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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bryant and Garnett Each Earn All-Defensive First Team Honors for the Ninth Time

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard earned unanimous selection to the 2011 All-Defensive Team, receiving 27 First Team votes and two Second Team votes in balloting conducted among the league's 30 head coaches (coaches are not permitted to vote for their own players). Howard has thus been recognized as the league's top defender by members of the media (who vote for the Defensive Player of the Year) and by the coaches.

After not making either squad last season, a revitalized Kevin Garnett received First Team honors for a record-tying ninth time; Kobe Bryant made the First Team for the ninth time overall and the sixth season in a row. Michael Jordan and Gary Payton are the only other nine-time members of the All-Defensive First Team. Tim Duncan holds the all-time mark with 13 total All-Defensive Team selections (including eight First Team nods), followed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (11), Bobby Jones (11, including two ABA selections), Kobe Bryant (10), Kevin Garnett (10) and Scottie Pippen (10). The NBA has selected All-Defensive Teams each season since 1969-70, while the ABA selected an All-Defensive Team (one five man unit only, not two five man units) from 1972-73 through 1975-76.

LeBron James and Rajon Rondo are the other First Team selections; James made the First Team for the third straight year, while this is Rondo's second consecutive First Team selection (Rondo made the Second Team in 2009).

Defense is half of the game and yet even many "stat gurus" acknowledge that "advanced basketball statistics" do not precisely measure individual defense. "Stat gurus," media members and fans each have certain biases and these various biases become quite pronounced regarding defense precisely because defense is so hard to quantify and because most observers do not have a sophisticated (or even basic) understanding of NBA defense on a team or individual level. Scientists have spent more than 50 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to repeatedly verify arguably the most successful theory of all time (Einstein's Theory of Relativity), so it is mystifying that "stat gurus" appear to be completely disinterested in experimentally verifying their "advanced basketball statistics"; even more troubling is that "stat gurus" largely disregard the reality that many of the basic box score numbers are subjective or even just wrong: I have repeatedly provided evidence that assist totals are inaccurate and I strongly suspect that there are similar problems with defensive numbers like steals and blocked shots (not to mention the fact that the league is not even attempting to quantify many of the most important important aspects of team defense, such as switching, hedging, double-teaming and so forth). The raw box score numbers are both flawed and incomplete, yet the "stat gurus" stubbornly insist that they alone possess the full truth about how to evaluate NBA players.

My All-Defensive Team choices are usually very similar to the official selections (the coaches agreed with eight of my 10 picks in each of the past three seasons: 2008, 2009 and 2010) while differing from the opinions expressed by "stat gurus," media members and other self-proclaimed experts. This season, six of my 10 All-Defensive Team choices matched the coaches' choices, including all five of my First Team picks plus the selection of Tyson Chandler as the Second Team center; the coaches rounded out their Second Team with Tony Allen, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala and Joakim Noah while I preferred Thabo Sefolosha, Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Gerald Wallace. I rejected Allen because he barely averaged 20 mpg and I simply did not think that Paul was quite as effective defensively as he was in previous seasons. I mentioned Noah as a quite viable Second Team honoree and I feel the same way about Iguodala; they each totaled 15 points (players receive two points for each First Team vote and one point for each Second Team vote) and were thus the last players to make the cut, just ahead of Dwyane Wade (14 points), Russell Westbrook (13) and a quartet of players who received 11 points each: Wallace, Hill, Luol Deng (another player who I gave an honorable mention) and Duncan. Sefolosha, a member of the Second Team last season, received just five Second Team votes.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:30 AM

16 comments

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16 Comments:

At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
I thought it was surprising that the coaches picked kobe to be on the all defensive team. It is eye opening how much coaches around the league respect and acknowledge kobe's skills as a defender. It is in direct opposition with what stat gurus think. Coaches vote based on ability while stat gurus vote on production. what do you think?

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 3:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

I am not surprised that the coaches selected Kobe Bryant; he is still an excellent defender, despite what "stat gurus" and media members may say.

 
At Tuesday, May 10, 2011 6:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol -- Kobe all Defense team... yeah, and Derek Jeter is a deserving gold glover!

anyone who follows lakers knows he's about the 4th best defender on team: http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2011/05/kobe-bryant-named-to-nbas-all-defensive-team-for-ninth-time.html?cid=6a00d8341c506253ef014e88550b76970d

did you watch much Lakers this year?

by the way, Luol Deng didnt even make SECOND TEAM -- and he is twice the defender that Kobe is, at the moment...

Kobe was a good on-ball defender years ago, so I guess this was lifetime achievement, or NBA marketing (LA big mkt, Kobe big name)

sad to see

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous Charliegone said...

David, you are right about that. I think Kobe was selected because coaches see what some media and stat gurus do not see. I think Kobe's defense wasn't that bad this year, yes he has lost a step, but the way he played this year I noticed he tried to force the player to the help which worked most of the time. I think coaches look more at a players understanding of defense rather than their stats; things that people like Abbott and Dwyer do not understand or choose to notice.

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Fortunately, the All-Defensive Team is voted on by the league's head coaches, not by media members or by people who post ignorant comments anonymously. I am sure that the coaches watched more Laker games than you did and, more importantly, I am sure that they understood what they watched a lot better than you do.

I have yet to hear a good explanation of how Kobe making the All-Defensive Team helps the NBA to market itself. Are they selling All-Defensive Team t-shirts at NBA.com? Are there some big All-Defensive Team TV commercials that I missed? If the league is trying to market the Lakers and the Lakers had three defenders who were better than Kobe then why didn't those guys make the team?

However, the biggest question--the one that I have always wondered about--is: "When you post stupid comments anonymously do you put any thought or reasoning into what you write or do you just mindlessly regurgitate nonsense that you heard/read somewhere else?"

The people who don't think that Kobe should have made the All-Defensive Team are "stat gurus," fans who hate Kobe and/or the Lakers and some media members who would not understand an NBA defensive game plan if a coach hit them upside the head with it.

We all know that Kobe has lost some foot-speed and explosiveness but he is still a very savvy defender who can guard multiple positions (sf, sg, pg) one on one and who can also play excellent help defense. The Lakers often put him in a help defense role to conserve his legs but by clogging passing lanes and disrupting the opposing big men in the post Kobe played an important defensive role. Although there has been some nonsense written this season about Bynum being the Lakers' signal caller on defense--and we saw how well that worked against Dallas--the reality is that Kobe is generally the player who directs the Lakers' defense on court, an unusual role for a shooting guard (the big men can see the whole court defensively and thus usually direct traffic but for the Lakers Kobe is most often the player who is giving directions either verbally or with hand signals).

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charliegone:

It is amusing to hear fans complain about the All-Defensive Team; I expect them to be partisan and to not really understand the intricacies of NBA defense. However, it is sad--and disgraceful--that many of the so-called professionals who are paid to cover the sport do not put forth the time and effort to actually study the sport. Abbott is just a biased fool (pro-Blazers, pro-LeBron, anti-Kobe) while Dwyer is a pretentious fool who brags about how much basketball he watches and yet does not understand the game at all (if he really watches as much basketball as he says he does then that is a frightening indictment of both his powers of observation and his reasoning skills).

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

One more thing: the All-Defensive Team is selected by position, so small forward Deng was not competing with shooting guard Bryant for a spot on the team.

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

This is interesting. I'm hearing from a lot of lakers' fans as well that Kobe shouldn't be on the all-defensive team. It might have to do with Kobe 2011 vs. Kobe 2008. Kobe 2008 was definitely better defensively, but that doesn't mean Kobe 2011 wasn't an elite defender either. They see Artest taking the primary scoring wing of the opposing team most of the team. I guess it makes some sense to think that Artest is better defensively than Kobe right now if Artest is guarding the better offensive players. I think the stat gurus can't see beyond the stats at all. In game 2 against NO, Paul's stat line was still very good, but Kobe completely took him out of his comfort zone and NO's offense was terrible. But Phil was probably right, the lakers don't want Kobe focusing that much on defense because their offense will struggle mightily.

Interestingly, well, not really, right after the all-defensive teams came out, Dwyer was already bashing Kobe. I'm convinced Abbott, Dwyer, etc. have articles already written anticipating something about Kobe, then post it immediately. I'm glad you can't stand these guys either, I just don't understand them.

Regardless of position, who do you think is better defensively this past year: bynum or kobe?

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 3:30:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

There is an old coaching cliche stating that coaches who listen to the fans will end up sitting next to them; I don't base my analysis on what fans think/say.

Kobe was obviously a better, more active defender when he was younger but he is still a top level defender now. The coaches also take into account the way that Kobe organizes the Lakers' team defense by making sure that his teammates are in the right places. If you watch the games closely you will see that Kobe is very vocal on defense; communication is essential to playing defense well.

Some players may grade out well statistically as one on one defenders because they never leave their man, even if they had help defense responsibilities. The truth is that unless you really understand NBA defense in general--and each team's particular defensive scheme--you cannot properly evaluate a defender's effectiveness.

Bynum played excellent defense for a stretch of games in the second half of the season but that is not nearly enough to earn All-Defensive Team honors over Howard and Chandler. Typically, a good shotblocking big man should be more important to a team's defensive scheme than a wing defender but since Kobe played in all 82 games (Bynum played in just 54) I would have to say that Kobe had more of a defensive impact this season than Bynum. Bynum is still dealing with maturity issues; sometimes when he does not get the ball on offense his defensive intensity flags and he also is apt to make dirty plays when he gets frustrated (the Barea hit is very much like two previous dirty plays by Bynum, including one that took place in March versus Beasley).

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 6:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

I think a lot of casual fans look at Bryant's dwindling block and steal averages and think that he's declined as a defender. I firmly disagree. Bryant's positional defense is as good, if not better, than ever. That is most important aspect of defense, NOT things like the chase down blocks that have people so enamored with Lebron James' efforts (although to his credit, he has really improved as an overall defender).

Either way, Kobe is a better defender now than when he was younger and could make those spectacular blocks/steals with ease. Being a good team defender means that you don't take stupid gambles. It also doesn't make any sense for him to risk his body by taking chances on those kind of plays at age 32 with several chronic injury problems. In spite of it all, he is still one of the best perimeter help defenders in the league. He might not get as many steals for himself anymore, but he still creates a lot of them for his teammates.

Now if someone wants to say that another player deserved the first team nomination, that is a perfectly reasonable argument. It would not have surprised me to see him not make the first team this year. But lets not stray into the absurd by insisting he's the fourth best defensive player on the Lakers. Ron Artest creates more turnovers, but does make mistakes and is very inconsistent. Much the same can be said for Andrew Bynum, although he is inching closer and closer to being a very reliable player (at least when health permits). There isn't even a third player to suggest as a better defensive contributor on the Lakers than Bryant, no matter how misguided this "Anonymous" poster may be.

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David,
Did you see Kobe's exit interview? It pretty much summed up everything you've said in the past concerning Shaq, him not practicing and what it meant for the team, and the Pau Gasol girlfriend issue, which was and is completely false. The one interesting thing he said was concerning his health; he talked about strength training and being healthy vs. being in top shape. I don't think his decline is as pronounced as many think it is and hopefully we'll have have evidence of this next year.

 
At Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks, your calling me "ignorant" and "stupid" is very constructive. name-calling really proves your point.

as to your assertions:

-- I live in LA and watch more Lakers games than most NBA coaches

-- on TV, James Worthy breaks down plays, and often comments on Kobe's subpar/declining defense ... but I guess you would say he's "ignorant" as well

-- how did Kobe's defense hold up in the playoffs?

-- you use stats to build up Kobe's offense (points per game, etc.), but how else can you measure defense than using at least SOME stats. the stat "gurus" show that Kobe isn't EVEN IN THE CONVERSATION, much less an elite defender

-- if you follow baseball, you'd get the Derek Jeter analogy -- big mkt, big name, great offensive player, so it builds the media legend to hype his overrated D

nuff said

--"Ignorant"

 
At Thursday, May 12, 2011 7:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

I think that a lot of casual fans simply don't know what they are talking about and therefore they like to try to sound sophisticated by repeating something that someone else said. Other fans are full fledged members of the "advanced basketball statistics cult" or they just don't like Kobe for whatever reason.

It is pretty idiotic to think that the coaches are voting Kobe on to the All-Defensive Team every year for marketing reasons; is that why Tyson Chandler is on the team?

I agree with you that a case could be made for other players to be on the First Team. Kobe was not a unanimous selection but rather a consensus selection. When I did my awards article I listed my choices but I also added several "honorable mentions" who I thought were probably just as worthy as the 10 players I chose; as I noted in this article, I not only picked the same First Team as the coaches but I also chose one Second Team member and several of my "honorable mentions" nearly made the Second Team. I think that I have a pretty good idea of how NBA coaches evaluate individual defense and I think that many media members/fans don't have a clue about this subject.

 
At Thursday, May 12, 2011 7:36:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Ignorant":

You are the one who jumped into the discussion anonymously and then disrespectfully asked if I watched any Laker games. Did you read any other articles here before posting your comment? It is quite obvious that I watch a lot of basketball and that I make in depth, objective evaluations of players/teams. You can disagree with my opinion without questioning whether I am even qualified to have an opinion. You have the right to make a comment and I have the right to decide whether or not to post it here and I have the right to decide what tone to use in response; you come off as an arrogant person who does not know what he is talking about, so that is how I addressed you.

Your initial comment did not offer one valid reason that Kobe should not be on the All-Defensive Team and you incorrectly implied that Kobe made the team at the expense of Deng. So, in light of the tone and content of your comment I feel quite confident stating that your comment is "ignorant" and "stupid." Please note that I did not call you "ignorant," though you chose to sign your most recent comment with that appellation.

I have no idea how many games you watch, nor do I care; watching games does not make you an expert any more than watching a Space Shuttle launch would make you a rocket scientist.

I did not hear Worthy's specific comments so I cannot reply to them but I would note that Kobe's defense could "decline" from its previous levels and still be worthy of First Team recognition. I would not call Worthy "ignorant" but it is also possible that he does not view the games the same way that the coaches do--and it is possible that two competent analysts can simply disagree. Kobe was not a unanimous selection to the All-Defensive Team.

The "stat gurus" generally have no idea what they are talking about. On the one hand, they will admit that they cannot quantify individual defense but on the other hand they insist that their admittedly inadequate efforts to do so are more accurate than the evaluations made by the league's head coaches.

MLB Gold Glove voting has nothing to do with NBA All-Defensive Team voting. Can you cite even one instance of any marketing or promotional effort focused around the All-Defensive Team? Do you really believe that there is some great conspiracy to put Kobe on the All-Defensive Team purely to market him? Moreover, if the league is so intent on marketing him in that fashion then how come he only won one regular season MVP despite the fact that for several years the players, coaches and GMs repeatedly called him the best, most feared player in the NBA?

 
At Thursday, May 12, 2011 7:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Yes, I saw the exit interview.

Perhaps Kobe's optimistic take about his capabilities next season is correct but in my experience the athlete is sometimes the last one to know (or admit to himself) that he is declining. No matter how diligently Kobe trains, he cannot change the fact that he has 40,000-plus minutes of mileage on his body. His right knee is essentially bone on bone, he often sprains the left ankle (suggesting that those ligaments may be weakened) and it is more likely that new problems will crop up than that he will magically become fully healthy. Kobe needs more help around him but if the Lakers acquire that help and hire a good coach then perhaps he can make a run at winning one more title--but a lot of things will have to go in his favor for that to happen, not the least of which being that he stays healthy.

 
At Thursday, May 12, 2011 9:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

At the same time, while I definitely don't think that the voting is set up for "marketing," purposes, some of the players who did/did not receive votes were somewhat absurd.

For instance, Derrick Rose is at best an average defensive player, but he received 14 votes, 4 of which suggested he should make the 1st team. I can see that as being a bleeding effect from being considered the consensus MVP for a couple months now, though. He's not a particularly good positional defender, nor does he get a lot of steals, so that is the only explanation as I see it.

There is a head coach in the NBA that honestly believes that Joe Johnson is not only a good defender, but deserving of a 1st team bid. I'm guessing someone just threw him in there as a joke, because they couldn't think of another player and knew he had no shot of winning. Kind of weird to think of an NBA head coach doing something like that.

Andrew Bogut just lead the NBA in blocks and missed far less time to injury than Joakim Noah did this year. Yet he somehow only got a single vote, while Noah made the second team in spite of missing nearly half the 2010-11 season. Noah is a great guy to have on one's team, but he's quickly become very overrated. Someone I know pointed out that Noah's output and on court contribution is essentially the same as what PJ Brown used to provide. Then again, when the league's pool of big men is so weak now (especially compared to the 90's), its a lot easier to stand out.

 

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