Joakim Noah was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a deserving candidate — he played a whopping 2,820 minutes, led the league in defensive win shares (6.6) and defensive rating (96), and he anchored the league’s second best defense. Sure, he received a nice narrative boost, but every award winner needs some kind of narrative to put them over the top.
Here’s some quick thoughts on the DPOY voting, focusing specifically on Kawhi Leonard (11th in voting) and Tim Duncan (13th).
- Leonard finished 11th behind perimeter defenders Andre Iguodala (5th), LeBron James (6th) and Paul George (7th). Good company. He earned three second-place votes.
- Leonard had a fantastic defensive season. Of the six non big men in the top six — Iguodala, James, Paul George, P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza — Leonard only trails George in defensive rating and defensive win shares.
- The Spurs allowed 97.7 points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the floor, 4.8 points better than when he sat.
- Leonard allowed 0.75 points per possession, per Synergy, which ranks 27th in the league. Iguodala, James and George allowed more points per possession.
- The stats jive with the eyes, too. Leonard is a disruptive force on defense, capable of creating havoc and not compromising the team defense. He’s a special defender and his 11th place finish doesn’t do him justice.
Duncan, the other lynchpin of the Spurs’ fourth-ranked defense, finished 13th, behind Noah, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut.
- Duncan played 2,158 minutes, by far the lowest of his peers. He earned one second-place vote.
- Duncan finished sixth in defensive rating and eighth in defensive win shares.
- The Spurs allowed 100.7 points per 100 possessions with Duncan on the floor, compared to 99.4 when he sits.
- Opponents made 47.6 percent of their shots at the rim with Duncan defending, according to SportVU. A top 20 mark.
- Duncan still hasn’t won a Defensive Player of the Year award. Given his age, and Gregg Popovich’s calculated minutes management, it’s likely that Duncan will never win this award. Which is a shame. Currently, he’s second all-time in defensive win shares, behind the great Bill Russell.
- It just feels dirty, you know?