SG J.J. Reddick, Clippers. He and Jamal Crawford on the same team. That’s like a No-Defense Hall of Fame meeting, right there. But Doc Rivers is such a good coach that he got the most out of them offensively and figured out how to hide them both on defense.
* PF Greg Monroe, Detroit. Somebody else who desperately needs Stan Van Gundy to save his career… or trade him.
* SG Kevin Martin, Minnesota. Last season’s NDPOY put in yet another stalwart No-Defense season, but just like they couldn’t keep giving Jordan the MVP, I can’t keep throwing Martin out there year after year.
*PG Brandon Jennings, Detroit. Lots of things got Joe Dumars fired as the Detroit personnel boss, but giving Jennings (career 39% shooter with zero inclination to play defense other than chasing the ball and losing his man constantly) three years, $24M last summer when I really don’t think there were any other bidders… is about the funniest.
Well, the most recent funniest.
* F Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia. A good player who just got spun in circles by the 76ers’ general awfulness this season. There is no way the 76ers should’ve been much better defensively with Young OUT of the game than they were when he was IN. But that happened.
I hope he turns it around because Young can be a very productive player when his team isn’t an all-time tanker.
* Blake Griffin, Clippers. Just a solid, professional defensive year for Griffin on a team that finished 7th in defensive efficiency after many that were not.
* Al Jefferson, Charlotte. See, NDPOY’s can change their ways! I know I often say that they probably can’t, but Jefferson sure has.
* DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento.
* Kevin Love, Minnesota. He and Cousins don’t look like they’re very good defensive players, but the stats aren’t bad for either.
* David Lee, Warriors.
* Stephen Curry, Warriors. If these two slide back down in the defensive stats, Mark Jackson’s GSW career will look very, very good in retrospect. Curry was not great but not killer -0.38 in DRPM this season.
—-Moved off of consideration for lack of playing time at least for this season and maybe forever/
* Jimmer Fredette, Chicago. Yes, he’s on the Bulls. I forgot, too. He played 519 minutes this season and it was about 515 too much. There are no more words for his defense because it doesn’t exist.
I don’t think Fredette is ever going to play enough minutes ever again to qualify for anything, except: Worst top-10 draft choice of the last 10 years, (tied with Jonny Flynn).
–Slightly bad sign for the Warriors: 2013 first-rounder Nemanya Nedovic played like a much-worse-shooting/exact-same defense version of Jimmer this season.
Here’s another minor but potentially fascinating project for Steve Kerr and his staff: Make Nedovic capable of looking like an NBA player at some point in a season or two.