The Indiana Pacers were the best defensive team in the NBA this season. Before a major backslide/slack off in April, they were projecting to be one of the best defensive teams in league history. Nobody was close. No teams could score against them, and the impeccable defensive numbers could have been even better if the Pacers’ offense wasn’t one of the most-turnover-prone in the NBA.
Paul George was recognized by coaches for his defensive prowess. He made the All-Defensive Second Team.
Roy Hibbert, the team’s interior defensive anchor, got no such recognition. Eleven players (due to a tie in one case) made first or second team All-Defense, something voted on by the league’s 30 head coaches. Hibbert was not among them.
David West first heard this news today from a member of the media after the Pacers practice. Here is how that scene played out.
Reporter informs West that Roy didn’t make either team.
David West’s eyes almost bulge out of his head.
“He didn’t?” asked West. … … … “No comment.”
Paul George, the second team honoree, was similarly indignant, but a little more verbose. “We both should have made it — EASILY,” said George. “Roy’s been the best center defensively guarding the rim — EASILY. He should have made it. If I made it, he should have.”
His coach, Frank Vogel, felt the same way.
“All I’ll say is that there is not a center in this league I’d rather have on my team defensively than Roy Hibbert,” said Vogel.
Here is how the vote finished.
(image via The Point Forward)
I hear the Pacers players. It’s impossible not to want your big fella, who you’ve bleed, sweated and teared with all year, to get some recognition. It’s hard to say exactly which big didn’t deserve their spot though. Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan were all incredible this year. Were they better than Hibbert? I’d say Gasol definitely was. I agree with the media members who voted him as Defensive Player of the Year. After that, it is so close between Hibbert, Noah, Duncan and even Serge Ibaka.
Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward added some nuance on the voting, questioning the most quizzical name on the list: Tyson Chandler, who was inconsistent at best this season as a defender and just got destroyed two days ago by Hibbert.
3. Who was the biggest snub?
Golliver: Gasol or Hibbert. The backbones of the league’s two stingiest units deserved to be the First and Second Team centers this season. Noah had a very strong case, too, but he missed 16 games this year, more than three times as many as Gasol and Hibbert combined. I wouldn’t be that upset if Gasol was relegated to the Second Team behind Hibbert during the same season that he won the media-voted Defensive Player of the Year award, but to essentially finish third behind two lesser candidates is frustrating.
Mahoney: This depends on how you choose to define a snub. Chandler’s presence on the First Team creates all sorts of problems the rest of the way, and indeed sets up Gasol and Hibbert as two prime choices. In Gasol’s case, we have the Defensive Player of the Year, a player well-worthy of First Team consideration who only nabbed five (out of a possible 29) first-team votes. Chandler, by comparison, received nine first-team votes, while also tripling up Gasol in second-team nods (six to two). I’m not even sure how you would begin to build a case for selecting Chandler over Gasol this season.
Hibbert is also theoretically deserving of defensive accolades based on his stellar defensive season for the Pacers, but he’s a victim of the unfortunate dynamic of positional voting. Were I to cast a ballot by the current rules, I would select Gasol to the First Team and Noah to the Second Team, though the difference in defensive value between those two is unbelievably thin. That would leave Hibbert more or less where he is now — with the other honorable mentions — so long as we ignore the glaring Chandler inclusion in the middle of it all.
Still, I keep coming back to Iguodala, whom Ben mentioned off the top. He stands as the best defender to not be named to either team. Gasol was at least selected to one of the All-Defensive teams, and if Hibbert wouldn’t make my own squad I can’t rightly deem him a snub. But Iguodala had an underrated year as a defensive Swiss army knife in Denver, where he propped up a mediocre defensive team, transforming it into nearly a top-10 defense. That’s a profound impact from a wing player, and an achievement for which Iguodala doesn’t receive nearly enough credit.
Also worth noting: Kevin Garnett didn’t get a single vote?