The Clippers aren’t likely to bring home a Defensive Player of the Year award this season — with all due respect to two-time winner Kawhi Leonard, that honor belongs to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and it isn’t particularly close.
Nevertheless, there are other ways to recognize defensive production, namely, the all-Defense teams. As Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN discussed on the “Lowe Post” podcast Tuesday, this is where the Clippers figure to make some noise.
Leonard has five all-Defense selections in his seven full seasons, including three first-team honors, and seems like a lock to make the first team. Although his defensive metrics don’t paint the picture of a lockdown defender (a problem that has popped up throughout his career), it’s impossible to watch Leonard play defense without coming to that conclusion. When he decides to pick someone up 94 feet, that offensive player has difficulty even dribbling the ball past halfcourt. He blows up opposing actions routinely, barrels his way through screens, locks down stars in isolation, and is an insane help defender thanks to his mammoth hands. The man can do it all.
Both Lowe and Arnovitz had Leonard on his first team, and though there remains a slight chance that Anthony Davis steals the second forward slot, this is Leonard’s spot to lose.
Beverley is a more interesting test case. He is second in the league in defensive RPM, third among guards in defensive RAPTOR, and second among guards in defensive PIPM. Beverley also has the best defensive rating of any Clippers rotation player (other than Marcus Morris Sr., who has only been with the team for 12 games). Statistically his case is airtight, yet the eye test favors multi-positional defenders like Marcus Smart or Ben Simmons or even a someone like Eric Bledsoe, who is on a historically great defense in Milwaukee.
The oddsmakers have Beverley in fourth place for Defensive Player of the Year, yet neither Lowe nor Arnovitz picked him for either first or second team. Lowe didn’t seem to have a great rationale other than feel:
“Patrick Beverley, by the way, for what it’s worth, number one among guards in our real plus-minus stat by a thousand miles.... He might be the best rebounding little guard in the league ever, his rebounding numbers for a guy that I think is listed as 6’1 are off the charts. I don’t really have a good reason to not pick him, I just think these other guys are maybe a little more versatile, a little quicker with their first step, maybe. Patrick is starting to age a little bit, but he was fantastic. I have no good reason not to pick him.”
Hopefully, Beverley finishes with a little flurry to win over some last-minute votes. The fifth-ranked defense in the NBA isn’t this good just because of Leonard; Beverley and others have played their part.
Who do you think the all-Defense guards should be?
On to the links...
- The league released its 113-page handbook on health and safety protocols for the Orlando NBA campus Tuesday. I had some takeaways yesterday, but there is much, much more to glean from the proposal. The Washington Post, The Athletic, and ESPN all went through some of the highlights.
- Even though the playoffs will look different, they will still have a significant effect on the future of the league. Pay attention to what one Eastern Conference executive is saying about Montrezl Harrell’s next contract.
- Players will be subject to salary reductions if they opt out of going to Orlando, but teams can elect to pay staff who choose to stay home.
- Dan Woike explained why the Clippers may have some advantages over other teams in an unnatural playing environment. He also offered insight on how the Clippers will settle on their 35-person (including players) traveling party.
- Jovan Buha checked in on how first-year TV announcer Brian Sieman is doing during the hiatus.
- A little update on the Clippers Inglewood arena project: PETA has requested that the arena use bird-friendly glass, and the organization is obliging.