Award voting will never be a perfect process, if only because there are so many different perspectives involved. That said, selections to the All-Defense first and second teams provide particularly unique challenges, as voters are not only asked to weigh certain contributions (scoring, playmaking, etc.) against others (defense, leadership, etc.) as they are in MVP voting for example, but determine whether the contributions are worthy of such an honor at all. It’s tough to dispute things like points and shooting percentages, but there aren’t any simple ways to measure defense, and finding any reliable way to measure defense quantitatively is rather difficult.
It’s so difficult, in fact, that for the most part, head coaches needn’t be bothered by it. The electorate for the All-Defense teams are supposed to be the league’s 30 head coaches, but does anyone honestly believe that Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich penned the ballots for their respective teams? Such assignments are often handed down the ladder to an assistant, and perhaps even further down from that assistant to someone else on staff.
Want proof? Even the worst coach in the league wouldn’t dare vote for some of the players that end up receiving votes in these things. Here are some of this year’s anomalies:
- Luis Scola received the same amount of points (2) as Portland wing stopper Nicolas Batum.
- Dwight Howard only received 28 votes for the 1st team, when he should have received 29. Stan Van Gundy (or whoever is voting for SVG) can’t vote for Howard as a rule, but is there honestly a coach in this league that thinks there is a better defensive player, much less a better defensive center, than Dwight?
- Andrew Bogut, who would have been a fine selection for Defensive Player of the Year had Howard not been otherworldly, was only the fourth highest vote-getter among centers. Bogut was second in the league this season in combined steals, blocks, and drawn charges.
- Shawn Marion held opposing small forward to a 13.3 PER this season (15 qualifies as average) and a league-low .392 from the field (per ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon), but couldn’t score a single vote. Forwards who did receive a vote? The aforementioned Scola, Ersan Ilyasova, and Caron Butler. Speaking of Caron Butler, how did a player get a vote for playing roughly a season of decent defense? Butler wasn’t bad defensively for Dallas after the trade deadline, but with Washington? Yeesh.
- Nick Collison also couldn’t get a single vote, despite being one of the more effective defenders in the league. Thought Marion holding opposing small forwards to a 13.3 PER was impressive? How about Collison keeping his opponents at power forward to just an 8.7 PER?
- Jason Kidd receive four first team votes despite his inability to defend his own position on a regular basis, Lamar Odom and Deron Williams each received a first team vote despite being merely competent on D, and George Hill received a first team vote on the strength of some unknown criteria that places him as an elite defender.
- Finally, something that’s less of an anomaly and more of a general trend. Eight of the ten All-Defense selections were All-Stars. This isn’t because those playing in the All-Star game are selected for their defense necessarily, but that despite the purpose of the All-Defense teams, the voting coaches typically choose more complete players. Guys like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who for all of their defensive strengths are rather limited on the offensive end, are routinely left out in the cold. It’s not a coincidence that the first season Gerald Wallace was named an All-Star is also the first year he was selected for either All-Defense team, and it’s also not indicative of some substantial leap in his game.