Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marc Gasol & Advanced Defensive Stats

With Marc Gasol receiving Defensive Player of the Year he becomes the third straight center to win the award, which since Jordan won it in 1987-88 has only been won by centers and power forwards except for Gary Payton in 1995-96 and Ron/ Meta Artest/World Peace in 2003-04 (thus, giving some idea of the value of frontcourt, help defenders). What's interesting about Gasol's winning is that he's a relatively unimpressive nominee based on conventional defensive measures.

Looking at the performance of all players in the 2012-13 season that played at least 100 minutes and standardized over 36 per minutes of play (which simply helps take account for the fact that some players play more than others so we're interested in performance per minute of play rather than total performance, which would benefit players that play more minutes), Gasol is 127th in defensive rebounds (tied with Kawhi Leonard and Antawn Jamison), 75th in steals among just PFs and Cs, and 46th in blocks (to give some context, in both steals and blocks he is tied with Ronny Turiaf). Even among the more basic advanced statistics,  like DRB%, STL% and BLK% (basically, all just estimate the percentage of DRBs/ STLs/ BLKs that player achieved while on the floor), he's unimpressive. For DRB% Gasol is 105th, for STL% he's 60th among PFs and Cs, and for BLK% he's 45th among all players.

It is perhaps the two most advanced defensive stats (among popular advanced defensive stats) that signal Gasol's value as a defender. Gasol's defensive rating (DRTG), which is an estimate of the number of points a player gives up per 100 possessions, is 98, which is 4th in the league--one point behind Hibbert and Paul George and 3 points behind Tim Duncan, the leader. Based on defensive win shares (DWS), which is an estimate of the number of wins the player's defense contributes to his team, Gasol was second with 5.4 behind only Paul George's 6.3.

But, why if George leads Gasol in these two advanced measures did he not receive the award? (More so, how did he finish 7th in voting?) Perhaps that's the case because 5th in DWS was Roy Hibbert and much like George's high DRTG (which Hibbert shared) it may be the case that voters feel George's defense is bolstered by Hibbert's (and other phenomenal Pacer defenders, like David West's) defensive contribution. (Interestingly, LeBron, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, didn't finish in the top ten of DRTG or DWS.)

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