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How Magic's Dwight Howard Beat Knicks' Tyson Chandler for First-Team Defensive Honors
When I read over the announcement of the All-Defensive First Team for the NBA, Dwight Howard popped off the page. Seriously, Dwight jumped out of my computer screen and started dancing.
Dwight Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for three straight years from '09 to '11. This season, that award was given to Tyson Chandler.
So how is it possible that Tyson Chandler was awarded Defensive Player of the Year, yet he didn't make the All-Defensive First Team? Chandler was instead placed on the All-Defensive Second Team. Was it a misprint? No. Was it a mistake? No... well possibly. Well, what the hell was it?
"It," highlights the voting process for both awards. Do you know who votes for Defensive Player of the Year? Do you know who votes for All-Defensive Teams? Well, if you don't, the votes do not come from the same source. The DPOY is based off of a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters. Each voter selects three players and ranks them. First place gets five points, second, three points, and third, one point. The player with the most points wins. The All-Defensive Team votes come from 30 NBA coaches. Each coach votes for five First Team players, and five Second Team players. Two points are awarded for each First Team vote, and one point for each Second Team vote. The coaches are not allowed to vote for players on their own roster. The coaches must vote for two guards, two forwards, and one center. Dwight and Tyson both play center.
For DPOY, Tyson Chandler received 45 first place votes, 25 second place votes, and 11 third place votes. That gave him a total of 311 points. Dwight Howard placed third in this ranking. Serge Ibaka actually almost stole the DPOY from Chandler. Ibaka finished with 41, 25, and 11 for 294 points. Ibaka also made the All-Defensive First Team, as a forward. Dwight finished with 18, 23, and 27 for 186 points. Not really all that close. So the sportswriters and broadcasters of America considered Dwight Howard the second best defensive center, and the third best defensive player for this season.
So why is it that the NBA coaches differed? Looking at the season's numbers, it's pretty clear that Dwight was the better defensive player. Dwight averaged 14.5 rebounds per game, 10.8 defensive, along with 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks in 54 games. Chandler averaged 9.9 rebounds per game, just 6.5 defensive, along with 0.9 steals, and 1.4 blocks in 62 games. The numbers are really not all that close. However, Dwight played more minutes per game, clocking in at 38.3 compared to Tyson's 33.2. With five extra minutes, Dwight easily inflated his averages. The team numbers also tend to favor Dwight. Orlando finished as the 8th best defensive team in terms of points allowed per game, with just 93.4. New York finished 11th with 94.7. However, Orlando slightly lost the field goal percentage battle, as they allowed their opponents to shoot 44.9% compared to New York's 44.2%. Overall, Dwight's impact seems to be greater. His extra minutes may have helped, but it's not his fault that he is young and can play all day long.
However, even the NBA coaches weren't ready to anoint Dwight with the First Team. Dwight received 16 first place votes and 9 second place votes for 41 points at the center position. Chandler received 13 first place votes and 10 second place votes for 36 points at the center position. Chandler came just five points short of being placed on the First Team. That's just two more first place votes and one more second place vote, or five more second place votes. Marc Gasol stole one first place vote away, and a second place vote. Joakim Noah received 14 second place votes. By giving away points to those centers, the NBA coaches allowed Dwight to make the First Team. Chandler could have easily made the First Team. When comparing the first place votes, it's clear that the coaches were split, 16-13.
So how did these voting sources not come out with the same result? Well, I'd say that the narrative of Dwight Howard this season is what allowed Chandler to receive the DPOY award for the first time in his career. Caught up in the hoopla of, "Trade me," and, "No, I want to stay, I love Orlando," and then mixed in with, "I won't play for Stan Van Gundy anymore," the sportswriters and broadcasters of America said, "F- it, we are not awarding a petulant superstar." Even the NBA coaches almost got caught up in the hoopla. When you look at the numbers, Dwight is clearly superior, yet he was punished for his behavior off the court.
In actuality, I don't mind the punishment. The numbers say Dwight was better, but watching the on-court product, you'd be hard pressed to say who was more valuable defensively. Dwight put up numbers, but did he ever really seem all that invested? At least Dwight had gritty teammates, guys who aren't stars and who scrap and play hard. Chandler had to deal with the permeable defense of superstars Marshmello Anthony and Amare "I hate playing with Marshmello" Stoudemire. Factor in the fact that Marhsmello quit on Mike D'Antoni, and you have to respect Chandler's defensive effort. Carmello stopped playing defense and he ran D'Antoni out of town. Once D'Antoni was gone, Carmello decided to play hard again. Chandler dealt with all of this crap very well, and he anchored the defense from the D'Antoni offensive minded philosophy to the Woodson defensive minded philosophy. Do you think Dwight would have been able to deal with all of that? Dwight struggled with a good situation in Orlando, imagine him dealing with the soap opera of New York.
Dwight quit on his team at the end of the season as they were rolling into the playoffs with the third seed. Yes, I know he suffered a back injury. But isn't it peculiar that he finished the season injured soon after saying that he would never play for Stan Van again? Such accusations have been denied by Dwight's representatives with statements such as, "It's a completely made-up B.S. story." However, do you really believe that? Just watch this clip and tell me you believe anything Dwight Howard or his representatives state. Following Stan's admission that management told him that Dwight no longer wanted to play for him, Dwight was questioned about it and he stated, "Come on man, [...] What's true? [...] I said that? [...] I didn't hear anything." Throughout this awkward interview Dwight shook his head, gesticulated with facial expressions, and denied everything. He straight up lied moments after his coach called him out. Little did he know, Stan Van just spilled the beans and his hollow lies would forever shatter his credibility.
Stan Van was just fired after going 259-135 in five seasons, and 31-28 in the playoffs, along with a trip to the finals in '09. Orlando had the fourth best record in the NBA over the past five seasons, and the third most playoff wins over that period (before this postseason). That is impressive, especially considering the steep drop off of talent outside of Dwight Howard. Stan Van Gundy brought out the best in role players. Dwight Howard is great, but his talent alone with that supporting cast should have been a perennial six seed in the East, not the fourth best team over the past five seasons. CEO Alex Martins, the man who fired Stan, stated, Van Gundy was a "great strategic coach." He further stated, "Strategically we may not be able to find anyone better." That's all you need to hear. Orlando management just admitted that Stan Van Gundy is the best coach for their team. Van Gundy stated, "When you're talking a professional relationship, what matters, at least to me, is the results [...] the object is to win games." Stan, you won games. You delivered what should matter the most, unfortunately your superstar player no longer wants to play for your winning ways.
So did the writers get it wrong, or did the coaches? The negative narrative of Dwight definitely impacted both sides. With three consecutive DPOY awards, did Dwight really drop off this season? No, he didn't. Actually, he posted his best defensive rebounding numbers with 10.8 compared to 10.1 ('11), 9.7 ('10), and 9.6 ('09) in the previous three seasons. He also increased his steals, with 1.5 this season compared to 1.4, 0.9. and 1.0. His only slippage came in blocks, as he averaged 2.2 this season compared to 2.4, 2.8. and 2.9. Overall, he improved. On numbers alone, Dwight should have won DPOY. When he popped off my computer screen and began dancing, Dwight pop locked and dropped it while stating, "That's right, I am better than Tyson." Dwight's inclusion on the All-Defensive First Team should hold a bit more credibility compared to the DPOY honors. Writers and broadcasters sell a narrative to push headlines and stories. All year long we heard about how Dwight was a coach killer, how Dwight wanted to leave, how Dwight wanted to stay. The writers were under no circumstances going to award Dwight Howard the DPOY. To them, he didn't deserve it. To them, he killed Orlando's season. To the NBA coaches, he killed Orlando's season, but his numbers could not be overlooked. The writers overlooked the numbers and impact, whereas the coaches didn't. Plain and simple.
However, there is one caveat. You would think that NBA coaches and their basketball credibility would always get it right in regards to All-NBA teams. However, many have lamented the fact that the All-NBA teams are always littered with "reputation picks." Critics point to players who make the team based on past greatness and not necessarily current greatness. These coaches don't have an agenda, but they are just as flawed as the writers and broadcasters of America.
So what do you think? Who got it right? The writers? The coaches? Both? Neither? Should Dwight have won DPOY and made All-Defensive First Team? Should Chandler have made All-Defensive First Team to go along with his Defensive Player of the Year honors? Is it right as is?
You may wonder if this has ever happened before. Well, the NBA has been awarding DPOY awards since the '82-'83 season. In the past thirty years, only two other guys have been snubbed like Chandler.
In 1986, Alvin Robertson, a shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs, won DPOY for the '85-'86 season, but Sidney Moncrief, a shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, took his spot on the All-Defensive First Team. Robertson led the league in steals that season, with a whopping 3.7 per game. He also pulled down 4.0 defensive rebounds, and averaged 0.5 blocks per game. He played in all 82 games. He also won the first ever Most Improved Player Award that season. Roberston was a multi-dimensional player, and he is one of four players ever to record a quadruple double. In '86, his award worthy season, he dropped this line, 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals. He is the only player to ever have steals as the fourth category, the other three players all recorded over 10 blocks. Despite the great season, Sidney Moncrief stole his spot due to his reputation. Moncrief averaged 1.4 steals, 3.0 defensive rebounds, and 0.2 blocks per game. Nowhere near Robertson's numbers, right? He also played in less games, appearing 73 times. However, Moncrief was the DPOY for consecutive seasons. His first was the inaugural presentation of the award in '83, and he followed it up in '84. Robertson was relegated to All-Defensive Second Team.
Then it happened in 1995. Dikembe Mutombo won DPOY for the '94-'95 season, but he was trumped by David Robinson for the All-Defensive First Team. Dikembe played in all 82 games, and he led the league with 3.9 blocks per game. Dikembe also averaged 8.7 defensive rebounds and 0.5 steals per game. Robinson won DPOY in '92 with a whopping 4.5 blocks per game, but his '95 numbers were not worthy of bumping down Mutombo. In '95, Robinson averaged 3.2 blocks, 7.9 defensive rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. His steals were nice, but were they really what catapulted him in front of Mutombo for First Team honors? I have a feeling that Robinson received the accolade due to his reputation. Mutombo was entering his fourth year in the league for the Denver Nuggets, whereas Robinson was a star in his sixth year for the San Antonio Spurs. Mutombo would go on to win DPOY in '97, '98, and '01. He was not snubbed for First Team honors in any of those seasons. Robinson only made one more All-Defensive First Team, it came the following season in '96. Despite leading the league with a whopping 4.5 blocks per game, Mutombo was snubbed off both teams in '96, with Robinson on the First Team, and Olajuwon on the Second Team.
Tyson Chandler's relegation to the All-Defensive Second Team may be questionable, but it is not unprecedented. If he couldn't beat out Dwight Howard in a season in which Dwight was enveloped in negativity and universally loathed from both critics and NBA circles, then he probably didn't deserve the All-Defensive First Team anyways.
Get more great sports analysis over at Blog Is My Medium, Sport is My Message.
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