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News » These guys put some D in the NBA

These guys put some D in the NBA

These guys put some D in the NBA
Several readers have complained that virtually every player I mention is a poor defender, which certainly isn't my fault.

Dwight Howard does block shots, but in his eagerness to do so, smart teams (like the Lakers) can run their offense in such a way that he's lured out of shot-blocking position. Plus, opposing centers who are able to face up and go can usually find a driveable lane. I seem to recall that Pau Gasol ate Howard's lunch in June. Why, then, was Howard selected as the NBA's best defender? For the same reason that Larry Hughes was named to the First All-Defensive team in 2005. Numbers.

In truth, even though Hughes led the league in steals that season (2.89 per game), he was strictly a reckless, feckless gambler and lost more gambles than he won. By the same token, Howard's leading the NBA in blocks is by no means indicative of his true defensive value.

As an example of how misleading blocked shots stats really are, I always cite Dave DeBusschere, who — by my lights — was the best defensive power forward ever. DeBusschere was still at the top of his game when he retired after the 1973-74 season, during which he averaged 18.1 points per game (second-best mark of his career). That season also marked the first time that blocked shots became an official statistic, and he was only credited with 0.55 swats per game. So while Howard is proficient at one aspect of defense, he has a long way to go in other areas.

LeBron James has made it a practice of dramatically chasing down and blocking opponents' breakaway layup attempts. And he's also big and strong enough to occupy a large, forbidding space in front of some opponents. Still, his balance is slightly off-kilter, so he can be turned by opponents who have super-duper fakes and extra-quick first steps. Moreover, LBJ is simply too big to successfully navigate his way through or around high screen-and-rolls. It should be noted, though, that he's certainly paying more attention to playing defense than he ever has, and his improvement is significant.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: August 13, 2009


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