The next portion of my awards season ballot focuses on my choices for NBA All-Defensive Second Team. As always, my picks are followed by a description of why I think they deserve their slot.
Here’s the link for my First Team selections on defense to see who got the nods over the players on my Second Team.
Very few point guards in the league are able to combine his ferocious blanketing of opposing players with the innate ability to disrupt offensive playmaking with pesky agitation. Beverley’s defensive potency isn’t always visible on the stat sheet, but while other point guards are able to pad their stats by successfully gambling on defense, Beverley never makes the Houston Rockets vulnerable because of reckless decision making. Other point guards may try for more steals and end up needing their teammate to pick up their slack if they over-pursue, but Beverley’s a rock on defense. Stephen Curry was lucky that Beverley was injured during the Western Conference Finals last season, because it would have certainly made Curry’s job a lot more difficult.
The Memphis Grizzlies have had a lot of roster oscillation with both injuries and trades, making it hard for on-court chemistry to foster as well as it has in Memphis in recent years. Although Allen’s defensive metrics slipped a bit this year, it’s probably due more to the instability around him than an actual decline in skills. He still averaged 1.7 steals per game while usually being assigned the best perimeter scorer on opposing teams to guard. Allen ranked 2nd in the league for shooting guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, and remains an elite defender in the NBA despite a relatively down season for him.
Before his traumatic lower right leg injury, George was on the doorstep of becoming arguably the best two-way player in the NBA. To return to superstar form after his calamitous injury is a testament to both his immense talent as well as an almost unparalleled work ethic. George is an athletic, long defender, and although he’s most associated with offensive performance, he actually has more career Defensive Win Shares than Offensive Win Shares. He tied his career high by averaging 1.9 steals per game this season, alerting the NBA that he’s back and better than ever. George ranked 7th in the league in Defensive Win Shares, helping the Indiana Pacers rank 3rd in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions.
Millsap was the commanding force of an Atlanta Hawks defense that ranked 2nd in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. He has long been a reliable rebounder and sturdy defender, and this season was the best he’s ever looked. Millsap ranked 1st in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares, 3rd in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, and 4th in Defensive Rating. He also averaged 1.8 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game, consistently wreaking havoc on interior opponents.
Down in South Beach, Whiteside reigns as the most feared rim protector in the NBA. His 3.7 blocks per game lead the league, and was almost a block and a half per game better than the 2nd place finisher. He was also tied for 3rd in the league in rebounds per game with 11.8, but even more impressively ranked 2nd in the league in rebounding percentage, which is the estimate amount of rebounds grabbed while a player was on the floor. Along with that feat, his block percentage was 1st in the league by nearly 4 percentage points. He also ranked 1st in the NBA in Defensive Rating, 5th in Defensive Win Shares, and 7th in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Whiteside’s explosive defensive abilities affirm his selection to this list. No interior defender is more intimidating to go up against.