Did Myles Turner deserve the All-Defensive second-team spot over Joel Embiid?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers is blocked by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers on March 10, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers is blocked by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers on March 10, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Did Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner deserve a spot on the All-Defensive team over Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid?

If you were hoping the NBA writers of the world would provide validation to your Indiana Pacers fandom, I’ve got some bad news for you.

Not a single member of the Pacers made the All-Defensive teams or the All-NBA teams.

Myles Turner received a significant number of All-Defensive team votes while Thaddeus Young got a pair, and on the All-NBA side, Turner and Domantas Sabonis got single votes for the Third-team.

While it’s nice to see Domas and Thad get a few votes, the real question is whether Turner deserved the nod on the All-Defensive second team over the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid. Considering Turner led the league in blocks (and had more of them than the entire Cleveland Cavaliers team), this is a little surprising, no?

Putting aside Pacers fandom (because we know who should have won), let’s take a look at the two centers and see which one deserved the spot on the All-Defensive Second Team.

Myles Turner vs Joel Embiid

Let’s get this out of the way very quickly: Joel Embiid is a superior rebounder. One of Turner’s weaknesses as a player is his lack of rebounding, which is average at best for a center. Embiid wins in the category with a 21.4 to 13.9 advantage in rebounding percentage. Dude’s a beast on the glass.

But as it turns out, there’s more to defense than being one of the players on the non-shooting team that has roughly a 77% chance of grabbing the rebound.

Overall, they’re most similar as far as their overall effect on shooters. Embiid drops opposing shooter percentages by -3.1% while Turner is at -2.9%. The one caveat is while Embiid is slightly better at any distance inside 15 feet, Turner still has a negative effect beyond 15 feet and on 3-point shooters.

Embiid’s either unwillingness or inability to chase them out that far means shooters have a 2-3% better chance to make their shots if he’s their primary defender beyond 15 feet from the basket. It’s a modest difference, but a noticeable one.

It also shows up when covering the pick and roll as well. Turner’s at a higher percentile covering the roll man, and the rare times they are on the ball handler. Turner’s only slightly ahead covering the roll man, but he is better at that particular play when these two centers face it.

It would be a bit of a trap, however, to look at their post defensive numbers and claim victory for the Pacers center. Turner is better by percentage but faces nearly double the number of post attempts.

It’s pretty simple to figure out why. While Turner holds his ground, he’s a less intimidating presence than Embiid. Players don’t waste their time taking Joel on whereas Myles faces them more often despite his above-average defense there.

And if we’re honest, we’ve seen Embiid and a few other manage to bully Myles there. It doesn’t happen often, but it did prove a problem at times. While that shouldn’t decide who wins the award, it still matters when evaluating them as defenders.

When it comes to defending the rim, Embiid had a slight edge again and faced more attempts, but as far as the percentage of opponents shots that came at the rim, Turner faced a higher percent. Again, a small difference, but Embiid has an edge when breaking down the numbers.

But of course, blocks is where Turner is king. A staggering 8.4% of defensive possessions end in blocks when Turner is on the floor compared to 4.4% for Embiid. Turner blocks 2.7 a game to Embiid’s 1.9.

On top of that, 65.33% of Turner’s blocks were recovered by the Pacers according to PBPStats.com’s play by play data. The 76ers, on the other hand, only recovered 54.10% of Embiid’s swats. It’s a credit to Turner that he plays in control when hunting blocks and doesn’t just send them flying out of bounds.

It’s also worth noting some of the advanced numbers favor Turner. Myles has a higher defensive win-share compared to Joel, as well as defensive box plus-minus. However, ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus gives Embiid a defensive edge, though it is worth noting they are two of the best in the NBA in this regard.

The verdict

There are arguments for Turner getting the second-team spot over Embiid. However, it’s understandable that many voters gave the 76ers center the nod.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

It comes down to how you view the two. Turner covers more of the floor defensively, even stopping 3-point shooters from being effective against him. Embiid has a slight advantage in effectiveness inside of 15-feet, which arguably is more of the area of centers, even in the modern NBA.

Turner’s shot blocking is clearly superior and more helpful for the team as they are recovered more often after the rejection.

But Embiid’s more of a physical presence on the floor and whether it’s his reputation or the team defense around him, players are less likely to post him up.

Rebounding, while frankly overrated as a sign of good defense in my book (team rebounding matters more), it likely played a factor in some voters’ minds when picking between the two.

One can argue that Embiid is just not putting out a full defensive effort because of his offensive responsibilities, and while there may be some truth to that, it matters when and where that effort is, particularly for a defensive award. J.R. Smith could be a good defender at times, but we’re not going to remember him for that now are we? Embiid arguably has the talent to put more separation between him and Turner as defenders, but until we see that on the floor consistently, it’s more hypothetical than anything else.

For many voters, the slight edge in stats was likely enough to tip their hat to Embiid over Turner, but if anyone thinks there is a big difference in their defensive impact, they just aren’t paying attention.

Next. Should the Pacers overpay Tobias Harris?. dark

Myles Turner has every right to be frustrated with being left out of the Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team races, but hopefully, he uses this as fuel to make sure there’s no question he belongs next season.