Coaches vote with hearts, not heads, for All-Defensive teams
The NBA announced the 2010-11 All-Defensive Teams earlier this week, and not surprisingly, the teams contained very few surprises.
First Team was made up of Dwight Howard at center, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett at the forward spots, and Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo at guard. Second Team consisted of Tyson Chandler at center, Andre Iguodala and Joakim Noah at forward, and Chris Paul and Tony Allen at guard.
Unfortunately, it appears the 30 NBA head coaches who voted for the First and Second Teams are as bad at selecting these recipients as they are at selecting All Stars.
To begin with, the First Team is a joke. Howard is a no-brainer while James and Rondo are hard picks to argue, but Garnett and Bryant? Sure they have been excellent defenders throughout their careers, but neither showed enough defensively this season to warrant a First-Team selection. Calling the voting into question even further was that Howard received just 27 first-team votes. Since 29 first-team votes is the maximum number a player can receive since coaches are not allowed to vote for players from their own team, the results show that two head coaches in the NBA who weren’t Stan Van Gundy felt Howard, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was not the best defensive center in the league — those three votes going instead to Chandler of Dallas. Please.
The Second Team was a bit better but still had its issues. The most glaring would be the inclusion of Iguodala. While Iguodala has the ability to legitimately make this team, he did not play better defense than others at his forward position this season.
Fellow NBA players seemed to take issue with his selection as well. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Milwaukee Bucks, a good defender in his own right, posted the following to his Twitter account: “Dont even wanna talk about first team it’s all politics.. i love Iguadola’s game but he is not second team all defensive team this year man.”
And yet, Iguodala received five first-team votes and snuck onto the Second Team ahead of more-deserving forward candidates like Gerald Wallace (tied for 5th among forwards, one first-team vote), Grant Hill (T-5th, four first-team votes), Luol Deng (T-5th, four first-team votes), Serge Ibaka (13th, one first-team vote, and Shane Battier (T-14th, two first-team votes).
Allen, Noah, Paul and Chandler were all deserving recipients, but how about some love for other top defenders? Kirk Hinrich is one of the best defenders in the NBA at the point guard position, but he managed just one second-team vote. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose had four first-team votes and finished fifth among guards.
While the voting is supposed to simply acknowledge which players were best defensively during the season, it appears another statistic weighed heavily on the minds of voters — team success. Of the 10 players named either First or Second Team All Defense, all 10 played for teams that reached the playoffs. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry implied as much when speaking about Hill’s snub from either All-Defensive Team, saying in the Arizona Republic, “No one did more defensively for their team than him. He got punished for what we did as a team. I’d like to know who else guarded Amar’e Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Durant, and everything but a five (center).”
But the problem is not just coaches considering team success, or lack thereof, in their decision making; it is also coaches rewarding undeserving players with what basically amounts to a career-achievement award. The NBA head coaches also voted on this past season’s All-Star reserves and managed to put Tim Duncan on the West roster over more deserving forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, and Zach Randolph.
Coaches tend to vote more with their hearts than their heads when it comes to these types of things, and that leads to players being honored who may not actually deserve the recognition they receive. Postseason awards are meant, in part, to be a record of the past season, offering a glimpse into history. When NBA fans and historians alike look back on who won MVP or Most Improved in a certain year, they are led to believe that the player’s name etched next to that award was actually the most valuable player of the league or the most improved from the previous season. But when coaches (and fans when it comes to All-Star voting) select undeserving players for honors, history is being re-written.
Defense is not the most glamorous part of the game of basketball. It does not usually land a player on SportsCenter or result in high-profile endorsement deals, meaning that many great defensive players operate in the shadows and are thus overlooked in favor of bigger or more-familiar names. But the All-Defensive Teams are the one area where those players who bring their hard hat and lunch pail to work every day can finally earn some recognition — players like Thabo Sefolosha, Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, Anderson Varejao, Doug Christie, Eric Snow, Clifford Robinson, and Mookie Blaylock.
That is why the NBA coaches who vote on awards such as these should spend a few extra minutes when filling out their ballots to think, really think, about whether the player they just voted for is actually deserving of the honor, or whether that vote was cast out of sentimentality and consider whether there is a more-deserving, less-heralded player out there who could use a little recognition.
By: Eric Lorenz
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