Posted by: Andy Larsen on November 13th, 2010The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
Pick any elite wing defender in the league. Seriously, anyone. Right now, Andrei Kirilenko is playing better defense than whoever you chose. The season is young, and small sample size issues abound, but right now AK is playing the best defense in the league.
Synergy Sports is a scouting company used by 27 NBA teams to track how various players do in certain situations. It keeps video highlights of each NBA play, and then makes them searchable. So, for example, if you’d like to see all of Paul Millsap’s 46 points, all of Kevin Love’s 31 rebounds, all of Deron Williams’ pick and rolls, all of Jefferson’s post defense opportunities, you can watch them. It also keeps track of each player’s success rate in these situations, usually measured in points per possession. For example, when Deron Williams comes off of screens this season, he averages 1.24 points per possession on 53.8% shooting, good for first in the NBA.
We can track defense the same way, and when we do, Andrei Kirilenko shines. So far this season, Andrei has given up 0.79 points per possession when his opponent tries to score, a very good defensive performance. He only allows opponents a 30.6% opposing field goal percentage! These are excellent numbers, and as I reported earlier, I’ve yet to find any wing defender who matches them. But they’re especially impressive because of who Andrei has guarded (must be at least 3 opposing plays to qualify:
Carmelo Anthony: 0-4 FG, 1 turnover forced, 1 foul committed.
Kevin Durant: 5-15 FG, 3 turnovers forced, 2 fouls committed.
Dorell Wright: 1-5 FG, 1 turnover forced.
Ryan Gomes: 0-5 FG.
Blake Griffin: 1-2 FG, 1 foul committed.
Lebron James: 1-7 FG, 2 fouls committed.
Udonis Haslem: 0-3 FG.
That’s insanely good defense against some of the best players in the NBA. As a whole, Kirilenko forced 22 makes and 50 misses on all the players he guarded for the first 7 games.
In particular, his strength has been guarding the top players in isolation sets: he’s only allowed 1 made basket in 17 isolation plays ran against him: a contested 3 by Kevin Durant. He’s also defending screens very well: when guarding the pick and roll, he gives up 0.81 PPP; and off screen shots have been worth 0.8 PPP for Andrei’s opponents.
On the other hand, he hasn’t been as strong against post-ups and spot-up shooters. He’s been above average, certainly, in these categories, but not quite as excellent. He allows post ups to get 0.93 points per possession, and spot up shooters average 1.15 PPP against Andrei’s defense, including 6-14 from 3 point range.
It sums to excellent defense. Here are AK’s overall defensive stats compared to some other elite wing defenders in the NBA:
Kirilenko – 0.79 PPP, 30.6% Opposing FGA
Battier – 0.8 PPP, 38.7% Opposing FGA
Wade – 0.83 PPP, 41.3% Opposing FGA
Artest – 0.85 PPP, 43.1% Opposing FGA
Bryant – 0.87 PPP, 35.5% Opposing FGA
Lebron – 0.88 PPP, 38.6% Opposing FGA
Raja Bell – 0.9 PPP, 41.5% Opposing FGA
Gerald Wallace – 0.91 PPP, 39.2% Opposing FGA
Sefolosha – 1.0 PPP, 42.9% Opposing FGA
Now admittedly, this only describes what has happened so far, and is not necessarily predictive for the year ahead. However, against this level of competition, Andrei deserves to be in the 1st 10% of the season All-Defense Team for his contributions so far.
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