When Joakim Noah played, the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.
When Noah didn’t play… the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.
Noah, when accepting Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, was eager to share credit.
“This award is a team award,” Noah said, echoing many previous winners.
More than ever, it was true.
Since 2008 – as far back as NBA.com’s on/off data goes – no Defensive Player of the Year’s team allowed fewer points per possession without the winner on the court than the Bulls this season. Chicago’s defensive rating was a stout 98.0 with Noah on the bench (and 97.7 with him on the floor).
Here are the defensive ratings of the last seven Defensive Player of the Year’s teams with the winner on the court (red) and off the court (black):
Unsurprisingly, each team defended better with its Defensive Player of the Year. But the Bulls’ defense held up impressively well without him.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Noah shouldn’t be punished for playing for a good defensive coach and with good defensive teammates. He’s still worthy of the award.
But team success definitely factors into voting. Only one player outside a top-13 defensive team received votes (Anthony Davis on the 25th-ranked Pelicans), and only two top-10 teams had no players with votes (sixth-ranked Bobcats and ninth-ranked Raptors).
If Noah were the same defender but didn’t have a coach like Tom Thibodeau and teammates like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, maybe the Bulls center wouldn’t have won the award. That’s not exactly fair, but as much as Noah deserves credit for an excellent defensive season, the Bulls deserve credit for positioning him to thrive.
Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.
There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?
Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:
Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game — but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.
In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.
Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.
That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.
If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.
First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.
Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.
Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.
Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.