Bleacher Report’s “worst defender” list features three Washington Wizards

As Washington Wizards fans, we had to clap back just a liiiittle bit over Bleacher Report’s “worst defender at every position” list.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Washington Wizards are any good on defense. They aren’t. If the eye test doesn’t suffice, just look at the stats per NBA.com:

  • Last in opponent’s points per game: 119.8
  • 29th in opponent’s field goal percentage: 48.5
  • T-25th in opponent’s three-point percentage: 37
  • T-22nd in opponent’s offensive rebounds per game: 10.8

It’s not a pretty picture, it’s a problem, and anyone who follows the Washington Wizards would be crazy not to admit it.

But when Bleacher Report came out with an article this morning laying out the worst defenders at each position, three Washington Wizards players made the list, and it’s a bit unfair. Bradley Beal made the list at the shooting guard position, Rui Hachimura at the power forward position, and Thomas Bryant at the center position.

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They call their methodology objective, and as a statistics fan I find it hard to argue, but I wanted to try to identify one player in each position that could have made their little “list” above our improving squad. Here’s the results:

Bradley Beal

Sure, Beal’s not an elite defender, but he’s had to shoulder a lot of the load with John Wall out all season, leaving him no legs for the defensive end. The article in question acknowledges this, but regardless we need to try to compare apples to apples here.

But how about the Atlanta Hawks? Their back court is giving up 83.1 points per game to guards compared to 75.8 points according to NBA.com.  Do we deign to look at Kevin Huerter‘s numbers?

But let’s say, for a moment, that their assumption that Trae Young is a total defensive slouch isn’t far off (it isn’t). Let’s say that’s Atlanta’s problem. The most points given up to the shooting guard position happens to be the San Antonio Spurs, according to Hashtag Basketball.

Bryn Forbes has just as many defensive win shares as Beal, a measly 0.2 on the season. He does have a lower defensive rating than Bradley Beal, but not by much.

Forbes averaged 0.5 steals and no blocks per game, while Beal averages a steal and 0.4 blocks per game. I’m taking Beal on my team, on the defensive end as well as the offensive end, over Forbes.

Rui Hachimura

The Atlanta Hawks give up the most points to the power forward position. We’ll again give the Hawks a pass here (lucky them) as they had to go without John Collins for 25 games when he was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs.

The Portland Trailblazers are next, and they happen to have Carmelo Anthony holding down the power forward position right now as a stand in since no one they started the season with could hack it. We’ve always known Melo wasn’t a defensive player, but he’s been playing better there recently.

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Instead, I’ll look at Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers who is averaging just 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks per game. That’s 0.1 steals less than Rui and 0.1 blocks more than the Wizards’ rookie. The Cavaliers are giving up the 5th most points to power forwards and the 3rd highest field goal percentage.

Larry Nance has been playing a lot for them this year with nothing much on the line, and he’s actually playing better defensively than Kevin Love, but still isn’t great.

Thomas Bryant

Now this one is a bit ridiculous. Let’s set aside the fact that TB has been hurt for a good chunk of the season, or even that he’s had to play defense on guards blowing past Isaiah Thomas. Set aside the fact that when he has played recently, it’s been 15 minutes at most with 7 or 8 minute stints.

All that aside, according to NBA.com the Cleveland Cavaliers give up the most points per game to the opposing centers. But we’ve picked on them already and Tristan Thompson is one of the best one-dimensional players in the game (rebounding), so we’ll give them a rest.

The Miami Heat are next on this list, and for good reason. Next to budding star Bam Adebayo, they’ve rostered Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk to man the paint. Those two are absolute slouches on defense, and it’s no wonder neither of them is averaging more than 0.3 blocks per game.

The team also gives up more offensive rebounds to their opponents than the Washington Wizards.

In Conclusion

Defense is incredibly hard to judge, but I refuse to believe that the three guys on this list are the absolute worst in the league. The overall defense of the Washington Wizards suffered greatly by having a defensive liability in Isaiah Thomas on the floor.

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It’s not talking smack, it’s just a fact. IT3 used to be able to set off this liability by exploding on the offensive end, but sadly those days are behind him.

Defense at the NBA level also happens to be largely a team activity, with rotations and switches coming into play more often than not. With a whopping 246 games lost due to injury, the Washington Wizards entire defense suffers.

That’s second, by the way, to only the Golden State Warriors. And not by much.

As such, it’s still too early to make a verdict on Rui Hachimura, or even Thomas Bryant for that matter. Bradley Beal is certainly  not a defensive dynamo, but he’s absolutely not the worst defensive shooting guard in the NBA.

They claim their methodology was “objective” but it doesn’t at all take the whole picture into question. That means I’m calling their Wizards-bashing list bogus.

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