Defensive Player of the Year
By this time of year it seems a bit pointless for me to lead off with fantasy advice, since we're about 90 percent through the season (head-to-head leagues are in the playoffs), and anyone that's still playing is already among the best in their leagues. By now, you know what you're doing. I'll give some player-related info in the sections below, but I'm going to lead off by talking about real-life basketball. Specifically, I want to talk about the candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year award. My finalists for this year's award would be Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Kevin Garnett, Lamar Odom, and Gerald Wallace. So, let's look at each player's case:
Howard is the reigning DPOY, and has a strong case to repeat. He's on pace to lead the league in rebounds and blocks for the second year in a row, an unprecedented achievement. He leads the league in both Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares, advanced stats that can be heavily biased by team results and minutes played but that are still among the better objective defensive stats available. And the Magic are third in the NBA in team defensive rating in a system built around Howard. Howard controls the paint as one of the best interior help defenders in the league. His main "weaknesses" are that according to 82games.com he allows his man to shoot a 49% EFG (not bad for a center, but not as good as some of the others), and the Magic give up only 1.9 points/48 minutes more with Howard on the bench than when he's in the game, which isn't that big of a difference. But when you factor in how many minutes Howard plays, and that he always faces opposing starters, it's clear that his defensive impact is huge.
Bogut is in the midst of one of the quietest breakout seasons of all time, as he's finally living up to his status as a No. 1 overall pick/franchise caliber center though no one seems to be noticing. Bogut is second to Howard in blocks and also in the top 10 in rebounds, is second in defensive rating and fourth in defensive win shares. He has led the Bucks to the fourth rated defense in the league, and that defense is 4.6 points worse per 38 minutes when Bogut is on the bench. Like Howard, Bogut dominates as an interior help defender though he does allow his man to shoot with a 50% EFG.
The rumors of Garnett's demise have been greatly exaggerated, at least as a defensive player. Many focus on his loss of athleticism or that he doesn't cover ground like he used to, but if you look at his actual results he's still on top of the league at that end of the floor. Garnett is the best defensive player on the top-ranked defensive in the NBA, and that defense goes down the tubes when he he's injured. Garnett is in a virtual tie with Odom and Wallace for third in the NBA in defensive rating, and on the season the Celtics are giving up 5.6 more points/48 minutes when KG is on the bench. In addition to his huge effect on the team defense, Garnett can also still amp it up as a 1-on-1 defender as he limits his opponents to a 45% EFG. Garnett does not post the gaudy rebound/block/steal numbers he used to, and his minutes are way down, but when he's on the court his defensive impact is still as large as anyone's.
Odom is my biggest wild card because he's not known as a defensive player, but he's been a beast this season and is a big part of the Lakers' fifth overall defensive rating. He is right there with Garnett and Wallace for third in the league in individual defensive rating, and he is averaging almost 10 boards per game despite playing less than 31 minutes. Odom has been a stingy 1-on-1 defender, allowing his opponents a bit less than 45% EFG. He also has a big team effect, as the Lakers' give up 6.7 more points per 48 minutes when he's on the bench than when he plays. You have to take some of that with a grain of salt since Odom has come off the bench for much of the season, but he has also started many games when Andrew Bynum and/or Pau Gasol were injured so he has made his impact against the opposing starters as well.
Wallace was an early frontrunner for this award, as he actually led the league in rebounding from the small forward position in the first month of the year. He has since slowed down, but he still is the best defensive player on the 2nd rated defense in the NBA, is second in the league in defensive win shares, and is in that group vying for third in individual defensive rating. The biggest knocks on Wallace are that he hasn't locked down his 1-on-1 matchup as well as the other forward finalists (48.8% EFG) nor has the Bobcats defense suffered as much when he isn't on the court (only 0.5 points worse/48 minutes). He also suffers for not being the help defensive anchor that Howard, Bogut and Garnett are. Nevertheless, his defensive season still needs to be recognized.
Situations to Watch and quick hits
Beno Udrih (60% owned): With Tyreke Evans (jaw) out, Udrih has stepped up to lead the Kings. He's averaging 21.3 points, 12.0 assists, 4.7 boards and 2.7 steals over the last three games and should remain a solid producer for at least the next couple of games until Evans returns.
Toney Douglas (45% owned): Douglas has proven he can and will produce down the stretch, so if for some odd reason he's still available in your league go get him.
Jrue Holiday (46% owned): The 76ers are a young team with nothing to play for this season, which means their young players are likely to get a lot of opportunities down the stretch. Holiday is taking advantage of this to finish his rookie season with a bang - he's averaged 13.8 points with 6.8 boards, 5.0 assists and 2.2 steals over his last five games.
Article first appeared 3/23/10