When I am looking for in-depth basketball analysis, Bleacher Report is usually not very high on my list. However, they do a great job of getting news out fast and they have some interesting lists that they put together. This morning, Bleacher Report created a list of the five worst defenders at each position in the NBA.
They used what they call a “Defense Score” to come up with the sieviest of sieves at each position. I will let them explain how they put together the “Defense Score.”
Of course, some defenders make life for an offensive stud even easier. That's who we're focusing on here, highlighting the five least valuable defenders at each position who have played at least 15 minutes per game—a minimum that's necessary to avoid having those aforementioned end-of-bench contributors populate all the slots.
To do so, four different defensive categories come into play:
ESPN.com's defensive real plus/minus, presented such that a positive score is beneficial and a negative score indicates below-average play.
NBA Math's defensive points saved, which accounts for defensive volume and efficiency while also taking defensive rebounding into consideration.
Field-goal percentage differential, such that a negative score indicates a player is holding his assignments below their typical shooting percentages.
On/off differential, such that a negative score indicates a player's team has a lower defensive rating with him on the floor.
All 309 qualified players were ranked in each of the four categories, using stats accurate heading into games on Sunday, March 12. Their defensive scores were determined by summing their ranks across the board: the lower, the better; the higher, the more porous.
There really is not one defensive metric that has been found to be completely reliable to measure defense. Taking a bunch of different metrics and creating a ranking of players based on their ranking in each category does a pretty decent job at painting the right picture.
Still, the broader the metric, the less reliable it is to isolate the value (or lack thereof) of an individual player.
If you look at the players on the list, however, it passes the laugh test. Most of the players on the list have reputations of only playing the fun end of the court.
Assuming you’ve watched any Pistons games this season, you will not be surprised to find out that Reggie Jackson made an appearance on this list. However, he did not just make an appearance, he actually tied for the worst score in the NBA, tallying a defense score of 1160 along with Oklahoma City’s Alex Abrines. However, Abrines is a bench shooting guard who is brought in to make 3s for OKC playing 15 minutes per game, while Reggie Jackson is a starting point guard for a team with playoff aspirations notching 28 minutes per game.
Point guard is a tough position to defend in the current NBA as well. Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are able to drain 3s from anywhere, and Russell Westbrook can use his freakish athleticism to attack the rim. The rules are no help — it’s essentially no hand checking and no mercy for defenders.
However, that excuse only goes so far with Reggie Jackson. He’s been a bad defender throughout his career, but this season he has been dreadful. How much of that is his actual ability and how much of that can be blamed on his slow recovery from knee tendonitis?
Reggie Jackson is usually able to make up for his bad defense with solid play on the offensive side of the ball. However, this year he has not been as good offensively either.
If you are curious and don’t want to read the whole article, the four other point guards on the list below him are Damian Lillard, Emmanuel Mudiay, DJ Augustin, and Isaiah Thomas.
Over the last few games, Jackson has looked much better defensively as his minutes have decreased a bit. However, there have been moments where he looks to be decent defender only to regress back to being terrible.
If you are interested, here are Jackson’s rankings in each of the defensive metrics:
Reggie Jackson’s Defensive Struggles
|Defensive Real Plus/Minus||-1.82||-2.73||-40%|
|Defensive Points Saved||-76.85||-51.05||40.34%|
|Field Goal Percentage Differential||3.60%||5.10%||-34.83%|
|Defensive On/Off Differential||-1.7||-8.2||-131.31%|
Also of note, Andre Drummond made an appearance on the list as one of their honorable mentions for centers. They did not list his defense score because of the fact that he was only an honorable mention.
Drummond has had issues with consistent effort on defense and could be dragging down Jackson with him (or vice versa, or they make a perfectly terrible duo). I tend to think Jackson’s poor D is having a big negative effect on Drummond.
It is not a good look to have a player ranked as the worst defender in the NBA. It is even worse to have another player as an honorable mention. There have been many reasons why the Pistons have been a bit disappointing this season, this is just one of those reasons.
If you are interested in the full list it can be found here.
What are your thoughts DBB? Do you agree with the ranking? Any surprises on the full list?