Milwaukee Bucks: Larry Sanders Is the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year


Larry Sanders has been a defensive stalwart in Milwaukee. Photo Credit: Keith Allison,

Larry Sanders is not only a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, he should be the winner.

Sanders has been a defensive force since breaking into the league. There’s no question there. But his low minute totals have handcuffed him from really taking off. He averaged three blocks per 36 minutes in 2010-11, 4.3 in 2011-12 and now 4.2 in 2012-13. Filtering it by 36 minutes is only fair because Sanders wasn’t logging a huge amount of minutes through his first two years.

This season, he’s finally been unleashed. Sanders’ role has increased significantly (a 14.2 minute increase from last season) and in turn, so have his numbers. He leads the NBA with 3.1 blocks per game and limits opposing power forwards to a 12 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). With the average set a flat number of 15, I’d say Sanders is doing just fine in that department.

However, winning an award generally involves beating at least a couple of other contenders. In Sanders’ case, Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah both figure to be the two other top competitors for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

So, let’s break their stats down in one big table.

Note: Opponents’ PER applies to the main position said player defends–Chandler-centers, Sanders-power forwards and Noah- centers

The above stats aren’t the end all, be all factors. In fact, defensive rating is a majorly flawed individual stat because it’s more about team defense than individual defense.As you can hopefully see, Sanders sets the tone. He leads every above category except for post-ups, and is tied in defensive rating.

However, the above stats do give us a good idea of who’s doing what best. While it might not be an exact science, Larry Sanders is doing a lot of things best at this juncture of the season.

As for what the stats don’t reveal…

The elephant in the room: His presence can’t be avoided. I’m sure the word has gotten around the league that he’s a force in the paint and his 3.1 (leads NBA) blocks per game can surely attest to that.

The fact that penetrators have to keep close watch on him indirectly benefits the Bucks’ guards if they get beat. Sanders doesn’t have much additional help, but one could only imagine where the Bucks’ interior defense would be without him. They yield the second-most points in the paint per game in the league and that’s with Sanders.

Without Sanders, Milwaukee’s interior corps collapse. Per, they allow opponents to shooting 59.1 percent in the restricted area and 41.8 percent in the paint (not including restricted area) without Sanders on the floor. Inevitably, the shooting percentages dip dramatically when Sanders is on the floor–52.5 percent in restricted area and 34.9 percent in the paint.

Naturally, Bucks’ guards can stay home on the shooters instead of worrying about getting beat and having no one to compensate for their shortcomings.

Sanders has the stats, the effect on his team is distinctly noted and he’s clearly been a better defensive player than the field of other candidates. And when you combine all of these factors together what do you get? The Defensive Player of the Year.