The All-NBA Defensive Team is the perfect honor for a player like Tony Allen. In the grand history of Bobby Jones, T.R. Dunn, and Scottie Pippen, Allen is the type of all-world defender that will never probably win a Defensive Player of the Year award. Because he does his work on the wing, Allen’s in-between game will never be realized along the same lines as someone like, say, teammate and 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. It’s just not in the cards for the in-between guys.
Of course, becoming the Defensive Player of the Year is no quick invite to the All-Defensive Team. For the second straight year, the DPoY lost out on a place with the top team, as Gasol fell to the second (and nearly third) team in favor of Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler. Noah and Chandler (who took in the same lack of All-Defensive recognition as Gasol did, during 2011-12’s vote), tied for the top spot on in the pivot position on the top team, alongside Allen, Oklahoma City shot blocker Serge Ibaka, LeBron James, and Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Yeah. We’re a little confused too.
As are the voters, ostensibly comprised of NBA head coaches. According to NBA lore, for decades coaches have usually sloughed off this vote and handed it down to their assistants, which doesn’t really excuse but partially explains away why players like Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, and Eric Snow continued to take in heaps of All-Defensive votes long after they were unable to stay in front of anyone. For all the prep and video work coaches do, they have to prepare for 29 other teams while on the road for half the year, which is why you’ll get some missteps.
Like passing on Gasol for Noah and Chandler. Chandler earned his award last season, but he’s been a shell of himself for most of the year, and he played far fewer minutes at a less effective defensive rate than Gasol. And though Noah was an absolute game-changing hound on that end during his healthier days, nearly leading the league in minutes over the season’s first few months, he barely played in the regular season’s final four weeks, and was notably hampered by a foot injury that was by no doubt caused by his early-season overuse.
There are a few other quibbles. Boston Celtic youngster Avery Bradley is probably amongst the league’s top four defensive guards, but he only played 50 games this season and was handed a spot on the second team (which also featured Gasol, Tim Duncan, Paul George, and Mike Conley). Defensive Player of the Year hopefuls Andre Iguodala, Roy Hibbert, and Larry Sanders failed to make either team, while Kobe Bryant (one of the worst, if not the worst, defensive guards in basketball this year) received both a first and second-team vote.
Journeyman D-League call-up Mike James also received a first-team vote. James wasn’t even a strong defender in his prime, and this mix-up can be blamed on his possible presence next to LeBron James on the drop-down menu the NBA sent out to voters. An honest mistake, but also an honest mistake made by someone with a vote that didn’t bother to double-check his selections in an award process he should have been taking seriously.
In all, the votes came out moderately well. Gasol had a massive impact in a tougher conference that far outpaced the work of both Noah and Chandler, but the precedent has been set, and votes like these (alongside the nods to Kobe Bryant, and the computer mis-click) aren’t surprising.
What also isn’t surprising is the All-Defensive bent to these current Conference semifinals. Both the Pacers and Grizzlies (who topped their conferences in defense) were well represented, as were the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and San Antonio Spurs. You can disagree with some of their nods, but so were the New York Knicks and OKC Thunder.
One shouldn’t blindly ascribe to the “defense wins championships” mantra, because teams still have to put the ball in the whole, but the large amount of active players speaks volumes. As does Tony Allen, on Twitter.