With the end of the 2017 Playoffs approaching, it means three things: Cleveland vs. Golden State round 3, free agency and player movement rumors running rampant, and unlike previous years where awards were announced during the Playoffs, the reveal of the All-NBA teams.
Out of the three categories (All-NBA, All-Defensive and All-Rookie), the All-Defensive team is usually the one that is the most overlooked by fans, as they tend to pay more attention to the All-NBAers and the young stars named in the All-Rookie teams. Despite this, I still find every end-of-year award interesting in its own right, and now is as good a time as any to predict who’ll be making the cut in the 1st and 2nd All-Defensive teams.
All-Defensive First Team
G: John Wall
John Wall has had one hell of a season, both offensively and defensively, and even though he got bounced out of the Playoffs by Boston in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semis, he has established himself as the best PG in the East in my opinion.
Wall has upped all his stats across the board, posting career-highs in scoring and assists, but more importantly, steals. He finished the season averaging 23.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 2 steals and 0.6 blocks a game.
The Kentucky product has shown he can consistently lock up the best point guards from either conference, and has earned the right to go one better than last year, making the All-Defensive First Team.
G: Chris Paul
You know the saying ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’? What happens when that old dog knows every trick in the book already?
Coming into the back end of his career, CP3 has yet to lose much of a step, still proving he can hang with the best of them.
Even though his scoring and assist numbers have taken a small slump, his defense is still as good as ever, posting 1.9 steals a game on only 2.4 fouls a game. He also has a Defensive Box Plus/Minus of 1.0, his highest output in that category since his last year in New Orleans.
His durability is beginning to become a bit of a concern, as he missed 21 games due to injury, but despite that, Chris Paul is still a major defensive threat and is in for one last big payday this upcoming off-season.
F: Kawhi Leonard
What more can be said about this inhuman specimen?
Even though it seems unlikely Kawhi will win his third-straight DPOY award this year, mainly due to his increased offensive role within the Spurs and voter fatigue, his defensive game hasn’t faltered one bit.
Even while scoring a career-high 25.5 points per game for San Antonio, propelling them to a 61-21 record, he still managed to keep up his averages of 1.8 steals and 0.7 blocks per game on the defensive end.
Due to his surprising offensive play this year, and the Spurs’ record, he has been thrust into the MVP race and is unquestionably the best two-way player in the league by far.
F: Draymond Green
The Draymond Green and Golden State Warriors are a match made in heaven.
Both need each other to not only survive, but to thrive, and without each other, both wouldn’t be close to how impressive they are at the moment.
Green is the figurative glue that holds the Warriors together, especially on defense, as he showed earlier this year with his incredible 4 point, 12 rebound, 10 assist and 10 steal triple-double he had over the Memphis Grizzlies, something that has never been done before.
Draymond finished the year with averages of 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7 assists, and a career-high 2 steals a game, and was a nightly threat for a triple-double, no matter how unconventional it was.
Watch out for Green, alongside our last All-Defensive First Teamer, to run away with the DPOY award this year.
C: Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert had a career-year this year, and the Jazz’s record certainly improved because of it.
Alongside Gordon Hayward, Gobert anchored the Utah defense, averaging a whopping 2.6 blocks a game, easily leading the league.
The Stifle Tower also came away with 14 points and 12.8 rebounds per game for the season, good for 4th in the NBA. Gobert also was first in the league in Defensive Win Shares, another achievement to add to his DPOY case.
Even though Gobert and the Jazz’s season didn’t end as well as they hoped for (Gobert going down with an injury in Game 1 of the first round against the Clippers, and then getting swept by the Warriors the following round), Rudy should be extremely proud of what he has achieved this year, and should look to build upon this season for next year.
All-Defensive Second Team
G: Russell Westbrook
Any guard that averages over 10 rebounds a game definitely deserves a nod in the defensive teams.
Westbrook, the front-runner for MVP honors, grabbed an insane 10.7 rebounds a game this season, 9 of them being defensive boards, placing him 10th in the NBA in rebounds per game. He did this as a 6’3 point guard. I repeat, that is INSANE.
I do have a problem with his rebound numbers however, a problem which stopped me from putting him in the First Team. The reason he grabbed so many boards this year was partly due to the fact he would disregard his defensive assignment on the perimeter so he could bang inside with the big men. Now I’m not knocking his tenacity on the glass, but I had to take into consideration the entire body off work defensively, and you can’t ignore a major part of defense to boost your stats in another.
Other than his extraordinary rebounding numbers, Westbrook also finished with 1.6 steals and 0.4 blocks a game on top of his league-leading 31.6 points and 10.4 assists a game.
G: Tony Allen
The Grindfather makes his long-awaited appearance, as most of you may have been expecting.
Despite his knack for defense, I actually had quite the dilemma selecting him for the final guard spot, as Patrick Beverley was looking just as good, if not better defensively than Allen.
Both had very similar rebound, block and steal numbers (5.5 boards, 0.4 blocks and 1.6 steals for Allen, 5.9 rebounds, 0.4 blocks and 1.5 steals for Beverley), but in the end, Allen won out due to his far better advanced statistics.
If my predictions are correct, Allen will be looking at his 6th All-Defensive Team selection (3 First-Team, 2 Second-Team), ranking him among the best defensive guards in the league.
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak took leaps and bounds this year in his production, propelling the Bucks to their first Playoff appearance since rebranding.
Antetokounmpo should run away with Most Improved Player honors this season, posting career-highs in all five major statistics, also leading the entire Bucks roster in the five categories as well.
Giannis‘ extra long limbs paid great dividends on the defensive end, netting him 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks a game, and also allowing him to grab 8.8 rebounds per contest.
F: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis finally managed to stay healthy enough this year to play 70+ games, the most he’s played in a season since being drafted.
Those games paid off as well, as The Brow posted career-highs in scoring and rebounding, his defensive side of the ball being just as elite.
Davis averaged 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game this year, placing him 2nd in blocks per game and 7th in Defensive Rating.
Davis is finally proving the reason he was taken number one back in 2012, and now paired with DeMarcus Cousins in New Orleans, ‘Fire and Ice’ are poised to do a lot of damage in the Western Conference.
C: Hassan Whiteside
My final selection for the Second All-Defensive team, it would be a travesty if Whiteside wasn’t included.
Much like Davis, Whiteside posted career-highs in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17 and 14 per game, leading the league in rebounding. His defense wasn’t as good as last year however, ‘only’ averaging 2.1 blocks and 0.7 steals a game.
Even if his defensive stats don’t jump off the page at you, the eye test more than covers it, as Hassan produced many a highlight of his long arms snatching shots out of the air as if they were flies.
Other than the aforementioned reasons, Whiteside’s play was integral to the late-season push Miami made for the Playoffs, even though they fell short by the slimmest of margins, losing the tiebreaker to the Bulls.