NBA Stat Central #16: Does Defensive Rating Tell The Truth?
On this week’s NBA Stat Central, we’re going to take a look at defensive rating and what it truly tells us. We’ll look at the 2012-13 NBA leaders and look into some very specific defensive metrics to see if defensive rating means a player is individually elite, or if that player just benefits from the defense around him.
We’re here every Friday on HoopsHabit.com to take a deeper look into NBA statistics, with a new theme every week!
Defensive rating is a statistic that tries to grasp defensive worth on an individual level. However, players on great defensive teams do tend to have strong defensive ratings collectively–even if they aren’t that stellar on an individual level.
Let’s take a look at Synergy’s defensive ratings and 82games.com’s defensive metrics to see if the basic defensive rating stat holds any weight.
2012-13 Defensive Rating Leaders
1. Tim Duncan – 93.6
2. Roy Hibbert – 95.9
3. Larry Sanders – 96.0
4. Joakim Noah – 96.3
5. Paul George – 96.7
Finding Duncan’s name at the top of the list is no surprise, as the Spurs allow just 95.9 points per game–good for No. 6 in the NBA. In fact, the only outlier here is Sanders, as the Bucks are No. 10 in the NBA in overall defensive rating and are No. 17 in points allowed.
Let’s look at the Synergy ranks to see if anything stands out.
No. 42 in Isolation
No. 54 in Post-Up
No. 67 in Pick and Roll
No. 156 in Isolation
No. 101 in Post-Up
No. 18 in Pick and Roll
No. 7 in Overall
No. 6 in Post-Up
No. 23 in Pick and Roll
No. 104 in Isolation
No. 30 in Post-Up
No. 28 in Pick and Roll
No. 75 in Isolation
No. 140 in Post-Up
No. 79 in Pick and Roll
Interestingly enough, Sanders stands out again in this list as one of the best defenders in the league.
Note the Pacers players on this list. Even though they collectively have the No. 2 defense in the league, they don’t impress on the individual metrics, which gives us a bit of delineation between individual defense and team defense.
Let’s go look at the 82games.com ranks.
Note: A negative on-court defense number means the number improve with player on court.
-1.6 On-Court Defense
15.8 Opposing Center Efficiency
-1.4 On-Court Defense
17.7 Opposing Center Efficiency
-8.6 On-Court Defense
17.4 Opposing Center Efficiency
-2.2 On-Court Defense
15.2 Opposing Center Efficiency
+.2 On-Court Defense
12.1 Opposing Small Forward Efficiency
Here is where things get very strange.
While Sanders stands out as a major contributor to the Bucks’ defense (they improve by 8.6 points with him on the court), he disappoints when it comes to center efficiency.
When it comes to Paul George of the Pacers, he harasses opposing small forwards into a minuscule efficiency rating, but fails in other areas.
So what have we learned?
There is no magical formula that gives us a quality view on a players importance on the defensive side of the ball, because defensive rating is heavily influenced by team defense.
When we take all of the numbers into account, it becomes apparent that Larry Sanders is the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year. Who saw that coming? Get out of the way Dwight Howard, your services seem to be no longer needed.
Thanks for visiting HoopsHabit.com! We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below!
Please visit our sponsors and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our Youtube feed and tell your friends!
Need great NBA seats at the best prices? Check out HoopsHabit’s NBA Tickets!
HoopsHabit’s Regular Column Schedule:
Monday – NBA Awards Watch
Wednesday – NBA Power Rankings
Friday – NBA Stat Central
Sunday – Your NBA Fix Podcast
I wear many hats. I will become a father for the first time in July 2013. My work career started as an umpire, evolved to a blackjack dealer and has settled as a sportswriter. You could say I'm used to getting yelled at. I love me some Minnesota Timberwolves but currently call Phoenix home. I'm an eight handicap and a terrible leaper.