By Chris Lehman
The all-defensive team is one of the hardest awards to give out. It’s an easy tendency to just look at the steal and block leaders and throw their names on the list, but those stats can be deceptive. A terrible defender can easily get 2 steals a game by anticipating a pass and jumping into the lane. Just the same, someone can give no defensive effort all game and then chase down a fast break and make an impressive block. But a lockdown defender shows up all game and takes it personally when you score on them. Being a Lakers fan, I remember Kobe having to deal with past players like Bruce Bowen and Doug Christie – those are guys who genuinely enjoyed shutting players down. Looking at the past selections for the team, I’m insulted that Shane Battier has never been named to a 1st team all-defensive team in his career, but only two 2nd team mentions. Here’s this year’s team:
1st Team All-Defensive
Tyson Chandler – He was just named Defensive Player of the Year, so how could he possibly NOT make the list. Yes, he only blocked 1.4 shots per game, but as stated earlier, it’s not always just about the stats. His defensive presence is remarkable. Last year, the Mavericks were the best defensive team in the league and the #3 seed going into the playoffs. Now he’s gone and and just like that the Mavericks aren’t half the team they used to be. This year, the Knicks allowed 94 points per game. In the games that Chandler missed, they gave up 118 to the Spurs who averaged 103, 119 to the Bucks who averaged 99, 112 to the Hawks who averaged 96 and allowed about the average points to the Bobcats (86), but I don’t really consider them a real team.
Kobe Bryant – The guy simply hates being scored on. He always insists on guarding the opposing team’s best player (sometimes switches off with World Peace). Earlier in his career, I think he unfairly won this honor several times. He would play hard for a couple plays at a time, then ease off. But of his 9 first-team mentions, I think he deserves about 5 of them. He’ll guard smaller, quicker players like Rondo and then turn around and push around Carmelo Anthony, who is considered one of the strongest in the league. There’s no such thing as a mismatch for him.
Andre Iguodala – The 76ers have the 3rd best scoring defense in the league. Iguodala has a lot to do with that. He’s fast and strong enough to matchup with just about any player on the court. Now that he has a couple other guys around him who can score, the pressure isn’t as heavy on him to score all the points so he can really lock down on the defensive end. I look for him to be on this list for years to come.
Iman Shumpert – As a rookie, he has already established himself on the defensive end. On a team with so much offensive firepower, it’s easy to completely ignore the defense. But with Anthony and Stoudemire pretty much useless on that end of the ball, it is necessary to have someone who can really lock down on the wing – and that’s what Shumpert is there to do. Unfortunately, he injured his ACL and to my knowledge will miss the playoffs. This will really hurt their chances of being able to beat the Heat.
Serge Ibaka – This is a no-brainer. Lieutenant Serge is a one man wrecking crew. It seems like he blocks everything that comes through the paint. He was the missing piece to the Thunder’s success. He is the reason behind my strong belief that OKC will win it all this year. He is averaging nearly 4 blocks a game. That’s almost 1.5 higher than Javale McGee in 2nd. Long story short, don’t try to dunk on him. It won’t end well.
2nd Team All-Defensive
DeAndre Jordan – His game is similar to Tyson Chandler’s, but not on the same level. He’ll very rarely score more than 10 points in a game, but there’s a very good chance he’ll grab 10 rebounds and anywhere up to 6 blocks.
Aaron Afflalo – He’s quietly a very good player. Great three point shooter and lock down defender. Similar to Bruce Bowen, but more athletic.
Shane Battier – The man always does his job. The best at the hand-in-your-face-while-trying-to-shoot style. Wish I could have him on my 1st team.
Thabo Sefolosha – The Thunder are one of, if not THE, best scoring team in the league. That’s mainly because of three guys. The others all have defined roles. Sefolosha knows his. He guards the best perimeter player and he does it very well.
Greg Stiemsma – Averages 1.5 blocks in under 14 minutes.