The 2014 NBA All-Defensive teams have been announced, some three weeks following the time of year these things usually hit, and familiar names are dotting both the first and second team rosters.
Chicago Bulls Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah led all vote getters with 223 points, far and away the most nods in the balloting, with Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George receiving 161 points behind him. Noah took in 105 1st Team votes, easily the only member of his crew to receive triple-digit points in that realm, and he and George are joined by Serge Ibaka, Andre Iguodala, and Chris Paul in that hypothetical top starting five.
Iguodala nearly caused the only controversy of the All-Defensive process, as he ended up with only 14 more votes than Miami Heat superstar LeBron James. James ended up on the 2nd team, but by all accounts he gave defense a lick and a promise all season, while seeming to enjoy a healthy batch of (earned) respect from quite a few TV and radio broadcasters who may not have been able to watch as many Miami Heat regular season games this year as they had in the past.
James is joined by youngsters Patrick Beverley, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard. The respective Houston, Chicago, and San Antonio swingmen were plus defenders all season, and Butler would have a good argument for placement on the top team, had voters not continued to side with orthodoxy in voting for a point guard like Chris Paul in opposition to the two best guards on the ticket.
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert rounded out the 2nd team with the lowest amount of 1st team votes (15) and overall points (76) amongst the two sets. It was a shocking end of the season for the Pacer center, who at midseason would have merited a unanimous entry into both the 1st team and Defensive Player of the Year voting. His drop-off both in all-around help defense and on the defensive glass, with the active and sometimes showy Noah ascending, was that significant.
Replacement choices for members of that top 10, of course, abound.
At their best, both Tony Allen and Dwight Howard might still be the best working perimeter and all-around defenders in the NBA, but both turned in relatively sub-standard seasons as age and injury woes set in. San Antonio’s Tim Duncan genuinely showed no slacking despite his age, and though his relatively limited minutes left him off the court for sometimes nearly half of the game, he remained a dominant defender all season long – and we’re not giving him extra brownie points for the gray strands in his goatee. Taj Gibson turned in a fantastic defensive year for Chicago, on many nights he was the best defender on his team, and while Anthony Davis’ overall defense still needs a lot of work, he turned in a fearsome sophomore season away from the ball.
Then, there are the weird ones.
James Harden received two votes, from legendary ESPN play by play man Kevin Calabro, and Charlotte sideline reporter Stephanie Ready. Harden is one of the league’s worst, if not the league’s worst defensive player in ways that go well beyond the ha-ha greatest hits packages YouTube loves to put together, and one has to wonder if this was an issue with the NBA’s somewhat infamous drop-down box voting setup.
Orlando rookie Victor Oladipo could be a great defender some day and fixture on these teams, but he wasn’t all that much to look at defensively in his rookie year (as is the case with all rookies), and yet he received a vote from Celtics legend and radio analyst Cedric Maxwell, who presumably caught Victor in person four times this year and was swayed with his defense against the offensively-challenged C’s. Even worse defensively was rookie Michael Carter-Williams, but that didn’t stop former Knicks radio man Spero Dedes with honoring him with a vote. Dallas Fort-Worth Mavs beat writer Dwain Price rewarded Dallas guard Monta Ellis with a vote, while Danny Granger earned a nod from Hubie Brown. Again, in all cases, the drop-down menu may have proved confusing.
In all, outside of LeBron James taking to the Kobe Bryant Memorial Great Player Who We Just Think Is Trying Every Single Game on Defense Award, this was a fair and accurate list. One none of us could score on.
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