Tag Archives: Big Ben Wallace

A Tale of Two Centers: Nevermind the DPOY voting, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut were the most dominant defenders of 2011

Dwight, Dwight, Dwight, hey Dwight — like the talking basketball in the playoffs commercial, 114 of 120 ballots for 2011 Defensive Player of the Year named Dwight Howard No. 1 and the Orlando Magic center became the first player in NBA history to collect three straight DPOY awards.

The odd surprise was that it wasn’t unanimous.  The true surprise was that so few of the ballots — only six — named as No. 2 the center who led the NBA in blocked shots per game, Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut.

Adding insult to small market center injury, only 14 voters deemed Bogut’s defense worthy of a third place nod, meaning that Bogut was omitted on 100 of the 120 ballots cast by the men and women in media covering the NBA.  Only one ballot omitted Howard.

West Coast bias is one factor.  Celtics love is another.  But 100 omissions of Bogut is a little scary when one considers that the people casting votes were, ostensibly, paying attention to the league they cover.  At last check the Milwaukee Bucks were still in the league, I’m fairly certain.  They appeared to be, anyway, last time I checked the regular season standings.

In watching a thousand or so hours of NBA basketball and assiduously tracking a season’s worth of defensive ratings and other statistics, as I did, one truth stands tall about the NBA’s impact defenders:  There is Superman and there is Andrew Bogut … and then there’s everybody else, Kevin Garnett and Grizzlies sixth man Tony Allen, a Celtic last season, leading the pack.

Howard this week joined Dikembe Mutombo (four DPOYs) and Big Ben Wallace (four also) as the only players in NBA history to win the award more times than Bucks should-be Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief won it in the first two years of its existence (1983 and 1984).

Howard was again the highest-rated defender in the league (94.0 team points allowed per 100 possessions) and also led in “Defensive Plays” (blocks + steals + est. charges taken) with 3.88 per game.  He was fourth in blocked shots (2.4 per game) and hauled in 14.1 rebounds per game, finishing third in defensive rebounding rate, grabbing 30.6 percent of opponent misses.

Bogut finished 4th in defensive rating (97.3) and led the league in shot blocking (2.6 per game).  Bogues grabbed a career-best 11.1 rebounds per game and finished sixth in defensive rebounding rate at 27.1 percent.  He also took an estimated 32 charges this season, pulling in right behind Howard with 3.8 “Defensive Plays” per game.

Those “Defensive Plays” are quantifiable “stops” that disrupt the opposition and, in Bogut’s case, usually force a change of possession because most of his blocks stay in bounds and are recovered by the Bucks.  Howard, by choice, tries to intimidate opponents by rejecting shots into the expensive seats.  A quick estimate says that half of Howard’s “Defensive Plays” force possession change, compared to about 75 percent of Bogut’s.

But the quantifiable plays tell only part of the story.

Individual statistics don’t capture the number of shots a big man alters in a game, nor the number of passes he tips or forces out of bounds by denying the ball in the post, nor the number of rushed shot-clock prayers and weak side offense that result from denying the post, nor the turnovers forced by playing good help defense.

And the box score stats certainly don’t quantify how often opposing players opt for low percentage perimeter shots simply because Howard or Bogut is patrolling the paint.

Magic opponents shot a fourth-worst 43.6 percent from the field.  Bucks’ opponents shot 44.7 percent, the sixth best defensive mark in the league, and a third-lowest 33.6 percent from 3-point-land, a testament to the fact that the Bucks don’t sag too deep to the paint and rarely double team the post.  Bogut’s not given, nor does he require, defensive help.

The results showed on the scoreboard:  Howard’s Magic played the third-best defense in the NBA ( 102.1 pts.allowed/100 poss.).  Bogut’s Bucks were right behind the Magic in fourth (102.5 pts./100).

How good are Howard and Bogut?   The Bulls (100.3 pts/100) and Celtics (100.3 pts/100) play the best team defense in the NBA.  As such, there are nine Bulls and Celtics in the individual defensive ratings top 20.  There are only two Magic and Bucks — Howard and Bogut, though in January and February Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova climbed as high as 17th in the ratings.

This means that the Magic and Bucks defenses, ranked third and fourth, allowed significant increases in opponent scoring when Howard and Bogut were not on the court.  For the Magic the increase was monumental — an estimated 16+ points per 100 possessions, placing the Magic’s non-Howard defense above the league average of 107.3.

But Howard was on the court 74 percent of the Magic’s season.  Bogut played 57.8 percent of the Bucks season, with the Bucks D giving up an estimated 9.5 more points per 1oo possessions when their center was on the bench or missing 17 games.

It’s next to unreasonable to expect Superman endurance from any player, 67 percent on-court time this season from Bogut would almost certainly have pushed the Bucks into the playoffs.  As it turned out, they were within a buzzer beater in Indiana April 1 of making it with Bogut’s 58 percent playing time contribution.

Therein, however, lies the main difference between Howard and Bogut and the reason that Bogut — whom some considered the leading candidate for DPOY until the Bucks February swoon — wasn’t more seriously considered, even as a No. 2 candidate.  The Magic are in the playoffs with home court advantage against the Hawks; the injury-addled Bucks defied expectations by missing the playoffs, and Bogut this month underwent a second surgery on his mangled right arm, which was never fully functioning this season.

Yet despite the 17 missed games, it may surprise many post-season awards voters that Bogut logged more minutes (2,297) than Tyson Chandler (2,059) played for the Mavericks; and he had more on-court time than the Spurs’ defensive anchor, Tim Duncan (2,156 minutes).

Chandler had an exceptional season in Dallas but the individual and team statistics don’t lie — Bogut not only played more but had the more Howard-like impact, and it wasn’t really close.  Wilson Chandler blocked more shots than Tyson did.

In 2011 Bogut made more defensive plays than Duncan or Chandler, opponents shot a lower percentage against his Bucks and scored less.  Duncan’s Spurs allowed 4.2 more points per 100 possessions than Bogut’s Bucks, while Chandler’s Mavs allowed 5.3 more.  Those differences were big and obvious to those who watched Bogut in action in 2011.

The concern here is that many awards voters apparently didn’t see the Bucks play this season, and if they did, they were paying more attention to the Bucks (and Bogut’s) missed shots than to the center’s All-NBA defense.  (Even the reporters who cover the Bucks daily fell into this trap, though there’s no need to link here to that offensive team report.  They actually graded Bogut a C-.)

As Duncan would attest, post defense isn’t about spectacular blocks or rabid intensity during 4th quarter stands in close games, or about altercations instigated on national TV.  It’s about persistence, positioning and leverage, possession-after-possession, as well as smart off-the-ball rotations to the weak side.

Howard and Bogut persist as masters of these defensive arts in the paint, and if they sometimes make it look too easy, one can only hope the awards voters aren’t fooled.  When the All-Defensive Teams are unveiled, I hope the voters don’t make the same mistakes they made with their Defensive Player of the Year ballots.

Howard, of course, will be the first team center.  And there should be Bogut, deserving of his rightful spot as number two.  Careful!!  There are only two NBA All-Defensive teams … and that third step down for the centers is kinda steep.

“Roundball Revolution”: Rip Hamilton vs. John Kuester

What’s going on with the Detroit Pistons?  And why can’t the Bucks beat them despite the ongoing turmoil between the Rip Hamilton cadre of veterans and coach John Kuester?  Those questions (and a lot of others about the Bucks) are nagging this week as the Bucks prepare to play the Pistons Tuesday.

At the brink of the trade deadline last week, Hamilton rejected an $18 million buyout offer from the Cavs, who were willing to take him off Detroit’s hands with a draft pick.   The buyout would have allowed Hamilton to, ostensibly, go play for the Bulls who were looking for a shooting guard to run with Derrick Rose in the playoffs.

Rip said “No,” he and the veterans were rumored to be hatching a “roundball revolution” against coach Kuester, a shootaround was missed by many, players were fined and benched, Kuester may soon be fired, the fans just want the lunacy to end and the team may be up for sale.

They’re 2-0 against the Bucks this season.  Go figure.  I can’t.  What a mess.

So I’m listening to the Need4Sheed blogger Natalie Sitto’s PODCAST with Associated Press Pistons reporter Dave Hogg, who knows more about these things than just about anybody, except of course for that inexplicable 2-0 record against our Bucks.

“Two more years of this” in Detroit, they sigh in Detroit over Hamilton – who is owed $25 million over that time.   Rip, Tayshaun Prince, Big Ben Wallace and Tracy McGrady (the veterans) may have been operating under the assumption that Kuester is on his way out the door.  They may have been wrong:

“Because of the sale issue, I don’t think [the Pistons] will be firing [Kuester] anytime soon,” said Hogg.  And after Friday [the “roundball revolution”] I don’t think you fire ‘Kue’ now.”

The last time Hamilton played for the Pistons, he scored 15 off the bench in Milwaukee Feb. 5 as the Pistons sent the Bucks to one of their sorriest losses of the season, 89-78.

Detroit shot 51.5% for the game.  The Bucks point guards were terrible.  John Salmons was sluggishly back from his hip injury.  Andrew Bogut scored 18 but the Pistons looked almost like the Pistons of old, running Rip off of staggered screens for open mid-range jumpers and the occasional 3-pointer.  The Bucks failed to take advantage of great defense in the 3rd quarter, when they held the Pistons to 14 points.

The Bucks scored just 13 in that 3rd quarter and resorted to fighting the refs under their basket, who were absolutely horrible, nearly as bad as the Bucks shot selection.

Hamilton hasn’t played since, leading to last week’s “revolution.”   Why did he play that night against the Bucks?

Such are the mysteries that have perplexed the Bucks all season long as they have failed and failed again to get a streak going.  Tuesday may be the Bucks last chance to start one.

Lebron, Mo and the Cavs look like contenders; plus Damon Jones

Mo blows town for ClevelandOne could argue that the Phoenix Suns, who defeated the Bucks Saturday, may not be title contenders. I wouldn’t, but it could be argued, Shaquille O’Neal’s age being one talking point.  However, if you come across arguments that the Cleveland Cavaliers are not contenders, then you know those sources didn’t watch the 2008 playoffs.

While NBA wags all over the country were ready to hand the 2008 NBA title to Kobe, Pau Gasol and the Lakers, the real battle was taking place in the East as the Celtics wrested a grueling semifinals series from the Cavs in the waning minutes of game seven.  Once Lebron and his Cavs were dispatched, the Pistons and Lakers were a matter of course for the champion Celtics.

This season, the Cavs are healthy, there are no holdouts to deal with and they’ve improved with the addition of Mo Williams‘ instant offense in the August trade with the Bucks (image at left by Jeremy Janneen) and Sonics-Thunder.

Even without the addition of Mo, the Lebrons of 2008 can’t help but improve:  coach Mike Brown has had more time to integrate the new players acquired last February at the trading deadline — Big Ben Wallace, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak.

With Mo and rookie power forward J.J. Hickson joining that group, most of Cleveland’s 9-man rotation is new since they played the Spurs for the NBA title in 2007.  The team that Detroit couldn’t beat in the playoffs has been remade.  They are younger and quicker at the guard positions; they are stronger inside with Big Ben; and with Mo and a healthy, more experienced Boobie Gibson, they shoot better than ever.  The only real question is whether the Cavs’ aging big men, Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas can stay healthy into the playoffs.  Currently, backup big man Andy Varejao — who’s name surfaced often over the summer as a guy the Bucks may be interested in — is playing more than Wallace.

I’m not expecting the Bucks to escape from the Q in Cleveland with a win. In fact, coach Skiles should let Michael Redd shoot all night in his home state** and play the deep bench players like Joe Alexander, Dan Gadzuric, Tyrone Lue, Malik Allen and Francisco Elson — save some energy for the home crowd tomorrow night against an injury riddled San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs without Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker?  It’s a gift, and the Bucks should focus on getting that win.  The early schedule is so tough, the more wins they can cherry pick here and there, the better off they’ll be in January when the schedule eases up, obviously.

**Anybody else wondering why coach Skiles seems in no hurry to get Redd back on the court?

How is Mo doing? So far so good with room to improve.  Through seven games the Cavs are 5-2 and Mo is playing 34 minutes a game, averaging 14 pts and 5 assists.  He and Lebron are doing most of the ballhandling, which is a load off of West – the Cavs best defensive guard – and Gibson, the 3-point gun.  Mo has yet to get his shot going but I’m sure he’d love to turn it on against his old teammates.

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Are the Bucks in the Antonio McDyess sweepstakes? No. But before I get to that, McDyess would be a perfect fit on the Bucks roster — a power forward who plays within the game and can stick a fifteen footer a la Scott Williams back in the days of The Big Three. McDyess would very likely be the factor that would launch the Bucks into the playoffs.

According to McDyess’ agent, 19 teams have called about acquiring Antonio, who refused to report to the Denver Nuggets, negotiated a buyout of his contract and was waived yesterday. Once he clears waivers Wednesday, McDyess is a free agent and can sign with anyone but Detroit. The rules say he must wait 30 days before he can resign with the Pistons.

I’m assuming that one of the calls to McDyess’ agent was from Bucks GM John Hammond, simply because Hammond is too thorough to NOT make the call. But if McDyess wouldn’t report to the Nuggets (reportedly because the Nuggets are not a title contender), what chance would the Bucks have? They wouldn’t be able to compete with the Celtics, Cavs, Lakers and Pistons, all of whom are very interested in signing McDyess.

It’s difficult to imagine McDyess abandoning his Pistons teammates of the last four years and jumping to Cleveland or Boston, but stranger things have happened in these self-interested times. I wouldn’t bet on McDyess going anywhere but back to Detroit. NBA fans should keep this in mind when reading the wishful thinking in the Cleveland and Boston media, or watching the any-rumor-for-a story channel, ESPN. 

In this Boston.com story, Sam Cassell, a friend of McDyess’, figures his pal will wait 30 days and return to Detroit, where they’ve missed him in the paint already.

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What’s Damon Jones up to? At the tail end of the Cleveland Morning Journal McDyess story linked above (here ’tis again), the MJ tracks down former Cav Damon Jones:

Former Cavs guard Damon Jones, who was traded to Milwaukee in August but never reported, is working out in California under trainer Joe Abunassar. He’s waiting for another shot at the NBA. The Bucks don’t appear over-anxious to give up on his expiring contract, which is why he’s still on their roster. Jones isn’t interested in a buyout.

So what does “Bucks don’t appear over-anxious to give up on his expiring contract” mean?  It means that John Hammond likely views Jones and his $4.5 million contract, which expires at the end of this season, as good to have around when you’ve got to work out a trade. The bigger question is who else on the Bucks roster would Hammond be willing to trade? My speculation is that Bogut and R.J. are safe – and probably Ramon Sessions and the rookies. The rest will likely wait until after some more games are played.