Awards Predictions Links:
This award is one of the toughest to determine based on stats alone. Also, you rarely ever see great defense in the highlight reels – making itdifficult to judge each player’s individual body of work on that end of the floor. So, we have to take a look at the impact that players have for their entire team. The leagueis full of great one-on-one perimeter and post defenders, but we should reward the ones who are indispensible to their team’s defense.
6. Elton Brand, Philadelphia 76ers
Yeah – remember him? While the Sixers are slipping in these last few weeks of the regular season, they were still a team that came out of nowhere to nearly win the Atlantic Division title over Boston and New York. This season, the Sixers find themselves at second overall in Defensive Efficiency – and Elton Brand’s anchoring of their defense is a huge reason why. After suffering multiple injuries over the last few seasons, he is no longer one of the team’s featured players on offense. But he deserves a mention for his impact on D this year.
5. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
A guy who never gets the spotlight, Tony Allen is an extremely underrated perimeter defender. In fact, even Deron Williams and Chris Paul talk about how difficult it is to get around him. Excusing last night’s inexplicable loss to the lowly Hornets, this team has had several quality road wins against top tier teams – Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and Miami in particular. There’s no denying that Allen gives fits to the league’s elite players.
4. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Howard, who won this honor the last three seasons (joining Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace as the only players ever to win at least that many), has experienced an enormous decline in his public image. Still, nobody is responsible for anchoring their entire team’s defense to the same extent as Howard. The difference this year is that Howard is clearly not fully invested in the team – and it shows. He will always pile up great defensive stats – mainly rebounds and blocks – due to his physical stature, but I just can’t reward a guy who has been such a cancer to his team’s success. He trots back on defense, pouts whenever his teammates get beat off the dribble, and leaves them on an island at times.
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat
He hasn’t really had any of his trademark fastbreak-stopping chase-down blocks from behind this season. But when engaged, he can be an absolute beast defensively. In the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Chicago last year, LeBron showed us just how great of a defender he can be by shutting down Derrick Rose in Games 4 and 5. He has built upon that effort this year, and his versatility and athleticism makes him one of the most difficult players to score on. His help defense is outstanding also; whenever he finds himself in an unfavorable mismatch – against players that are either smaller and quicker, or taller and stronger – he makes it tough for everyone of all positions.
2. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Yes, he’s known primarily for his help defense and shot blocking. But if you’ve ever seen an OKC game, offensive players constantly look out for “I-Block-A” in the corner of their eye as they come into the paint. His numbers reflect that also; he’s averaging a whopping 3.63 blocks per game – the most since Theo Ratliff in ’01 – and he’s had 10 or more blocks multiple times this season. He has been a complete monster in anchoring his team’s defense. His one-on-one defense still has room for improvement, but given Dwight’s lackadaisical effort this season, I haven’t noticed a post player with more of an impact. That is, except…
1. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
I know the Knicks are a very mediocre team. But the only other legitimate argument for any naysayer against Tyson is that that Dallas actually improved statistically on defense upon Chandler’s departure. That being said, it takes someone special to cover up for the major defensive deficiencies of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. When the Knicks started winning (post Lin-sanity, that is), it was because of their improved defense. In fairness, Iman Shumpert has a lot to do with the resurgence with his outstanding perimeter D. But Chandler’s defensive presence has been as infectious as Kevin Garnett’s was back when he arrived in Boston in 2005-06. New York went from to 21st in Defensive Efficiency to 4th this year. End of story.
*Coming up next: Coach of the Year