2022 PBT Awards: All-Defense

0 Comments

Kurt Helin

First team

Guard: Marcus Smart (Celtics)

Guard: Mikal Bridges (Suns)

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Forward: Bam Adebayo (Heat)

Center: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Second team

Guard: Patrick Beverley (Timberwolves)

Guard: Matisse Thybulle (76ers)

Forward: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)

Forward: Draymond Green (Warriors)

Center: Robert Williams (Celtics)

Bam Adebayo is technically a center, but in an effort to get the most deserving defenders on first team I moved him to forward next to Rudy Gobert. It was also close between Mike Bridges and Matisse Thybulle for first team at guard, but Bridges plays more minutes and his team leaned on him more this season, so he gets the nod.

There were three tough calls for me. First, what to do with Draymond Green, who was the best defender in the league for half the season but missed a lot of games. Ultimately, I couldn’t leave him off and call it a fair representation of the best defenders. Second, Patrick Beverley vs. Fred VanVleet for the final guard spot, but I leaned Beverley because of how much he changed the defensive culture in Minnesota. The final tough one was Robert Williams vs. Joel Embiid for the final center spot, and that was almost a coin flip. Williams got the nod because he was so critical to the best defense in the NBA for much of the season.

Dan Feldman

First team

Guard: Marcus Smart (Celtics)

Guard: Matisse Thybulle (76ers)

Forward: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)

Forward: Robert Williams (Celtics)

Center: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Second team

Guard: Mikal Bridges (Suns)

Guard: Jayson Tatum (Celtics)

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Forward: Draymond Green (Warriors)

Center: Bam Adebayo (Heat)

Bigs tend to have a greater defensive impact than guards and small forwards. So, my two-guard, two-forward, one-center All-Defensive teams become about jamming power forward-centers into the forward line, which pushes wings to guard.

Which means Marcus Smart – a guard who has been so good, he deserves Defensive Player of the Year consideration – was the easiest first-team selection.

Rudy Gobert remains the NBA’s most reliable regular-season defender. This is a regular-season award. So, he gets the highly coveted first-team center spot.

Ultimately, I wasn’t comfortable putting Bam Adebayo at forward. Yes, he switches a ton onto all positions. But he does that as a center. Unlike earlier in his career, he nearly never plays next to another center in Miami. So, Adebayo gets relegated to the second team despite being another Defensive Player of the Year candidate himself.

Like Adebayo, Robert Williams can also best be described as a center. But much of that is offensive role. Defensively, Williams often begins possessions covering forwards. In that role, he has thrived drifting into the paint to protect the rim while still maintaining a presence on the perimeter.

Definitely qualifying at forward, Jaren Jackson Jr. excels both starting at power forward next to Steven Adams. Jackson also gets credit for his time as primary paint protector without Adams.

Matisse Thybulle is so disruptive on the perimeter. Mikal Bridges was far closer to Thybulle than even the other second-team spot. Though both better described at forwards, Thybulle and Bridges – as wings – can fit as guards.

Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn’t roam as much as he did with Brook Lopez, lessening Antetokounmpo’s all-out disruptiveness. But Antetokounmpo stepped up plenty as a paint protector.

The other second-team forward spot was pretty open. Draymond Green, who was on track to win Defensive Player of the Year before getting hurt, gets the nod despite missing 36 games. Considering how important being on the court is to playing effective defense, Evan Mobley, Robert Covington, Herbert Jones, P.J. Tucker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Jarred Vanderbilt and Jae Crowder also received significant consideration.

The last second-team guard spot was even more wide open. Gary Payton II was the best defender when on the court, but he played just 17 minutes per game for the Warriors. The Bulls’ Alex Caruso probably would have claimed this spot before getting hurt. Yet another strong option, the Timberwolves’ Patrick Beverley lags in minutes behind players like Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, Fred VanVleet and wings who also drew consideration at forward. Ultimately, Tatum – more of a forward – covers enough guards to qualify here and avoid a tough choice between several pure guards.

Because of positional constraints, better defenders but pure centers – including Joel Embiid, Jarrett Allen and Jakob Poeltl – couldn’t really crack the discussion. Being able to play down a position is so critical for this honor – perhaps to the point the league, even more so than with the All-NBA debate, should change the format.