The NBA’s All-Defensive Teams were announced on Wednesday. When it came to the center position, Utah’s Rudy Gobert was named to the first team, and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid the second team.
That left Indiana’s Myles Turner, the league’s leader in total blocked shots last season, off the list. He took to Twitter to vent about that.
His teammates and GM had his back.
The NBA puts players, and by extension voters (selected members of the media), in a box by the use of rigid positions for this award. In an increasingly positionless league, voters for the All-Defensive Teams have to choose two guards, two forwards, and one center for each of the First and Second teams. It’s unlike All-Star voting, for example, where two backcourt and three frontcourt players are chosen, which allows some flexibility. In the attempt to make the All-Defensive Teams (and, also, All-NBA Teams) look like the kind of lineups teams would put on the floor 25 years ago, voters are limited.
Because of that format, Turner got squeezed out. (Note: In an effort at transparency, that includes on my ballot for these awards.)
Two centers only. Gobert is the defending — and soon likely two-time — Defensive Player of the Year, and is the anchor of a great Utah defense. Embiid’s impact on the defensive end is critical for Philadelphia, something evident in the Sixers second-round playoff series against Toronto when he was +90 in a series the Sixers lost (voting took place before the playoffs, but Philadelphia’s defense was 5.8 points per 100 possessions better with Embiid during the season, Indiana was 1.2 better with Turner).
There were three deserving centers — Turner was fantastic this season, he made a huge leap and anchored the NBA’s third-best defense — but two spots and no flexibility. So when the music stopped, Turner was the guy standing without a chair. It sucks, but that’s the way it went.
Turner will use this as motivation for next year. Keep playing like he did last year and his time will come.