The defending player stats don’t lie

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The NBA has updated their Defensive Player Ladder for this season and number one is no surprise, number three is well deserved, but Marcus Smart at number two raises some questions. No disrespect to the reigning champion, but his stats look a little different from the others.

First, let’s take a look at the stats of Giannis Antetokunmpo, who came in first. The 2020 DPOY was one of the key catalysts in the Bucks’ 9-1 season start with its resistance to the ball, elite rim protection and stifling auxiliary defence.

SET BY GAME 1.1 (53rd in the league)

BLOCKS PER GAME 1.4 (20th in the league)

DEFENSIVE REVIEW 98.0 (10th in league)

DEFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE 31.3 (5th in the league)

PLAYER IMPACT ESTIMATE 24.4 (1st in the league)

DEFENSIVE WIN SHARES 0.8 (1st in the league)

DEFENSIVE BOX PLUS / MIN 4.4 (1st in the league)

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Now let’s take a look at the stats of Smart (Celtics), who last season became the first guard to win DPOY since 1996 when Gary Payton was chosen.

SET BY GAME 0.9 (99th in the league)

BLOCKS PER GAME 0.2 (205th in the league)

DEFENSIVE REVIEW 115.3 (361st in the league)

DEFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE 11.1 (143rd in the league)

PLAYER IMPACT ESTIMATE 7.9 (261st in the league)

DEFENSIVE WIN SHARES 0.2 (159th in the league)

DEFENSIVE BOX PLUS / MIN -0.6 (115th in league)

Now, for even more comparison, let’s take a look at Ogugua Annouby’s (Raptors) defensive stats in third place:

SET PER GAME 3.1 (1st in the league)

BLOCKS PER GAME 0.9 (50th in the league)

DEFENSIVE REVIEW 105.9 (132nd in the league)

DEFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE 15.9 (77th in the league)

PLAYER IMPACT ESTIMATE 9.4 (210th in the league)

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DEFENSIVE WIN SHARES 0.7 (4th in league with five other players)

DEFENSIVE BOX PLUS / MIN 2.3 (10th in the league)

Now, of course, statistics aren’t everything. In Boston’s first two games, Smart guarded James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, PJ Tucker, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry for a total of 102 possessions. In those possessions, he allowed those players to score 11 points together, which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider the caliber of players he guarded.

“I think I’m getting more criticism now because I won it,” Smart told NBA.com this week. “You get fewer phone calls. It’s a little weird. i would think [I’d get reputation calls] too, right? But I know who I am, I know what I can do. What I’ve done and how well I’ve done.”

Smart played 36 minutes against the Grizzlies yesterday and it was tough down the middle. He notched up 15 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists, but his impact was almost immeasurable through stats as he worked to contain a blazing Ja Morant and his team to take a key 109-106 win. for their 3rd seed position in the Eastern Conference.

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“Nobody wants to defend,” said Smart. “Nobody wants to fight like this every night. They may injure themselves by throwing their bodies around. Sacrificing their bodies for the betterment of their team and teammates. That makes a good defender. And of course your basketball IQ and anticipation skills, and just leading the whole defense.

This is just ONE defensive ranking, so in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t mean much. We know that. But it’s interesting to see how the votes compare to the statistics.

Statistics collected from Basketball Reference and the NBA statistics site.