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Who's the 5th best defender in NBA history?

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Discussion Starter #1

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Im going with David Robinson, based on his incredible career and the fact I actually saw all of it. Mr. Robinson neighborhood was a difficult place to offensive players to orchestrate.
 

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Robinson. Turned a mediocre defense (13th) into the 3rd best defense in his first year and 1st in his second year. In 92 they're 1st again, but when he misses the playoffs the Spurs are 2nd to last defensively without him. When he goes down in 97 the Spurs finish dead last defensively. He comes back in 98 along with Duncan and the Spurs have the 2nd best defense. When Duncan misses the 2000 playoffs the Spurs are still #1 in playoff DRtg with Robinson. This is enough evidence for me to conclude Robinson could make an otherwise mediocre or terrible defense very respectable if not one of the best defenses in the league. Huge impact.

Then you look at the individual numbers. He defended the great centers extremely well, despite the rep he gets for getting destroyed by Hakeem in 95. Against Robinson from 90 to 96, Hakeem's FG% dropped by 6.6%, Ewing's dropped by 7.6%, and Shaq's dropped by 7% from their regular averages. Pretty amazing results.

I see Pippen is leading the vote. Still waiting to hear a compelling case for him to be ranked this high....
 

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Robinson. Turned a mediocre defense (13th) into the 3rd best defense in his first year and 1st in his second year. In 92 they're 1st again, but when he misses the playoffs the Spurs are 2nd to last defensively without him. When he goes down in 97 the Spurs finish dead last defensively. He comes back in 98 along with Duncan and the Spurs have the 2nd best defense. When Duncan misses the 2000 playoffs the Spurs are still #1 in playoff DRtg with Robinson. This is enough evidence for me to conclude Robinson could make an otherwise mediocre or terrible defense very respectable if not one of the best defenses in the league. Huge impact.

Then you look at the individual numbers. He defended the great centers extremely well, despite the rep he gets for getting destroyed by Hakeem in 95. Against Robinson from 90 to 96, Hakeem's FG% dropped by 6.6%, Ewing's dropped by 7.6%, and Shaq's dropped by 7% from their regular averages. Pretty amazing results.

I see Pippen is leading the vote. Still waiting to hear a compelling case for him to be ranked this high....
I don't think there's none.
But he will get penciled in.
Strangely, that's how it works in this forum...
 

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I think it's clearly Wilt.
 

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Pippen was like Lebron defensively, only he was actually quicker and more instinctive. Great examples of Scottie matching up with everyone from Magic Johnson to Charles Barkley to Patrick Ewing in that video (and no I'm not arguing he could hold a 7 foot Ewing for an entire game). Scottie Pippen was an incredible on ball defender who had the ability to hound guys end to end... that ability was the basis for the Bulls "Doberman" defense that Johnny Bach developed and is one of the reasons why the Bulls were so successful. Off ball Scottie was incredible... he and MJ could take away 3/4's of the court. He played passing lanes well and he was a great help defender. He was as good a transition defender as there ever was, period. 10 all-defensive teams. I'll take Scottie.
 

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Pippen was like Lebron defensively, only he was actually quicker and more instinctive. Great examples of Scottie matching up with everyone from Magic Johnson to Charles Barkley to Patrick Ewing in that video (and no I'm not arguing he could hold a 7 foot Ewing for an entire game). Scottie Pippen was an incredible on ball defender who had the ability to hound guys end to end... that ability was the basis for the Bulls "Doberman" defense that Johnny Bach developed and is one of the reasons why the Bulls were so successful. Off ball Scottie was incredible... he and MJ could take away 3/4's of the court. He played passing lanes well and he was a great help defender. He was as good a transition defender as there ever was, period. 10 all-defensive teams. I'll take Scottie.
Still waiting to read about ACTUALLY comparing Pippen to guys like D-Rob.

Like, D-Rob:

#4 ever in Defensive Rating (Pippen #66);
#10 ever in DWshares (Pippen #16);
WHILE
#9 in Winshares (Pippen #35).
 

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Still waiting to read about ACTUALLY comparing Pippen to guys like D-Rob.
ok.... Scottie took over a game more defensively than David Robinson did. There's a reason why the Bulls were unbeatable in the playoffs, they were incredible defensively. I mean, they showed basketball in Portugal in the 90's, right? David Robinson was great, don't get me wrong, but I've seen guys do what David Robinson did.... I haven't really ever seen anyone control the game defensively from the 3 spot like Scottie did.
 

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ok.... Scottie took over a game more defensively than David Robinson did. There's a reason why the Bulls were unbeatable in the playoffs, they were incredible defensively. I mean, they showed basketball in Portugal in the 90's, right? David Robinson was great, don't get me wrong, but I've seen guys do what David Robinson did.... I haven't really ever seen anyone control the game defensively from the 3 spot like Scottie did.
Come on, Pippen is great, but let's not get carried away. It weakens your argument when I see you writing flat out lies. The Bulls lost in the playoffs with Pippen during his career. I'll list them for you.


Playoffs
1987-88 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1) versus Detroit Pistons
1988-89 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-2) versus Detroit Pistons
1989-90 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-3) versus Detroit Pistons (Scottie Pippen/migraine game 7)
1993-94 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-3) versus New York Knicks
1994-95 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-2) versus Orlando Magic

More Pippen playoff history for record.

1998-99 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-1) versus Los Angeles Lakers.
1999-00 Lost NBA Western Conference Finals (4-3) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2000-01 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-0) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2001-02 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-0) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2002-03 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (4-3) versus Dallas Mavericks
2003-04 Finished career back with Chicago Bulls (didn't make the playoffs).

While Pippen was a great defender, an argument can be made that Jordan was a better defender. And actually won the DPOTYA. As we all know Jordans/Pippen Primes were not exactly in sync perfectly, as Jordan had put in four years in the league prior to Pippen being drafted. Also add to the fact Pippen took time for his game to develop.

Lets take into consideration other guys not just Jordan, that helped Pippen grow as a player , and defender along the way. I still remember that video where Charles Oakley is bitch slapping Pippen around. Pippen was notorious for being soft early on in his career, and hardly a hell of a defender. But other than the obvious in Jordan, we have to give just credit to Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, and several of the journeymen bigs that were part of the championship teams for the Bulls. They all played pivotal roles defensively, rebounding, and over all grit.

I've seen someone do what David Robinson did defensively to, and his name was Bill Russell. My gut tells me you must not have actually watched David Robinson through out his career. The Guy had is own unique set of intangibles that he brought to the game defensively. From chase down blocks on the break, stealing the ball in a half court set, and running the fast break off it going coast to coast for a dunk. Robinson had a great set of handles for a 7'1" center. Robinson would close off the paint single handedly. By all measured statistics Robinsons value and impact was superior to Pippen. There is a reason why a guy like Robinson won the Defensive Player of The Year Award, and MVP.
 

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Come on, Pippen is great, but let's not get carried away. It weakens your argument when I see you writing flat out lies. The Bulls lost in the playoffs with Pippen during his career. I'll list them for you.


Playoffs
1987-88 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1) versus Detroit Pistons
1988-89 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-2) versus Detroit Pistons
1989-90 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-3) versus Detroit Pistons (Scottie Pippen/migraine game 7)
1993-94 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-3) versus New York Knicks
1994-95 Lost NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-2) versus Orlando Magic

More Pippen playoff history for record.

1998-99 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-1) versus Los Angeles Lakers.
1999-00 Lost NBA Western Conference Finals (4-3) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2000-01 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-0) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2001-02 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (3-0) versus Los Angeles Lakers
2002-03 Lost NBA Western Conference First Round (4-3) versus Dallas Mavericks
2003-04 Finished career back with Chicago Bulls (didn't make the playoffs).

While Pippen was a great defender, an argument can be made that Jordan was a better defender. And actually won the DPOTYA. As we all know Jordans/Pippen Primes were not exactly in sync perfectly, as Jordan had put in four years in the league prior to Pippen being drafted. Also add to the fact Pippen took time for his game to develop.

Lets take into consideration other guys not just Jordan, that helped Pippen grow as a player , and defender along the way. I still remember that video where Charles Oakley is bitch slapping Pippen around. Pippen was notorious for being soft early on in his career, and hardly a hell of a defender. But other than the obvious in Jordan, we have to give just credit to Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, and several of the journeymen bigs that were part of the championship teams for the Bulls. They all played pivotal roles defensively, rebounding, and over all grit.

I've seen someone do what David Robinson did defensively to, and his name was Bill Russell. My gut tells me you must not have actually watched David Robinson through out his career. The Guy had is own unique set of intangibles that he brought to the game defensively. From chase down blocks on the break, stealing the ball in a half court set, and running the fast break off it going coast to coast for a dunk. Robinson had a great set of handles for a 7'1" center. Robinson would close off the paint single handedly. By all measured statistics Robinsons value and impact was superior to Pippen. There is a reason why a guy like Robinson won the Defensive Player of The Year Award, and MVP.
So.... you took the Bulls being "unbeatable" literally and decided to list all of their playoff losses? Your inability to interpret hyperbole does not make me a liar. I'm sorry that you wasted your time doing that.

And somehow I doubt that you saw enough of Bill Russell to make that comparison, just a hunch.

I'm not saying David Robinson wasn't a terrific defender, I'm just saying I'll take Scottie. Obviously he never won a title without MJ and MJ never won a title without Scottie, they are intertwined no matter how you slice it. And I saw Hakeem Olajuwon do the things you just described at close to the same time David Robinson was doing them, only better.
 

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ok.... Scottie took over a game more defensively than David Robinson did. There's a reason why the Bulls were unbeatable in the playoffs, they were incredible defensively.
Are you talking about individual ou team defense, afterall?
Yes, the Bulls were pretty good defensive-wise. They had Pippen. AND Jordan. AND Grant. AND a great defensive coach.
I thought we were tlaking about individual defense, here.

I mean, they showed basketball in Portugal in the 90's, right?
In the 90's? Sure. But in the 80's i had to keep up with the NBA through TV Galizia (spain) and buying USA Today to check out the box scores ;)

David Robinson was great, don't get me wrong, but I've seen guys do what David Robinson did....
In fact, i believe you haven't.

From a quick search, and using D-Rob's DPOY season, there's only one player who can match (not equal) Robinson's season, and that's Hakeem (who is, off course, one of the greatest defenders ever). But if Hakeem's stats compare to D-rob's 23,2ppg/12,2RPG/2,3SPG/4,5BPG, team-wise DRob gets the edge. Playing with notable non-defenders in Strickland, Anderson, Elliot and Cummings, he had the Spurs #1 in Opp FG% (Hakeem #5 in 1989-1990), #4 Opp Pts/g (#9), #1 Drt (#1) and #3 Opp Efg% (#12).

Many people (including myself) criticize D-Rob for, as great as a player he was, couldn't deliver adequately on the biggest stage (playoffs).
But let's not forget that, pre-injury, he was an excelent defender who was hakeem's par. (What about that Spurs/Warriors playoff round where Nellie had to play Tolbert as C and station him in the 3point line all game long so that D-Rob had to stay out of the paint on defense?).

So, regarding "guys do what Robinson did" you are talking about a prime Hakeem Olajuwon. Who, himself, was a much better defender than Pippen.

I haven't really ever seen anyone control the game defensively from the 3 spot like Scottie did.
Even if it was true (Bad Boy Rodman), that doesn't mean Pippen > D-Rob.
A center has a greater defensive impact in a game than non-center (whatever position).
 

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I voted for Scottie because of his versatility (specifically how successful he was at guarding PGs and disrupting teams' entire offensive strategies), but if I were choosing between the two bigs who are also battling in the vote... how did DRob make more of an impact than Wilt?
 

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I voted for Scottie because of his versatility (specifically how successful he was at guarding PGs and disrupting teams' entire offensive strategies), but if I were choosing between the two bigs who are also battling in the vote... how did DRob make more of an impact than Wilt?
I don't think he did.
that's why i voted for Wilt.
 

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I think both Robinson and Wilt have a case here. Wilt might have peaked higher defensively (largely due to era differences IMO, much easier to impact the game defensively when there's no 3 point line and thus less offensive spacing), but he was a little less consistent than Robinson.

As you guys might have noticed my approach in these threads has been entirely impact-based, i.e. how much a player's presence actually improves his team. Best way to look at this IMO is to simply look at the results - examine team DRtg (points allowed per 100 possessions) relative to league average with and without the player in question over their careers and analyze trends.

Negative relative DRtgs are good, positives are bad. e.g. If the league average in a particular year is 100 points allowed per 100 possessions, and a team allows 95 points per 100 possessions, their relative DRtg that year is -5

Warriors' Defensive Rating relative to league average:
1959: -1.3
1960: -4.5 *Wilt joins
1961: -1.5
1962: -0.4
1963: +1.7
1964: -5.8

Wilt has an immediate -3 impact his rookie year. From 61 to 63 we see the defense suffer, coinciding with the huge offensive load that Wilt has to carry. Then in 64, by most contemporary accounts this is the first year Wilt puts tremendous effort on the defensive end (emphasized by new coach Hannum) and the numbers reflect that - one of his best defensive years at arguably around -5 impact.

1965: -0.7 *Wilt's last season w/ Warriors, plays only 38 games
1966: -0.2

An expected drop in 65 given he plays only 38 games. Without him in 66 they drop a little further.

Sixers' DRtgs:
1964: +2.5
1965: +0.4 *Wilt joins, plays only 35 games
1966: -3.4 *Wilt plays full season

In 65 Wilt improves the defense by -2 playing only half the season. When he plays the full season in 66 he improves them by -6 compared to 64. Further evidence that Wilt can be at least a -5 defensive impact player (when he's not focusing as much on offense, as his scoring is starting to dip here).

1967: -2.4
1968: -5.6 *Wilt's last season w/ Sixers
1969: -1.6

The defense stays fairly consistently great. I think we can say he's still having around -4 to -5 impact in 67 and 68. Indeed, in 1969 when he's gone we see the defense get worse by 4 points.

Lakers DRtgs:
1968: +0.5
1969: -0.1 *Wilt joins
1970: -1.5 *Wilt plays only 12 games
1971: -1.4
1972: -4.4
1973: -3.7 *Wilt's last season
1974: -1.1

Less impressive changes on defense here from 69 to 71. Perhaps harder to impact the defense of the much more offensively-oriented Lakers here (they led the league in Offensive Rating). Not to mention this is Wilt past his prime.

Notice the -3 change from 1971 to 1972, however. This coincides with Wilt's offense dropping from 15 FGA / 21 PPG in 1971, to 9 FGA / 15 PPG in 1972. When he's focusing less on offense, the defense improves greatly. We saw that on his previous teams and we see that here. Coincidence?

Then in 1974 without Wilt the defense falls by 2.6 points.

This is pretty clear evidence that Wilt, when focused on defense rather than offense, is a -5 DRtg impact player, if not higher, during his best defensive seasons. Outside of his best defensive years, he's around -3 to -4 impact which is still excellent. And in years in which he focuses more on offense (e.g. 61-63, 69-71), the defense suffers. I don't think these are coincidences.

A similar analysis of Robinson shows he was a -4 to -4.5 DRtg impact player for almost his entire career. I won't do another lengthy breakdown but you can see right from the start of his career that he improves the Spurs from +0.1 to -3.9 his rookie year (-4 impact), and he stays around that kind of impact for pretty much his entire career, even alongside Duncan. Defensive metrics support Robinson having similar impact to Duncan when he's on the court from 98 to 03.

An analysis of Pippen, at his absolute peak, shows he approaches -3 impact (arguably -3.5 in 1995, the best defensive peak of any perimeter player ever), which is absolutely HUGE for a perimeter player but that's about as high a perimeter can impact the game. If you're doing an honest assessment of these players' defensive impacts, I think that's pretty clear. Elite defensive bigs simply have more impact than the best perimeter defenders due to the nature of their positions.

If more people took a more fact-based approach rather than a reputation or highlight video approach, I don't think we'd see Pippen getting voted this high IMO.
 

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By the way, Russell is one of the easiest and most clear cut players to analyze in this fashion.

Celtics relative DRtgs
1956: +0.9 (6th of 8)
1957: -5.0 (1st of 8) *Russell joins
1958: -5.5 (1st of 8)
1959: -5.6 (1st of 8)
1960: -6.2 (1st of 8)
1961: -7.6 (1st of 8)
1962: -8.7 (1st of 9)
1963: -8.8 (1st of 9)
1964: -10.9 (1st of 9)
1965: -9.8 (1st of 9)
1966: -6.8 (1st of 9)
1967: -4.8 (1st of 10)
1968: -4.9 (2nd of 12)
1969: -6.4 (1st of 12) *Russell's last year
1970: -0.3 (7th of 14)

They improve by 6 his rookie year, they fall by 6 after he retires, and in between he's having around 7-8 defensive impact.

The ridiculous 62 to 65 numbers coincided with Russell playing 3 more minutes per game, as well as KC Jones and Sanders (both called the best defenders at their positions in the mid 60s according to news articles at the time) getting 2000-2500 minutes per season starting in 62. Not to mention the addition of Havlicek in 63.

It's obvious to me Russell is a -6 to -8 defensive impact player, which puts him in a tier all by himself.
 

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This is pretty clear evidence that Wilt, when focused on defense rather than offense, is a -5 DRtg impact player, if not higher, during his best defensive seasons. Outside of his best defensive years, he's around -3 to -4 impact which is still excellent. And in years in which he focuses more on offense (e.g. 61-63, 69-71), the defense suffers. I don't think these are coincidences.

A similar analysis of Robinson shows he was a -4 to -4.5 DRtg impact player for almost his entire career. I won't do another lengthy breakdown but you can see right from the start of his career that he improves the Spurs from +0.1 to -3.9 his rookie year (-4 impact), and he stays around that kind of impact for pretty much his entire career, even alongside Duncan. Defensive metrics support Robinson having similar impact to Duncan when he's on the court from 98 to 03.

An analysis of Pippen, at his absolute peak, shows he approaches -3 impact (arguably -3.5 in 1995, the best defensive peak of any perimeter player ever), which is absolutely HUGE for a perimeter player but that's about as high a perimeter can impact the game. If you're doing an honest assessment of these players' defensive impacts, I think that's pretty clear. Elite defensive bigs simply have more impact than the best perimeter defenders due to the nature of their positions.

If more people took a more fact-based approach rather than a reputation or highlight video approach, I don't think we'd see Pippen getting voted this high IMO.
a couple of interesting posts, GTA. Props. I didn't think you had it in you ;)
 

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Jordan, Payton, Cooper, Alvin Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Garnett, Eaton, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Artest, and more ,than won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, are better defenders than Pippen.
 
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