Why Avery Bradley Could Be Defensive Player of the Year

Avery Harden

Boston’s Avery Bradley harassing Houston All Star James Harden

The results for the NBA’s 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year Award came out yesterday, with Memphis Grizzlies 7-footer Marc Gasol winning the award. Gasol anchored the best defense in the NBA in Memphis, but he may not be fully deserving of the award. Don’t get me wrong, Gasol is a terrific player, but look at these numbers:

7.8 rebounds per game (ranked 23rd in the NBA), 5.5 defensive rebounds per game (27th in the NBA), 1.7 blocks per game (9th in the NBA), and 1.0 steals per game (57th in the NBA).

So, based on these statistics, the BEST Defensive player in the NBA only averages 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 of which are not categorized as “defensive”?

I’d just like to point out that Paul Pierce (dead knees and all) and Philadelphia’s Evan Turner, a shooting guard, BOTH averaged more defensive rebounds than Gasol.

PAUL PIERCE AND EVAN TURNER.

Paul Pierce can’t even jump anymore.

So, clearly, the award goes to the “best” defensive player on the best defensive team in the NBA. Cool, we knew that, sort of, although Tyson Chandler last season wouldn’t exactly fit that mold, either (although he was incredibly deserving of the award). So really I’m just confused.

My point to this, however, is not to bash Gasol – a terrific overall center who plays great defense and helped lead the Grizzlies to the Playoffs by anchoring that D.

Instead, I’d like to know how Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ overlooked combo guard, only received 5 total votes (15 points and two first place votes, overall)?

2013 DPOY Ballot

A look at the voting breakdown for Defensive Player of the Year, via ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

On the bright side, Bradley finished tied for 14th last year (also ridiculous), and this year finished directly ahead of Tyson Chandler (last year’s winner) and Dwight Howard (winner the previous three seasons). And, as ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg points out, the award “is a big man’s award…with Gary Payton the only real exception in the past two decades.”

Bradley, however, could very well wind up with the award some time in the next few years if he can stay healthy and his play continues the way it is now. Bradley and teammate Brandon Bass often switch off on playing an opposing team’s best player (Bass more so when it’s a much larger opponent, like a Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, for example). Despite going head-to-head with some of the most elite players in the league, Synergy Sports, a revolutionary new sports data company, determined that Bradley’s defense was tops in the league.

With their new stat “PPP” or “Points Per Possession,” Synergy took every single play and analyzed the offensive and defensive matchups. PPP basically gives you the average number of points an opponent scores every time they touch the ball, including if they are fouled and the foul results in made free throws. After compiling all their data, they found that Avery Bradley only allowed 0.697 points per possession this season, Best in the LeagueThat means when Bradley’s collective opponents get the ball, they hardly ever score and aren’t even averaging even one point for their team. It also means that Bradley plays terrific, fundamental defense without fouling, or if he does foul it’s a good one on a player with a poor free throw percentage.

To put it in perspective, the next closest player was old friend Marquis Daniels (yes, that’s a bit surprising to me, too) at 0.707 PPP. So, yeah, Avery’s pretty good.

As the game evolves and the sports writers who vote on these prestigious awards increasingly fall into the stat-geek era, maybe we’ll see Avery Bradley get more votes. I mean, really, is Serge Ibaka really deserving of the title “third best defensive player in the NBA?” Of course not. He happens to make up for what he lacks in defensive prowess in an incredible leaping ability that somehow doesn’t help him rebound (he averaged less than Gasol) but did allow him to block 246 shots this season, good for a 3.0 blocks per game average. Anyone who doesn’t see that is an idiot.

In Avery’s corner, though, is another old friend: Tony Allen. The Grizzlies starting two guard/small forward thrives on defense and earns his paycheck because of it. He’s gotten a reputation as one of the baddest dudes in the league and finished  fifth in voting this season, just behind Chicago’s Joakim Noah.

Maybe Bradley will finally get the recognition he deserves. Or maybe, like Allen and many other great defensive guards before him, he’ll just quietly harass the league for his entire career and earn the love and respect of his hometown fans.

Either way, he’s got my vote.

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2 comments on “Why Avery Bradley Could Be Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Matt says:

    Gasol winning is more about acknowledging his value to the team defensively than his own defensive statistics. The Grizzlies have a defensive efficiency of 95.5 with him on the court, which would be better than the Pacers league-best mark. With Gasol off the court they have a 101.3 defensive efficiency, which would fall just barely inside the top 10. For comparison, the Celtics were at 98.3 with Bradley on and 99.6 with him off. The Grizzlies also grab about 1.5% more defensive rebounds with Gasol on the floor. You could make an argument for Tony Allen, but it’s Gasol’s rim protection that allows him to gamble for steals so often. It also hurts Bradley that he missed 32 games this year, with more polish and a full season he should make a jump next year.

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