Defensive Player Ladder: Draymond Green grabs No. 1 spot in debut ranking |

    The score has dropped!

    er, defense is up.

    nba teams are averaging about five fewer points per game so far compared to last season, down from 112.1 to 107.2. the count per 100 possessions is about the same, up to 107.7 from 112.3 in 2020-21.

    The generally recognized reason is the league’s change in interpretation of contact initiated by offensive players. those silly contortionist maneuvers to fish for whistles by jumping sideways into defenders or faking shooting moves that would make even joakim noah blush are now resulting in no-calls or even offensive fouls. keep in mind that fouls and free throws are also down this season.

    here’s a quick breakdown:

    • Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks averaged a league-high 120.1 points per game. So far this season, the Golden State 115.1 has the crown.

    • The worst defense at the end of 2020-21, based on points per 100, was Sacramento’s 116.5. it is now 112.9 new orleans.

    • new york led the league in fewest points allowed last year with 104.7. this season, he would rank 11th.

    • Philadelphia’s offensive rating of 114.3, the best in the nba to date, would have finished tied for ninth last season.

    so the statistical change is fairly consistent across all 30 teams. And if you listen to the talk throughout the NBA, or just watch the games night after night, it seems clear that a more physical style of play is generally allowed.

    That could focus more attention on what defenses and their main defenders are doing, instead of dwelling on the offense and what some scoring stars aren’t doing.

    Just to refresh readers’ memories, here’s the final ladder from last season. obviously one of the best defensive players in the nba hasn’t actually been in the nba, with ben simmons still stuck with his sixers club :

    1. rudy gobert, utah jazz

    2. ben simmons, philadelphia 76ers

    3. bam adebayo, miami heat

    4. clint capela, atlanta falcons

    5. giannis antetokounmpo, milwaukee dollars

    Here’s what the Royal Defensive Player of the Year voting went for the top five in 2020-21:

    1. rudy gobert, 464 points.

    2. ben simmons, 287.

    3. dramond green, 76.

    4. bam adebayo, 31.

    5. giannis antetokounmpo, 12.

    and these were the all-defensive teams in the nba last season:

    first team: gobert, simmons, antetokounmpo, jrue holiday, green

    second team: adebayo, jimmy butler, matisse thybulle, kawhi leonard, joel embiid

    This season, to be more in tune with the actual 3-point dpoy slip, the monthly defensive player ladder will spotlight the leading trio of defenders along with a list of five honorable mentions.

    so here are the top 3 (plus 5) for the 2021-22 first ladder of defensive players:

    (all statistics up to Monday, November 15)

    1. draymond green, golden state warriors

    the criteria frequently used by voters for the nba most valuable player award is “the best player on the best team”. well, there really should be no difference when evaluating defensive impact: an excellent team defense needs one or more of the best individual practitioners. Golden State has been the tightest so far with a 99.3 defensive rating (the only team below 100 per 100 possessions) and Green, as always, is the Warriors’ defensive quarterback. he has the ability to change, he has the file knowledge of opposing players and coaches and he has the IQ to read things on the fly. Golden State is at or near the top in net rating, opponents’ field goal percentage, defensive rebounding percentage, contested shots, deflections and more. And despite Green’s regretful swipe at dpoy votes last spring: “No one in the world gives a damn about defense!” – this is currently the highest rung the veteran striker can lose.

    2. myles turner, indiana pacemaker

    Counting both this season and Turner’s injury-shortened 2020-21, he has led the league in blocked shots per game for three of the past four seasons. He has a huge lead, 49-31, over Lakers Anthony Davis, and the intensity with which Turner plays dripped from his recent meeting with three-time dpoy winner Rudy Gobert, where Turner and his Pacers teammates left clear during and after that they have their eyes on that prize. turner is also harassing opposing marksmen with 47.9% accuracy in a six foot radius.

    total blocks and bans by game leader through week 4 of the @nba season.

    full leaderboard:

    — (@nbastats) November 15, 2021

    3. gary trent jr., toronto raptors

    with simmons off the board so far this season, trent has made a strong case to be the raptors’ most disruptive full-court defender. He leads the NBA in steals with 37, averaging 2.5 per game to rank just shy of Chris Paul’s 2.6. he ranks high on fumble recovery charts (21) and is first in deflections (66). Unsurprisingly, he often draws the raptors’ toughest defensive challenge on opposing scorers.

    total steals and steals by game leader through week 4 of the @nba season.

    full leaderboard:

    — (@nbastats) November 15, 2021

    the next five

    (in no particular order)

    anthony davis, los angeles lakers

    • is still working out his defensive role (c vs. pf).

    matisse thybulle, philadelphia 76ers

    • the smallest type near the top of the blocks per game list (1.7).

    rudy gobert, utah jazz

    • the current dpoy winner on which the Jazz’s defensive game plan is based.

    marcus smart, boston celtics

    boston allows you to handle big post-ups without help, high praise indeed.

    evan mobley, cleveland knights

    • only rookie on this ladder thanks to his contests (222) and nose for d.

    * * *

    Steve Aschburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter.

    Opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.

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