The results are in, and they are unfavorable.
Tyson Chandler won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was deserving of consideration with his performance for a previously inept defensive team in New York, which has two “superstars” who for most of the year refused to defend. The Knicks were a top 5 defensive team this year, so this makes sense. He also had the dreaded “narrative” going in his favor.
(By the way, as a complete aside I’m going to rant here. It will be completely hypocritical for people to vote for Chandler in the “Knicks don’t play defense!” argument and vote for Carmelo Anthony for any all-NBA team. Considering he is (a) not a good defender and part of the reason Chandler won this award, (b) someone who played effectively for just half the year and even then isn’t a top 10 guy, (c) actively quit on his coach, resulting in his “resignation”, and (d) led a team to a 7 seed in a tame Eastern Conference, how can anyone justify Melo being an all-NBA player. Please, someone give me a convincing argument that his play, which almost doomed the Knicks’ season before Linsanity happened, is deserving of any awards).
On the surface, too, does the Serge Ibaka voting, because people like numbers that they recognize and see his absurd number of blocks. But the fact that he’s not actually a great defender seemed to elude these people. Ibaka has the highlight blocks and is a good help defender, but he can be abused in the post by most opponents. His synergy numbers suggests he’s not really much of a defender at all. And while I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, the fact that he played 27 minutes per game suggests his defensive impact was also limited by the number of minutes he played.
Meanwhile, guys like LeBron James, Tony Allen, and Andre Iguodala are regularly tasked to defend the opponent’s best player, limiting their opponents as much as possible. Each is impressive in his own way. LeBron’s versatility stands out – he can more than effectively defend any guard or forward, and he holds up reasonably well against centers. Iguodala regularly turns opposing small forwards and guards into third stringers. And Allen is the head of the league’s best pressure defense and is also tasked to guard the best perimeter player on a regular basis, though he is also limited by his minutes played.
I mentioned on Twitter that I believe LeBron should have won. However, I believed Iguodala was more than deserving of a runner-up position. The fact that he finished behind a guy who quit on his team regularly infuriates me even more. I have both ahead of Allen, as they each played more minutes.
Unfortunately, the voters tend to not look past the outdated and mostly irrelevant block and steal statistics. Sure, they are helpful, but only if the player can consistently actually stop the opponent from scoring or being effective in any way. And if you’re looking at who can actually prevent the opponent from doing anything, Iguodala is very close to being the best. Only the best player in the entire league separates him from that distinction.
In the actual voting, he finished behind (in order): Chandler, Ibaka, Howard, LeBron, Kevin Garnett, and Allen.