Monday, April 12, 2010

Basketball Prospectus: Pelton: 2009-10 All-Defensive Team

Kevin Pelton selects his first- and second-team defenders. Josh Smith and Al Horford both earn honorable mention for their defensive work.

Pelton on Smith:
There's an argument to be made that Smith belongs atop the group of power forwards. In terms of defensive WARP, that's where he would go. Smith's defensive versatility was neatly encapsulated by Hollinger, who noted that he is the tallest player in the league's top 10 in steals and the shortest in the top 10 in blocks. Smith isn't quite as good as an individual defender and the Hawks' middle-of-the-road Defensive Rating also holds him back.
*Emphasis mine so I can raise my ambivalence about this element of individual defensive evaluation. John Hollinger made a similar point in his All-Defensive Team article (Insider):
The only negative is that the Hawks are just 14th overall in defensive efficiency. Swiss-cheese guards and horrific transition defense are the main culprits, but it's tough to rate Smith first when he hasn't had enough impact to keep the team's overall defense from being mediocre.
It's fair. The Hawks are an average defensive team. On the other hand, they're an average defensive team almost solely due to the efforts of Smith and Al Horford in defending the entire floor and assuming the bulk of the defensive rebounding responsibilities. Is this a representative of greater defensive ability or just an extremely high (and metaphorical) defensive usage rate? I don't know. Plus, I haven't watched 80 games of any other team this season and couldn't accurately give extra credit to Horford and Smith for the limitations of their teammates in any way that would be fair to the rest of the league.

And Pelton on Horford:
Horford was a rarity this season--an All-Star selected primarily on the strength of his defense. Not that Horford can't score, mind you, but his development into a defensive anchor has been even more rapid. His numbers are uniformly solid. Horford is quick enough to defend on the perimeter and physical enough to defend in the paint.

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