The story of these playoffs has been defense — Dwight Howard with nine blocks, Ron Artest on Kevin Durant, the Hawks shutting down what is left of the Bucks. Teams get to the playoffs because of their defense.
But who are the worst defenders in the NBA? Who costs their teams games due a vexing combination of inability and general lack of interest? Who are the guys other NBA players pray will be covering them for a night?
Math wiz Haralabos Voulgaris — who used to use his database to bet the NBA but now uses it in hopes of landing an NBA job — broke it down on his blog Alone in the Corner (via TrueHoop).
You NBA All-Worst Defensive Team:
PG: Johnny Flynn (Timberwolves)
SG: Kevin Martin (Houston)
SF: Andres Nocioni (Sacramento)
PF: Charlie Villanueva (Detroit)
C: Andrea Bargnani (Toronto)
Notice that none of those teams made the playoffs. Coincidence? I think not.
Flynn is a rookie, it’s pretty harsh to put a rookie on this list, especially one that has two power forwards playing behind him rather than one true center shot blocker. But Voulgaris uses a lot of adjusted plus/minus stats, and that metric doesn’t like Flynn. Largely because he’s not really a good defender.
Nocioni is not a league’s worst defender, he’s just put in that position. He’s a tweener, and he gets asked to guard threes that are too big for him or fours who are too big for him. So the numbers hate him, but the skills are there.
Charlie Villanueva, what a great pick up he turned out to be.
Now Bargnani deserves his status — he was the anchor for the worst defense in the NBA last year. It’s the flaw in the construction of the Raptors, both Bargnani and Bosh really need a big paired with them who can defend, block shots, dominate the boards and do the dirty work. Combined they are the softest front line in basketball. Bosh gets more of a pass because he puts in the defensive effort (and makes up for his shortcomings on the offensive end). Bargnani just shows no interest in defense.
Joakim Noah said in January he wanted to re-sign with the Bulls. Chicago reportedly wants to keep him.
A perfect match?
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.’’
The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the he said, he said that went on early in the season when Noah lost his starting job, and insisted that Noah didn’t offer up that as an explanation.
What was offered up, however, was the fact that there seems to be a complete mistrust that multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading the way.
Noah and Hoiberg publicly disagreed about whose choice it was for Noah to come off the bench. Hoiberg said it was Noah’s. Noah said it was Hoiberg’s.
That looked like a petty problem, one both sides could – and maybe did – get over. But it seems Noah has deeper concerns.
This has been a rough year for the Bulls, who missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That unexpected downturn takes a toll on chemistry and brings buried problems to the surface. That’s especially true considering Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau – a coach who looks better in hindsight. If players miss Thibodeau, that opens the door for them to turn on Forman, who forced out Thibodeau.
That said, the Bulls are probably better off letting Noah walk. He’s 31 and has been banged up the last couple years. I wouldn’t commit big money to him with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis under contract and the need for faster players to run Hoiberg’s system. Chicago can’t quickly solve its Jimmy Butler–Derrick Rose issue, because Butler is worth keeping and Rose is under contract another year on a difficult-to-trade deal. But shedding Noah and using the resulting cap flexibility elsewhere gets the team headed in the right direction.
For his part, Noah can seek a fresh start – how about with Thibodeau in Minnesota? – and find a team that suits him, either a win-now squad or a younger group seeking veteran leadership.
An Indiana player – Thomas Bryant – who likely would’ve been a first-round pick didn’t even declare for the draft without an agent.
Another Indiana player – Troy Williams – who might not even get picked will stay in the draft.
Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:
Williams, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is an excellent athlete. He’s not strong enough and hasn’t shown enough awareness to project him defending well in the NBA yet. But his length, quickness and leaping ability give him potential on that end. That and transition offense will have to carry him for now, because his outside shot is unimpressive.
There are players like Williams in every draft. It’s on him to convince a team that he has the work ethic and intelligence to refine his game.
The Warriors are taking a beating on the court, but their turmoil reached heartbreaking levels in Klay Thompson‘s press conference after Game 4.
Thompson, scanning the box score for any semblance of hope, applauded Golden State’s “40 assists” – which would have been the most in a playoff game since 1994. But he quickly realized that couldn’t be right, looked again and sadly announced Golden State had just 15 assists.
Thompson was probably looking at the Warriors’ rebounding total (which was 16 below the Thunder’s).
When Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin, it did more than create mass debate about the appropriate punishment.
Green hurt Adams badly, it sounds like.
John E. Hoover of The Franchise Tulsa:
Once you finish wincing, take a moment to appreciate how tough Adams is. He kept playing in the game and then came out in Game 4 throwing bullet passes.