Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has a closet full of award trophies from his first three seasons in the NBA but this is one award he'd sooner not have any part of.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News compiles a "No-Defense" team at the end of each NBA season and this year Lillard tops the list, winning "No Defense Player of the Year".
Among Kawakami's criteria are the following:
-Do opponents' eyes light up when they realize they're being guarded by one specific player?
-Do coaches have to change the defensive system strictly to protect one player, and if they do, does the guy still screw up, and do those issues show up on the team's defensive performance?
-Last note: I lean towards the bad defensive players who get the most minutes (and therefore hurt their teams the most) and often to the teams with the highest payrolls/expectations (because the bad defense is less explainable in those situations).
When discussing Lillard as the no-defense Kingpin of the league, he offers these arguments:
Lillard has been a great offensive player since he stepped into the league... and actually the defensive metrics point to an up-tick in Lillard's play (his -0.37 DRPM this season wasn't horrible-but still 30th among point guards-and much better than his -1.97 last season) and his steal rate was much higher.
However... On this one, I'm just going to go with what I saw in many, many Trail Blazers games. I'm also giving coach Terry Stotts a ton of credit for maneuvering his defensive scheme so deftly to cover up Lillard's glaring weaknesses.
In some ways, it's very similar to everything Steve Nash's coaches used to do to cover for his inability to stay in front of quick offensive players or work through screens. Yes, Lillard currently is the primary benefactor of the star-player Courtesy Defensive Assignment strategy.
Flat out: Stotts tries to avoid putting Lillard on anybody who is any good.
He continues with a discussion of Lillard's defensive foibles:
Nobody dies easier on screens that Lillard, that's just a fact.
Most of the time, it's almost as if Lillard just stops playing when he's screened-he doesn't work through it, he doesn't switch hard, he doesn't rotate. It's just... in his mind, once somebody makes contact with him, the defensive possession is over, time to play offense now! (Except the opponent still has the ball.)
Lillard also has a habit of getting back late in transition, trotting to one spot, then staying anchored there and refusing to rush out to defend a shooter at the three-point line even when he actually should be
There's plenty more where that came from, not just about Lillard but his All NBA No-Defense First Team mates Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Enes Kanter, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Past recipients of the award include Kevin Martin, Carmelo Anthony, and Steve Nash.
If Lillard has one consolation, almost every other player named is a star or coveted starter. When Kawakami shoots, he aims high.
(But who on this list is going to stop him?)
hat tip to Slinger81 for the find.
--Dave email@example.com / @DaveDeckard / @Blazersedge