Defense – The Final Frontier
It has heretofore been impossible to discuss individual defensive performance with any type of common language. Unfortunately, that leaves us with no solid means to debate the defensive merits of the majority of players in NBA history. All previous attempts to analyze defensive value have relied on defensive rebounds, steals, and blocks. In their absence, some models have used rebounds and assists as proxies. Statistics built upon this foundation include Dean Oliver’s DRating, bball-reference’s Defensive Win Shares, and Myers’ D-BPM. Some all-in-one metrics have also used team Defensive Rating as a stand-in for a player’s defensive value. DRating, Wins Produced, and logically even Plus-Minus models (in so far as points allowed is half of a team’s point margin) all use team defensive strength in this way.
The result is a decided favoritism toward big men (who gather rebounds) and players who are on good defensive teams. Many have noticed the result, but have not been able to redress the deficit without the use of superior data. Analyzing defense in this way also substantially misrepresents the merits of perimeter defenders. Such methods reward players with a lot of steals (even if they are poor defenders who gamble a lot) and punish players who don’t get many steals (even if they spend a lot of their time guarding the opponents’ best player.Continue reading “The GOAT Ladder: Defensive Greatness”