FanPost

Getting beyond blocks

So, Dwight Howard again won the Defensive Player of the Year award. I haven't really seen him play so I can't really evaluate the choice and don't have any other player to support, but I do notice an overwhelming tendancy for big men to win this award based on gawdy block totals.

I first decided blocks were a misleading stat back in the mid-90's when Gary Payton was the best defensive ballplayer alive, averaging like 18 bajillion steals per minute, while Mutumbo was stealing his DPOY trophy and what should have been a Sonics championship in 1994. I realized blocks were lame and steals were cool because:

* Steals guaranteed possession. 1 steal = 1 turnover. I don't know what percentage of blocks are recovered by the defensive team, but I'd wager it's no greater than 60% of the time. You can definitely argue that a block at the rim is more valuable than a steal, because a block at the rim is stopping a high percentage shot whereas a steal is stopping only a standard-percentage shot, but I'd like to see someone smarter than I do that analysis. Anyhow, in terms of value, a steal is worth "1 point" against a team that scores 100 points per 100 possessions; whereas a block is worth (let's say that team converts 60% of layups), for that shot, 1.2 points. however, if we say the offense recovers 40% of the time, and their offensive rating low in the shot clock is now 85.0 instead of 100.0, the defensive team still 'gives back' .85 * .4 = .34 points, meaning a block is now worth 0.86 points. I'd be very surprised if the numbers worked out to make blocks on even footing with steals in terms of value. I suppose you may need to factor in a 'gamble rate' whereby by attempting to go for the steal, you improve the other teams chance of scoring, but you'd also then have to factor in the foul rate for block attempts. I call it a wash.

* Steals were more likely (especially from the guard position) to lead to fast breaks and easy buckets. I wont even pretend to get into the numbers here, because I'm not smart enough. If anyone has anything to add to this, let it be known.

* Lastly, I've never felt that being big is a skill like quickness and agility. Basically, all big guys get blocks - but not all little guys rack up steals. It's harder to replace steals in a defense than blocks. Call this 'replacement level' theory. Also completely debatable.

Anyhow, i'd like to hear from the BEdger's what components should go into a 'best defensive player' designation.

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