Who are the NBA's best statistical defenders?

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Just like in baseball, properly measuring defense has been the fly in the ointment of the NBA’s statistical revolution. Tracking blocks and steals is as incomplete of a defensive measure as counting errors in baseball, and +/- based stats have serious holes as well. Since good defense prevents things from happening instead of causing them to happen, it’s nearly impossible to measure as accurately as offense.

On Basketball Prospectus, numbers whiz Bradford Doolittle has taken a crack at a formula to determine the NBA’s best defenders by measuring opponent production against those players versus the opponent’s average production. Dwight Howard is atop the list, and the 2-5 spots are populated by some of the NBA’s best offensive players: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. Doolittle thinks that their defensive ratings are so good because the skills that help them on offense also help them on defense, and that’s true.

I might add that all of those players spend most of the time conserving energy on defense instead of guarding the other team’s best perimeter players. Their athleticism makes it tough for great offensive players to score on them, but lesser threats have no chance. Ron Artest, Thabo Sefolosha, and Anthony Parker generally start the game taking the toughest perimeter assignments, with the superstars stepping up in crunch-time. That strategy is effective, but I think it skews the defensive numbers for the superstars in this formula.

I encourage you to check out the list; other surprises include Dirk Nowitzki a spot ahead of Kevin Garnett in the top-10, Caron Butler at 16, and Danilo Gallinari at 17. Measuring defense is a daunting task; I salute anyone making a real effort to try.

Boston’s Marcus Smart gets flopping warning from NBA

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 17:  Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden on October 17, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of the league’s more notorious floppers.

He was at it again Monday night against the Houston Rockets — and the league called him on it and gave him a warning.

It happened on the game’s final play — you were probably focused elsewhere, wondering how Al Horford could miss the game-winning layup. But watch Smart as he gets in position for the rebound on that shot.


The referees didn’t buy it then.

This warning is barely a slap on the wrist. If — in his case, when — Smart gets caught a second time this season he will get a $5,000 fine from the league. Smart is making $3.6 million this season.

Happy birthday Larry Bird. We celebrate with some highlights.


Larry Bird — the Celtics legend, three-time NBA champion, three-time MVP, 10-time All-NBA — turns 60 on Wednesday.

We celebrate by looking back at his 60-point game March 12, 1985, against the Hawks (video above, and yes that game was played in New Orleans).

Want more Larry the Legend highlights? We got you covered.

Hawks’ Mike Scott sent to D-League on rehab assignment

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Mike Scott #32 of the Atlanta Hawks poses during media day on September 26, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott is expected to play at least two games in the NBA Development League as he comes back from a knee injury that kept him out of training camp and the first 18 games of the season.

Scott played 15 minutes for the Delaware 87ers in Tuesday night’s loss to the Santa Cruz Warriors. He scored four points on 2-of-7 shooting, missing all four of his attempts from 3-point range.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer says the D-League is the best way for Scott to get “meaningful, competitive minutes” after undergoing a non-surgical procedure on his left knee.

Scott has played three games for Atlanta since his return. In 28 minutes, he has two points on 1-of-9 attempts, to go along with eight rebounds and six assists.

Watch Kyle O’Quinn throw alley-oop to Carmelo Anthony


Carmelo Anthony isn’t young anymore, but he had the bounce to go get this one.

These were your two best players for the Knicks in their win over Miami Tuesday. Kyle O'Quinn was forced into action earlier than expected when Joakim Noah went on a fouling spree in the third quarter, but O’Quinn played well in the role. ‘Melo dropped 35 on 27 shots — he’s not as efficient as he once was, but he can still get some buckets.

The Knicks picked up a needed win, because they play a back-to-back Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and a ticked-off LeBron James (New York will pay the price for Phil Jackson’s “posse” comments with a motivated LeBron Wednesday).