PBT Awards: All-Defensive team

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

First Team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • C: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

Second Team

  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • G: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

There are some quality defenders left off this list, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the top of it. The first group is one that could play a Warriors-style switching defense. The second team would block a lot of shots.

Brett Pollakoff

First team

  • G: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

Second Team

  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • G: Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • F: Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Draymond Green got my Defensive Player of the Year vote, but that was for his overall impact on a Warriors team that finished the year ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency. Ask any player in the league if they’d rather be guarded by Green or Anthony Davis, and they’ll tell you Green, almost unanimously, which is why Davis gets the first-team spot.

Sean Highkin

First team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • C: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

Second team

  • G: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • G: Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Leonard got my hypothetical Defensive Player of the Year vote, and Bogut and Green are the inside/outside anchors of the league’s best defense. Wall’s quickness and CP3’s savvy make them two of the best defensive guards in the game.

Butler kept his effectiveness on the defensive end despite taking on a larger offensive role with the Bulls. Allen and Duncan had typical seasons for them. Davis put his defensive tools together this year to become a dominant player at that end. Gobert is an absolute demon and the best rim protector in the league already, in his second season.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • G: Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Second team

  • G: Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

The only tough spot to fill was Davis as the final forward. He’s a good, but overrated, defender. He gets too much credit for what he’s capable of doing rather than what he actually does. But he made more of a defensive impact than Serge Ibaka and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who are better defenders but played less.

Because of positional requirements, some better defenders than players listed – including Nerlens Noel and Marc Gasol – didn’t make the cut. I couldn’t convince myself to count Noel as a forward, but if I had, I would have gone back and forth between him and Davis. I’d lean Davis, though.

Report: Nets signing Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford vs. Nets
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Most points scored in a player’s last game (among non-active NBA players):

  • Kobe Bryant: 60 (LAL-UTA April 13, 2016)
  • Jamal Crawford: 51 (PHO-DAL April 9, 2019)
  • Alec Peters: 36 (PHO-DAL April 10, 2018)

It’s time to remove Crawford from the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

A defensive liability who needs the ball in his hands, 40-year-old Crawford can still make difficult shots remarkably well. But most teams can build a lineup and system that consistently create more efficient shots than the tough looks Crawford specializes in.

The Nets aren’t most teams.

Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie are both out. Caris LeVert, Garrett Temple Chris Chiozza and Tyler Johnson are an underwhelming backcourt rotation.

Crawford can add scoring punch. With the point guard-deficient Suns last season, he also showed passing ability, though a good team won’t ask too much of him.

Reminder: The Nets will keep their first-round pick only if they miss the playoffs. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving healthy, Brooklyn would probably convey a later pick to the Timberwolves next season.

If nothing else, this is a tremendous personal achievement for Crawford, who badly wanted to keep playing. He has kept in tremendous shape for his age and built a strong reputation in the locker room, earning himself more opportunities.  If everything goes according to plan, Crawford will join Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Willis, Robert Parish, Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to play 20 NBA seasons.

Stephen Jackson peddles another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, says he’s misunderstood

Stephen Jackson
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Former NBA player Stephen Jackson defended Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has drawn criticism – including from the Eagles – for posting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory (incorrectly) attributed to Adolph Hitler.

DeSean Jackson apologized twice and pledged to educate himself.

Stephen Jackson insists he’s being unfairly maligned.

Stephen Jackson:

Today’s word is assume. Assume.

To all my Jewish people, I love y’all. Y’all took the video the wrong way. I said he was right stemming from a conversation we had before I got on Live about how they’re handling him and how they handled Cooper when he said the n-word. They didn’t handle them the same way, and that wasn’t right. And that’s what I was talking about. I love y’all. You’ll never find a video or article of me saying I hate anybody. Let me clear that up.

Assume. Today’s word. As a black man, you get pulled over by the police, they assume you’re about to run. They assume you’ve got drugs in the car. They assume you’ve got a gun. They assume the worst, right?

I didn’t say nothing about Jews or supporting Hitler at all in that video. But that’s what they assume I said. And y’all wonder why we’re fighting for equality. Because y’all assume the worst from a black man. I love everybody. I’ve always stood that way. Love for all who have love for all. So, why would you assume I hate somebody?

Too often, apologies get labeled as a “non-apology.” This is a non-apology.

When he said DeSean Jackson is “speaking the truth,” Stephen Jackson sounded like he was talking about DeSean Jackson’s Hitler post – not a private conversation with DeSean Jackson, as Stephen Jackson indicates now.

A reminder of what Stephen Jackson said about DeSean Jackson (emphases mine):

He was trying to educate himself, educate people, and he’s speaking the truth, right? He’s speaking the truth. You know he don’t hate nobody, but he’s speaking the truth of the facts that he knows and trying to educate others.

How do those bolded sections make any sense based on a private conversation between DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson?

If this is a case of Stephen Jackson simply not choosing his words carefully enough, it’d be far easier to forgive him. After all, he has now gone out of his way to say he loves Jews.

But Stephen Jackson doesn’t deserve much benefit of the doubt while he also spreads other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Fred Katz of The Athletic:

Police too often make negative assumptions about Black people. That should be addressed.

But, best I can tell, Stephen Jackson is being judged fairly here. He’s promoting anti-Semitic messages. He’s getting treated like someone promoting anti-Semitic messages.

Do I believe Stephen Jackson wants to be anti-Semitic? No. My best guess is his heart is in the right place while his head is in the wrong place. But Stephen Jackson is still spreading anti-Semitism. Even if that’s due to “only” ignorance, he can’t correct that until acknowledging his errors and learning from them. Blaming everyone else for misunderstanding him is not the answer.

Stephen Jackson is also wrong in his comparison to Riley Cooper, a white Eagles receiver who was caught on video saying the n-word in 2013. Like with DeSean Jackson, the Eagles released a statement criticizing Cooper. They didn’t cut Cooper. They also haven’t cut DeSean Jackson. Even if they eventually cut DeSean Jackson, I suspect they’ll follow similar guidelines: Deciding whether the player is good enough to offset the trouble caused by his reprehensible speech.

Magic player tests positive for coronavirus

Orlando Magic
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The race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference keeps getting sadder. Somehow.

The Nets are decimated. The Wizards are missing their best players. And the Magic – who already have Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu sidelined – have complications with Markelle Fultz and another unnamed player.

Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic entered the NBA bubble Tuesday without an unidentified player who tested positive for COVID-19 and guard Markelle Fultz, whose entry was delayed due to a personal issue.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday that Fultz is dealing with a personal matter unrelated to the virus. His absence is excused and the league is aware of his situation, according to Weltman. He said Fultz is following all safety protocols and expects a “seamless transition” for the guard’s return, although Weltman did not have a specific timetable for when that will be.

It’s unclear whether the unnamed player was among the 25 players the NBA announced tested positive.

Fultz and the other player will have to follow protocols for players travelling to Disney World after their teams arrive.

The Magic have D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams at point guard if Fultz is unavailable. But I’ll take Weltman at his word that Fultz will return to the team smoothly.

Philadelphia’s Shake Milton: “I don’t really think we should be playing”

Shake Milton Philadelphia
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There are a lot of players with doubts about the NBA’s restart bubble. They’re going, in part because they understand the financial implications of not going, but there is far from universal enthusiasm for the NBA’s plan.

Put Philadelphia’s Shake Milton in that concerned group.

The Sixers’ two guard, expected to play a significant role in his team’s chances at the restart, expressed real concerns about the bubble in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. Courtesy NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, “but I think the NBA is doing all that they can to make the environment as safe as possible. My teammates want to play so we’re going to go down there and try to win…

“I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” Milton said. “There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.”

Milton said he wanted to know more about how the league plans to highlight social justice and take concrete steps toward making a change.

Milton isn’t the only Sixers player saying he doesn’t like the restart plan, here is what Joel Embiid said on his call with reporters:

“Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I’m going to do my job. I’m not going to let the city down. I’m going to represent my city — that’s what I’ve always done — my family, my teammates. The mindset doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter the fact that I don’t like that idea and I still don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s going to be safe enough.”

Even with all those concerns, Milton and Embiid are headed to Orlando with teammates.

Milton is going to be asked to play a big role — possibly starting in place of Al Horford — and bring much-needed shooting and floor spacing to the roster. Philadelphia starts the seeding games July 30 as the six seed but is looking to move up in a tight middle of the East. They are a dark horse threat at the restart — with Embiid, a healthy Ben Simmons, and an elite defense — but they need to find a steady offense while defending well, a combo that eluded them earlier this season.