NBA All-Defensive Team Surprises
The 2008-2009 All-Defensive team was announced this week, and while obvious players like Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett made the squad, there was one very surprising face next to one long-time, perhaps overrated, all-time defender.
Along with Howard and Garnett, Chris Paul represented the point guard position on the 1st All-Defensive Team, after solidifying his position as one of the NBA’s top thieves this season. So what two defenders occupied the wing positions on the All-Defensive Team?
Well, the not so surprising designee is Kobe Bryant. Kobe is a great one-on-one defender, and it’s hard to even recall if anyone in the NBA has ever torched Kobe Bryant throughout the course of one-game—or even a few minutes. However, that might be hard to remember because he rarely guards the opposing team’s best player, often saving himself for the offensive end of the floor and avoiding racking up foul calls that could limit his minutes. Yet, it is the coaches who elect the All-Defensive Team, and if they view him as one of the top 2 wing defenders in the league, then there is merit to his place on this team. However, personally, for a person who rarely guards the other team’s best player, who doesn’t play well-enough team defense to warrant a spot on this team from that alone, I just don’t agree with the fact that Kobe Bryant is one of the top 5 defenders in the NBA.
As for the surprising 1st Team All-American choice, that spot goes to LeBron James. Yes, this year’s MVP is also one of the top 5 defenders in the league. He made a personal decision to up his game on defense and to challenge himself to be as good on that end of the floor as he is on the offensive end of the floor.
LeBron did guard the best players on other teams, and he was quite successful in doing so. Some of his notable efforts came against Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Andre Iguoudala. Clearly, his rebounding was top-notch this season. He had the 3rd highest defensive rebound rate amongst Small Forwards, and he currently has the 9th best overall defensive rebound rate in the playoffs. Add to that the fact that LeBron James amassed a career high in blocks, a career high in defensive rebounds, and his team finished 1st in the fewest points allowed category, and you have, in my opinion, found one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
But let me reiterate, this was and is a surprise. By no means did anyone expect LeBron James to become an all-league performer on the defensive end of the floor, in only his 6th season in the NBA. With that now being the case, and with him having established himself as the Most Valuable offensive player in the NBA, perhaps the only question is for how long will LeBron James remain at the top of the mountain? Worse yet, how much further ahead of everyone else is he?
I don’t know the answer, but I can bet that we won’t find out for many years to come.
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