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A Better Way To Evaluate NBA Defense

Basketball, in some sense, is fundamentally a shooting game. Shooting isn’t the only important action that takes place on a basketball court, obviously. But if no one kept track of who was taking shots and making buckets, we’d have, at best, an extremely fuzzy impression of which players were actually any good, even if we had access to all their other statistics.

But believe it or not, this had long been the situation when it came to measuring player defense. There are individual defensive statistics such as rebounds and steals, of course. But there’s no direct measure of shooting defense (other than blocks, which account for a relatively small fraction of missed shots). If an opponent gets hot against your team and shoots 53 for 91 en route to scoring 130 points, we know your team defended poorly in the aggregate, but we don’t know which players to blame.

That is, until a few years ago, when the NBA started publishing data on opponents’ shooting. Last regular season, for example, NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert defended a league-high 1,426 shots, according to motion tracking data by Second Spectrum, which identifies the nearest defender on every field goal attempt. Opponents made only 45 percent of those field goal attempts, well below the roughly 49 percent that Second Spectrum estimates “should” have gone in against average defense for a given distance to the basket.

We’ve been obsessed with this opponents’ shooting data for a while, in part because it sometimes seemed to track closely with players who had stronger or weaker defensive reputations than you would infer from other advanced statistics such as Real Plus-Minus. Boston’s Kyrie Irving was regarded as a slightly above-average defender by RPM last year, for instance. But his opponents’ shooting data suggests he’s a big liability instead. On the other hand, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka was an excellent defender based on opponents’ shooting, whereas RPM regards him as just average.

So this year, we decided to evaluate the opponents’ shooting data in a more comprehensive way and incorporate it into our projection system, CARMELO. Just as CARMELO is a goofy backronym (Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization) that honors one of our favorite players, Carmelo Anthony, we decided to give our new defensive rating a player-centric name, this time in honor of the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green, who has long been one of the best players in basketball by opponent shooting. So our new rating is called DRAYMOND, which stands for….

Defensive

Rating

Accounting for

Yielding

Minimal

Openness by

Nearest

Defender

🙄

All right, so the acronym may or may not catch on. But it does get at one essential discovery we made in playing around with the opponents’ shooting data: the idea of minimizing openness. The main goal of shooting defense, especially in today’s spacing-centric, ball-movement-forward offensive era, is really to minimize the chance of an open shot.

So when I cited Gobert’s numbers earlier in this article, for instance, the most impressive part was not that opponents shot poorly against him, although that helped the Jazz, of course. Rather, it was that he was the nearest defender on so many shots: about 26 shots per 100 possessions that he was on the floor last year1 as compared with a league average of about 17 shots defended per 100 possessions. By contrast, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook — whom DRAYMOND regards as being vastly overrated by other defensive metrics — was the nearest defender on only 12 shots per 100 possessions. Some of this has to do with Westbrook’s and Gobert’s respective positions — centers naturally defend more shots than guards do, a factor that DRAYMOND corrects for (see below). But even accounting for that, it’s clear that some players are much more impactful defenders than others.

I’m sure you’re curious to see some data, but first, an explanation of how DRAYMOND is calculated. We’ll keep it pretty brief.

As I mentioned above, what we’re really interested in is how much value a defender provides relative to an open shot. That is to say, we generally don’t want to punish a player for happening to be the nearest defender according to the Second Spectrum data. Some defense is generally better than none; if Player X hadn’t defended the shot, it’s possible that no one else would have.2

Through trial and error, we found that DRAYMOND performs best3 if you assume that shooting percentages on open shots are about 8 percentage points higher than against average defense. For instance, if a certain type of above-the-break 3-pointer is made 34 percent of the time against average defense, we’d expect it to go in about 42 percent of the time if it was truly open.

This allows us to calculate an initial score that we call RAW_DRAYMOND. For example, if a player faced 100 2-point shots and allowed 46 of them to go in when you’d expect 56 percent of them to be converted if wide open, that player prevented …

(.56-.46) x 100 x 2 = 20

… about 20 points from being scored with his defense. (Obviously, this player could have provided additional value based on his defense against 3-point shots. Indeed, since 3-point shots are worth more than 2-pointers — hashtag #math — players who are effective at defending threes are especially rewarded by DRAYMOND.)

However, there are several adjustments we need to make in getting from RAW_DRAYMOND to regular DRAYMOND:

  • Since DRAYMOND is based on both regular-season and playoff data, we adjust for the fact that defenders face slightly tougher shooters on average in the playoffs.
  • We divide RAW_DRAYMOND by the number of possessions that the player was on the floor, so that DRAYMOND (like RPM and most other NBA stats) is a rate statistic rather than a counting statistic.
  • We adjust the number of shots defended based on a player’s position. The average point guard and shooting guard defends about 15 shots per 100 possessions, the average small forward defends about 16 shots, the average power forward 19 shots, and the average center 22 shots.4 This somewhat equalizes defensive value over the five positions. Even so, bigs are generally the most valuable defenders in basketball according to DRAYMOND, as they are under most other advanced statistics.
  • Finally, we subtract the value of league-average shooting defense per possession from each player’s score. Thus, like RPM and Box Plus/Minus (BPM), the statistics that CARMELO has traditionally used to make its projections, DRAYMOND is a plus-minus statistic measured per 100 possessions, where a score of 0 represents average defense.

Among players who have played at least 10,000 possessions over the past six seasons (the NBA’s opponents’ shooting data goes back to 2013-14), the top defender according to DRAYMOND is … Draymond Green, who has provided the Warriors with +3.2 points per 100 possessions of defensive value based on his scoring defense alone, not counting all of the other ways (e.g., steals) that he produces defensive value. Green is followed on the list by a fairly star-studded cast of defenders: Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis (!), Rudy Gobert, Tim Duncan, Andre Roberson and Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, the worst-rated defender over the past six seasons according to DRAYMOND is Rajon Rondo.

The best defender according to DRAYMOND is Draymond

NBA players by DRAYMOND* defensive ratings, based on opponents’ shooting data in the regular season and playoffs, with a minimum of 10,000 possessions played since 2013-14

Player Possessions played DRAYMOND RATING
Draymond Green 38,282 +3.16
Joel Embiid 11,766 +2.95
Kristaps Porzingis 11,714 +2.57
Rudy Gobert 24,889 +2.40
Tim Duncan 14,218 +2.20
Andre Roberson 15,147 +2.06
Anthony Davis 30,484 +2.05
Andrew Bogut 13,887 +2.01
Roy Hibbert 14,695 +1.92
Josh Smith 13,122 +1.90
Hassan Whiteside 18,508 +1.87
Derrick Favors 24,324 +1.86
Myles Turner 17,509 +1.73
Aron Baynes 14,484 +1.71
Joakim Noah 15,511 +1.60
Brook Lopez 25,200 +1.60
Timofey Mozgov 14,696 +1.57
Luc Mbah a Moute 16,502 +1.56
Serge Ibaka 32,865 +1.54
Kyle O’Quinn 11,843 +1.52
Montrezl Harrell 11,001 +1.44
Kevin Durant 35,683 +1.44
Robin Lopez 25,657 +1.43
Al Horford 30,395 +1.41
David West 17,671 +1.40
Clint Capela 18,110 +1.39
Pau Gasol 23,255 +1.38
James Johnson 17,746 +1.33
Josh Richardson 17,276 +1.28
LaMarcus Aldridge 33,382 +1.27
Dewayne Dedmon 13,581 +1.25
Jaylen Brown 13,507 +1.25
Jusuf Nurkic 15,099 +1.24
Giannis Antetokounmpo 33,511 +1.23
Nemanja Bjelica 11,568 +1.15
John Henson 15,221 +1.14
Danny Green 28,467 +1.12
Kosta Koufos 15,534 +1.11
Jerami Grant 20,433 +1.10
Ben Simmons 13,358 +1.10
Steven Adams 28,973 +1.09
Tyler Zeller 11,412 +1.09
Mike Dunleavy 12,931 +1.08
Klay Thompson 41,713 +1.05
Tony Allen 14,520 +1.04
Miles Plumlee 11,556 +1.04
DeMarcus Cousins 24,075 +1.00
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 17,801 +0.99
Justise Winslow 14,191 +0.97
Raymond Felton 16,949 +0.97
Taj Gibson 26,231 +0.96
DeAndre Jordan 34,072 +0.96
Thabo Sefolosha 16,186 +0.95
Kawhi Leonard 27,674 +0.88
Ian Mahinmi 14,184 +0.88
Pascal Siakam 12,798 +0.88
Solomon Hill 14,891 +0.87
Jonas Valanciunas 23,901 +0.85
Marcin Gortat 28,529 +0.84
Kemba Walker 33,021 +0.81
Jrue Holiday 25,597 +0.80
Shaun Livingston 21,495 +0.79
Spencer Hawes 11,803 +0.78
Bismack Biyombo 17,520 +0.78
Maurice Harkless 20,198 +0.77
Wilson Chandler 21,126 +0.76
Amir Johnson 20,436 +0.75
Trevor Booker 16,039 +0.72
Cody Zeller 17,321 +0.72
Alex Len 17,616 +0.71
Marc Gasol 30,496 +0.71
David Lee 12,774 +0.67
George Hill 26,013 +0.64
Langston Galloway 15,734 +0.62
Quincy Acy 10,497 +0.61
Evan Turner 27,518 +0.61
Dwight Powell 12,343 +0.59
Paul Pierce 12,678 +0.59
Cory Joseph 23,771 +0.57
Nikola Mirotic 18,138 +0.57
Jimmy Butler 32,597 +0.54
Jayson Tatum 12,138 +0.53
James Harden 40,828 +0.52
Nerlens Noel 14,418 +0.51
Noah Vonleh 11,214 +0.47
Derrick Rose 17,293 +0.47
Patrick Patterson 21,197 +0.47
Jeremy Lin 18,390 +0.46
Dion Waiters 21,066 +0.45
Domantas Sabonis 11,443 +0.44
Ed Davis 17,428 +0.43
Jared Dudley 18,767 +0.42
Goran Dragic 28,790 +0.41
Aaron Gordon 20,045 +0.40
Marreese Speights 11,425 +0.40
Paul Millsap 30,217 +0.39
CJ McCollum 28,793 +0.38
Justin Holiday 16,591 +0.38
Eric Bledsoe 26,635 +0.36
Tristan Thompson 27,936 +0.36
Jared Sullinger 11,886 +0.35
Trey Lyles 10,302 +0.34
Paul George 32,598 +0.33
Allen Crabbe 18,711 +0.33
Lance Thomas 12,142 +0.32
Gerald Henderson 16,500 +0.31
Tyler Johnson 15,111 +0.30
DeMarre Carroll 26,019 +0.29
Stephen Curry 39,307 +0.27
Mike Conley 23,955 +0.23
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 12,081 +0.21
Mason Plumlee 22,777 +0.21
Dwight Howard 24,588 +0.20
LeBron James 39,997 +0.19
Rudy Gay 24,069 +0.19
JaMychal Green 14,173 +0.18
Patrick Beverley 22,626 +0.17
Blake Griffin 29,325 +0.16
Nikola Vucevic 26,406 +0.16
Damian Lillard 38,628 +0.16
Jae Crowder 27,620 +0.16
Matthew Dellavedova 18,129 +0.16
Kent Bazemore 22,184 +0.16
Mario Chalmers 15,652 +0.15
Luol Deng 18,725 +0.15
Jonas Jerebko 15,123 +0.14
Markieff Morris 26,032 +0.12
Andre Iguodala 29,712 +0.11
Omer Asik 10,195 +0.11
JJ Redick 29,725 +0.10
Anthony Tolliver 17,263 +0.08
Manu Ginobili 16,974 +0.08
Dwyane Wade 25,627 +0.08
PJ Tucker 32,880 +0.08
Austin Rivers 23,087 +0.07
Spencer Dinwiddie 13,248 +0.07
John Wall 31,634 +0.07
Karl-Anthony Towns 23,043 +0.07
Ish Smith 19,446 +0.07
Wesley Matthews 30,095 +0.06
Jeremy Lamb 18,210 +0.06
Chris Bosh 12,709 +0.06
Marvin Williams 25,849 +0.06
Kyle Anderson 12,802 +0.05
Jason Smith 11,230 +0.05
Donovan Mitchell 12,171 +0.04
Isaiah Thomas 23,565 +0.04
Al-Farouq Aminu 26,956 +0.03
CJ Miles 17,938 +0.03
Terry Rozier 13,805 +0.03
Kyle Lowry 35,784 +0.02
Marcus Morris 28,223 +0.02
Reggie Bullock 10,929 +0.01
Gerald Green 18,429 +0.00
Dario Saric 14,499 +0.00
Andre Drummond 31,709 +0.00
Marcus Smart 22,997 +0.00
Terrence Jones 12,064 +0.00
Kelly Olynyk 20,609 -0.01
Brandon Bass 12,616 -0.02
Courtney Lee 25,321 -0.02
Khris Middleton 30,940 -0.03
Jerian Grant 10,248 -0.03
Terrence Ross 23,139 -0.03
Nene 16,100 -0.03
T.J. McConnell 15,302 -0.03
Michael Carter-Williams 17,756 -0.03
Boris Diaw 15,683 -0.04
Jarrett Jack 14,572 -0.05
Malcolm Brogdon 12,073 -0.06
Kyle Kuzma 10,183 -0.06
Mike Muscala 10,947 -0.07
Brandon Ingram 12,815 -0.07
Robert Covington 21,084 -0.07
Vince Carter 18,232 -0.09
Tyson Chandler 18,693 -0.09
Meyers Leonard 10,837 -0.10
Matt Barnes 18,283 -0.10
Tony Snell 20,715 -0.13
Jeff Teague 29,994 -0.13
Nicolas Batum 31,707 -0.13
Bradley Beal 34,063 -0.14
Al Jefferson 14,574 -0.15
Garrett Temple 18,146 -0.15
Aaron Brooks 11,764 -0.17
Iman Shumpert 20,064 -0.17
Willie Cauley-Stein 14,903 -0.17
Enes Kanter 24,020 -0.18
Joe Harris 13,015 -0.19
Bobby Portis 10,791 -0.20
Hollis Thompson 13,414 -0.21
Wesley Johnson 19,012 -0.22
Thaddeus Young 31,870 -0.22
Mirza Teletovic 11,261 -0.22
Jeff Green 28,433 -0.23
Gordon Hayward 26,388 -0.23
Kevin Love 28,026 -0.24
Stanley Johnson 12,913 -0.25
Omri Casspi 13,641 -0.25
Luis Scola 11,128 -0.26
Eric Gordon 28,024 -0.26
Harrison Barnes 33,280 -0.28
Kyle Korver 28,624 -0.28
Nikola Jokic 19,092 -0.29
Devin Harris 15,894 -0.29
Victor Oladipo 28,135 -0.29
Deron Williams 17,520 -0.31
Tobias Harris 31,349 -0.31
Monta Ellis 22,806 -0.32
Jerryd Bayless 13,461 -0.32
Randy Foye 13,985 -0.32
Jason Terry 13,194 -0.32
Dennis Schroder 23,921 -0.33
Zaza Pachulia 17,765 -0.33
Mike Scott 15,790 -0.34
Richard Jefferson 14,457 -0.35
Trey Burke 17,019 -0.36
Dirk Nowitzki 24,696 -0.37
Joe Ingles 22,212 -0.37
Ian Clark 10,859 -0.39
Chandler Parsons 18,098 -0.40
Isaiah Canaan 10,149 -0.40
Tyreke Evans 18,965 -0.40
Ersan Ilyasova 21,881 -0.41
Jordan Hill 10,087 -0.45
Darren Collison 25,990 -0.46
Jodie Meeks 12,673 -0.47
E’Twaun Moore 19,870 -0.48
Larry Nance Jr. 12,949 -0.49
Shelvin Mack 15,274 -0.49
Shane Larkin 10,117 -0.49
Patty Mills 23,097 -0.51
Joe Johnson 25,036 -0.52
Tim Hardaway Jr. 22,178 -0.52
Ryan Anderson 18,873 -0.52
Lance Stephenson 20,349 -0.52
Norman Powell 10,579 -0.53
Kyle Singler 11,355 -0.53
Will Barton 20,048 -0.54
Avery Bradley 26,335 -0.54
T.J. Warren 15,353 -0.55
Tony Parker 22,184 -0.55
Mario Hezonja 10,871 -0.56
Greg Monroe 21,907 -0.56
Nik Stauskas 13,971 -0.56
Danilo Gallinari 17,302 -0.57
Jon Leuer 10,751 -0.57
Chris Paul 31,344 -0.58
James Ennis III 12,375 -0.59
Carmelo Anthony 24,805 -0.59
Andrew Wiggins 29,659 -0.60
Taurean Prince 11,091 -0.62
Rodney Hood 19,067 -0.62
Ramon Sessions 13,288 -0.62
Rodney Stuckey 11,918 -0.63
Gary Harris 19,416 -0.64
JR Smith 25,891 -0.64
Channing Frye 16,675 -0.65
Corey Brewer 21,400 -0.67
Reggie Jackson 25,636 -0.67
Wayne Ellington 17,863 -0.68
Frank Kaminsky 13,278 -0.69
Arron Afflalo 19,467 -0.71
Julius Randle 18,720 -0.72
Doug McDermott 14,334 -0.74
Bojan Bogdanovic 24,638 -0.74
Elfrid Payton 21,014 -0.78
Buddy Hield 13,734 -0.78
Jamal Murray 15,101 -0.79
Brandon Knight 16,757 -0.80
Devin Booker 19,065 -0.80
Lou Williams 26,587 -0.81
Gorgui Dieng 21,118 -0.82
Kenneth Faried 17,635 -0.82
Derrick Williams 11,367 -0.83
Zach Randolph 21,896 -0.84
DeMar DeRozan 36,103 -0.85
Evan Fournier 25,823 -0.85
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 29,067 -0.88
D’Angelo Russell 16,686 -0.90
Emmanuel Mudiay 13,309 -0.90
Ben McLemore 17,957 -0.94
Norris Cole 11,175 -0.97
Jameer Nelson 15,646 -0.97
Kyrie Irving 31,938 -0.99
Ricky Rubio 26,045 -0.99
Jordan Clarkson 22,324 -1.03
Otto Porter Jr. 24,148 -1.03
Russell Westbrook 35,302 -1.04
Jonathon Simmons 11,869 -1.05
Kelly Oubre Jr. 14,377 -1.08
Brandon Jennings 14,286 -1.16
Dante Cunningham 19,597 -1.17
Anthony Morrow 10,184 -1.18
Marco Belinelli 23,994 -1.19
D.J. Augustin 22,122 -1.22
Jabari Parker 15,480 -1.24
Trevor Ariza 37,477 -1.25
J.J. Barea 16,230 -1.25
Nick Young 14,675 -1.26
Jamal Crawford 25,169 -1.28
Ty Lawson 17,022 -1.31
Zach LaVine 17,990 -1.36
Alec Burks 14,268 -1.49
Jose Calderon 16,539 -1.54
Rajon Rondo 22,941 -1.55

* Defensive Rating Accounting for Yielding Minimal Openness by Nearest Defender

And here’s the data for last season (2018-19), with a minimum of 2,000 possessions defended. The Jazz’s Derrick Favors was the top defender, followed by the Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, while the Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton was the worst defender in the league.

The best DRAYMOND defenders of 2018-19

NBA players by DRAYMOND* defensive ratings, based on opponents’ shooting data in the regular season and playoffs, with a minimum of 2,000 possessions played in 2018-19

Player Possessions played DRAYMOND RATING
Derrick Favors 4,036 +3.74
Mitchell Robinson 2,882 +3.32
Derrick Jones Jr. 2,389 +3.10
Jusuf Nurkic 4,212 +3.03
Maxi Kleber 3,168 +2.94
Hassan Whiteside 3,490 +2.89
Rudy Gobert 5,786 +2.82
Kevon Looney 4,145 +2.72
Serge Ibaka 5,258 +2.63
Richaun Holmes 2,558 +2.54
Brook Lopez 6,040 +2.53
Myles Turner 4,656 +2.43
Ivica Zubac 2,365 +2.43
Joel Embiid 5,419 +2.40
Robin Lopez 3,387 +2.35
Torrey Craig 3,798 +2.33
Jonas Valanciunas 2,345 +2.25
Evan Turner 3,896 +2.23
Bruce Brown 3,135 +2.21
James Johnson 2,419 +2.19
Aron Baynes 2,033 +2.17
JaVale McGee 3,690 +2.17
Nerlens Noel 2,437 +2.15
Giannis Antetokounmpo 6,339 +2.13
Shabazz Napier 2,193 +1.92
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2,511 +1.92
Pat Connaughton 3,493 +1.90
Montrezl Harrell 5,060 +1.82
LaMarcus Aldridge 6,012 +1.82
Draymond Green 6,260 +1.76
Nemanja Bjelica 3,950 +1.76
Derrick White 3,964 +1.74
Josh Hart 3,796 +1.72
Wes Iwundu 2,757 +1.69
Pascal Siakam 7,195 +1.65
Cody Zeller 2,639 +1.64
Jahlil Okafor 2,039 +1.52
Jaren Jackson Jr. 3,076 +1.51
Kyle Anderson 2,606 +1.50
Gary Harris 4,427 +1.42
Jared Dudley 2,749 +1.40
James Harden 6,754 +1.40
Mason Plumlee 4,086 +1.33
Dorian Finney-Smith 4,200 +1.31
Jayson Tatum 5,809 +1.26
Patrick Beverley 5,029 +1.25
Eric Bledsoe 5,900 +1.23
Al Horford 4,834 +1.18
Jaylen Brown 4,698 +1.18
Anthony Davis 4,014 +1.15
Dennis Smith Jr. 3,200 +1.15
Brandon Ingram 3,850 +1.15
Clint Capela 5,313 +1.13
Cory Joseph 4,489 +1.13
Thon Maker 2,220 +1.11
Dwight Powell 3,524 +1.10
Allen Crabbe 2,444 +1.09
Seth Curry 3,615 +1.03
Andre Drummond 5,709 +1.01
Lonzo Ball 3,122 +1.00
Ben Simmons 6,761 +0.97
D.J. Wilson 2,055 +0.96
Kevin Durant 6,753 +0.94
Markieff Morris 2,863 +0.94
Nikola Vucevic 5,515 +0.94
John Collins 4,039 +0.88
Shaquille Harrison 3,032 +0.88
Malcolm Brogdon 4,463 +0.88
Nikola Jokic 6,263 +0.87
Jarrett Allen 4,774 +0.87
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 5,090 +0.87
PJ Tucker 6,632 +0.85
DeAndre Jordan 4,300 +0.83
Juancho Hernangomez 2,863 +0.83
Klay Thompson 7,394 +0.80
Steven Adams 6,187 +0.78
Spencer Dinwiddie 4,395 +0.77
Dewayne Dedmon 3,516 +0.76
Royce O’Neale 3,884 +0.75
Marc Gasol 6,448 +0.74
Gordon Hayward 4,582 +0.74
Bam Adebayo 4,006 +0.73
Norman Powell 3,207 +0.71
CJ McCollum 6,340 +0.70
Darius Miller 3,861 +0.70
Jerami Grant 6,093 +0.70
Rudy Gay 4,216 +0.69
Robert Covington 2,548 +0.69
George Hill 3,632 +0.69
Maurice Harkless 3,833 +0.66
Wendell Carter Jr. 2,311 +0.65
Trey Lyles 2,390 +0.64
Jakob Poeltl 3,061 +0.64
Mike Muscala 2,889 +0.64
Jimmy Butler 5,562 +0.62
T.J. McConnell 3,358 +0.62
Nicolas Batum 4,923 +0.62
Kemba Walker 5,962 +0.62
Deandre Ayton 4,645 +0.62
Jonathan Isaac 4,456 +0.61
Paul Millsap 4,866 +0.59
Kyle Lowry 6,510 +0.57
Trey Burke 2,387 +0.57
Josh Jackson 4,267 +0.56
Karl-Anthony Towns 5,392 +0.53
Andre Iguodala 4,742 +0.52
Zach Collins 3,419 +0.49
Emmanuel Mudiay 3,418 +0.48
Eric Gordon 5,347 +0.45
Delon Wright 3,611 +0.43
Avery Bradley 4,044 +0.42
Damian Lillard 7,338 +0.40
Alex Len 3,489 +0.40
LeBron James 4,228 +0.40
Danuel House Jr. 2,369 +0.40
Nikola Mirotic 3,444 +0.39
Ish Smith 2,763 +0.39
Mike Conley 4,816 +0.38
Tyreke Evans 3,134 +0.35
Dwyane Wade 4,006 +0.34
Jae Crowder 4,940 +0.34
Daniel Theis 2,061 +0.34
D’Angelo Russell 5,600 +0.33
Justin Holiday 5,432 +0.31
Terry Rozier 4,133 +0.30
Rodions Kurucs 3,041 +0.28
Derrick Rose 3,020 +0.27
Kawhi Leonard 6,178 +0.25
Langston Galloway 3,888 +0.24
Jrue Holiday 5,233 +0.24
Larry Nance Jr. 3,684 +0.23
Elfrid Payton 2,778 +0.23
Ed Davis 3,157 +0.23
Domantas Sabonis 4,021 +0.22
Thomas Bryant 3,241 +0.17
Josh Richardson 5,296 +0.16
Andrew Wiggins 5,400 +0.14
Davis Bertans 3,653 +0.12
Rodney Hood 4,642 +0.12
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 2,847 +0.11
Goran Dragic 2,134 +0.11
Tony Snell 2,947 +0.11
Austin Rivers 4,753 +0.11
Dario Saric 4,371 +0.11
Paul George 6,639 +0.09
Kenrich Williams 2,390 +0.09
Noah Vonleh 3,662 +0.08
Danny Green 6,093 +0.08
Fred VanVleet 4,882 +0.08
Shaun Livingston 2,710 +0.08
Rodney McGruder 3,272 +0.03
Joe Harris 5,271 +0.02
Wayne Ellington 2,965 +0.02
Enes Kanter 4,397 +0.01
Marcus Smart 4,760 -0.01
Cheick Diallo 2,016 -0.02
Landry Shamet 4,303 -0.05
OG Anunoby 2,920 -0.05
Aaron Gordon 5,817 -0.06
Jeff Teague 2,695 -0.07
Thaddeus Young 5,391 -0.08
Justin Jackson 3,505 -0.16
Tyler Johnson 3,241 -0.17
De’Aaron Fox 5,626 -0.17
Khris Middleton 6,334 -0.19
Ersan Ilyasova 3,315 -0.20
Kelly Olynyk 3,795 -0.21
Buddy Hield 5,744 -0.22
Alfonzo McKinnie 2,709 -0.22
Tobias Harris 6,998 -0.24
Ryan Arcidiacono 4,105 -0.25
Kyle Kuzma 5,063 -0.25
Jake Layman 2,861 -0.25
Tristan Thompson 2,445 -0.25
Sterling Brown 2,651 -0.29
Marvin Bagley III 3,418 -0.30
Garrett Temple 4,386 -0.31
Bojan Bogdanovic 5,659 -0.32
David Nwaba 2,034 -0.32
Mike Scott 3,520 -0.32
Marcus Morris 5,009 -0.33
Terrance Ferguson 4,504 -0.33
Wilson Chandler 2,670 -0.33
Willie Cauley-Stein 4,851 -0.37
Dion Waiters 2,334 -0.38
Jordan Clarkson 4,606 -0.40
Jabari Parker 3,713 -0.40
Anthony Tolliver 2,328 -0.40
Justise Winslow 4,093 -0.41
Julius Randle 4,889 -0.41
De’Anthony Melton 2,112 -0.41
Stephen Curry 6,852 -0.42
Dennis Schroder 5,385 -0.42
Kris Dunn 2,898 -0.42
Harrison Barnes 5,415 -0.42
Ante Zizic 2,259 -0.44
JJ Redick 6,068 -0.44
Doug McDermott 2,906 -0.45
Taj Gibson 3,607 -0.47
Bogdan Bogdanovic 4,205 -0.48
Jamal Murray 6,100 -0.53
DeMarre Carroll 3,942 -0.54
Stanley Johnson 2,607 -0.54
Marco Belinelli 4,179 -0.55
Jonas Jerebko 2,863 -0.56
Kelly Oubre Jr. 4,215 -0.56
Evan Fournier 5,642 -0.56
Gorgui Dieng 2,247 -0.59
Blake Griffin 5,538 -0.61
Monte Morris 4,561 -0.62
Danilo Gallinari 4,818 -0.65
JaMychal Green 3,244 -0.66
Jeff Green 4,501 -0.67
Jonathon Simmons 2,408 -0.79
Bradley Beal 6,505 -0.80
Luka Doncic 4,912 -0.81
Lauri Markkanen 3,496 -0.81
Iman Shumpert 3,455 -0.83
Zach LaVine 4,547 -0.83
Russell Westbrook 6,193 -0.84
Tony Parker 2,145 -0.85
Devin Harris 2,267 -0.85
Elie Okobo 2,040 -0.85
Reggie Bullock 3,974 -0.86
Chris Paul 4,743 -0.89
Allonzo Trier 3,104 -0.90
John Wall 2,404 -0.91
Yogi Ferrell 2,330 -0.92
Al-Farouq Aminu 5,689 -0.92
Devin Booker 4,792 -0.93
Jeremy Lamb 4,710 -0.93
Jalen Brunson 3,346 -0.94
DeMar DeRozan 6,023 -0.96
Patty Mills 4,431 -0.96
Caris LeVert 2,593 -0.97
Mikal Bridges 5,176 -0.98
Jerian Grant 2,016 -0.99
DeAndre’ Bembry 4,311 -1.00
Will Barton 3,155 -1.00
Vince Carter 2,998 -1.00
Wesley Matthews 4,656 -1.01
Kyrie Irving 5,434 -1.01
Alec Burks 2,874 -1.06
Tomas Satoransky 4,634 -1.07
Kent Bazemore 3,658 -1.07
Donovan Mitchell 5,923 -1.08
Cedi Osman 5,021 -1.10
Otto Porter Jr. 3,634 -1.14
Terrence Ross 4,804 -1.14
Taurean Prince 3,462 -1.14
Tim Hardaway Jr. 4,345 -1.16
Joe Ingles 5,832 -1.17
Lance Stephenson 2,511 -1.20
Luke Kennard 3,218 -1.21
Mario Hezonja 2,549 -1.22
Marvin Williams 4,467 -1.22
Miles Bridges 3,625 -1.35
Damyean Dotson 4,241 -1.36
Kevin Knox 4,596 -1.42
Gerald Green 3,324 -1.43
E’Twaun Moore 3,187 -1.44
Darren Collison 4,693 -1.44
Ricky Rubio 4,414 -1.44
Josh Okogie 3,830 -1.45
Wayne Selden 3,048 -1.49
Bobby Portis 2,773 -1.50
Lou Williams 4,812 -1.67
Shelvin Mack 2,577 -1.69
D.J. Augustin 4,990 -1.77
Rajon Rondo 2,992 -1.79
Tyus Jones 3,348 -1.79
Reggie Jackson 4,971 -1.82
Bryn Forbes 5,200 -1.82
Trae Young 5,570 -1.83
Victor Oladipo 2,362 -1.84
Malik Beasley 4,532 -1.88
Ian Clark 2,165 -1.95
Jeremy Lin 3,270 -1.96
Malik Monk 2,703 -1.98
Frank Jackson 2,628 -2.10
Quinn Cook 2,649 -2.11
Nik Stauskas 2,164 -2.23
T.J. Warren 2,895 -2.27
Kyle Korver 2,966 -2.29
Meyers Leonard 2,212 -2.31
Jamal Crawford 2,647 -2.40
Kevin Huerter 4,544 -2.46
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 4,447 -2.49
James Ennis III 3,105 -2.68
Tim Frazier 2,554 -3.01
Trevor Ariza 4,997 -3.25
Collin Sexton 5,374 -3.59

* Defensive Rating Accounting for Yielding Minimal Openness by Nearest Defender

You can download a complete set of DRAYMOND data dating back to 2013-14 at this link.

But does DRAYMOND measure something that’s actually meaningful? To test this — and I have to apologize because there are a lot of similarly named statistics here with confusing acronyms — we regressed DRAYMOND and defensive BPM5 against five-year defensive Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM). What the hell does that mean? BPM is based on conventional box score statistics — most importantly rebounds, blocks and steals for the purposes of measuring defense. DRAYMOND is based on opponents’ shooting. RAPM, meanwhile, measures how much better or worse a team plays when a player is on or off the floor. In the long run, RAPM is basically6 the “right” way to measure player value, since it can account for all the direct and indirect contributions a player makes that may or may not have a corresponding statistic attached to them. In the short run and even the medium run, however (remember all that misleading data people cited about how the Warriors were so good without Kevin Durant?), RAPM can be extremely noisy. So RAPM is great if you’re looking back over a five-year sample, as we’re doing here, but on-court/off-court statistics need to be treated with extreme caution over small samples.

In any event, what we found is that BPM and DRAYMOND basically do equally well in predicting long-term RAPM. What that means is that the opponents’ shooting data is basically as powerful as all box score defensive statistics combined in predicting how much value a player’s defense truly has over the long run.

We also found, however, that BPM and DRAYMOND are largely not redundant with one another. Blocks, steals and rebounds, which BPM captures, are certainly valuable things, and DRAYMOND does not purport to measure those. But they are also not especially good proxies for shooting defense. There are some players such as Green and Gobert who are even better defenders than you’d gather from their box score stats, even though those stats are pretty good. But there are others like Trevor Ariza, who gets lots of steals but has been rated poorly by DRAYMOND in recent seasons. That doesn’t mean that Ariza is a poor defender, just that you need to take the good (steals) with the bad (allows opponents to convert field goals at a high rate) when evaluating him.

Let’s conclude with a list of players who are most affected, positively or negatively, by the incorporation of DRAYMOND. The table below compares our old CARMELO defensive ratings, which were based on a mix of two-thirds RPM and one-third BPM, to our new version, which still uses these statistics but also uses DRAYMOND.7 Here are the old and new defensive ratings for everyone with at least 10,000 possessions played since 2013-14.

Which players’ defense had been underrated or overrated?

Change in CARMELO defensive ratings since 2013-14 after incorporating DRAYMOND*, for players with a minimum of 10,000 possessions

CARMELO DEFENSIVE RATING
Player Old (based on RPM and BPM) New (incorporating DRAYMOND) Net Change
Kristaps Porzingis +1.50 +2.65 +1.15
Joel Embiid +3.16 +4.17 +1.01
Nemanja Bjelica +0.86 +1.68 +0.82
Josh Smith +1.60 +2.39 +0.80
Brook Lopez +1.22 +2.00 +0.78
Timofey Mozgov +1.38 +2.11 +0.72
Anthony Davis +2.85 +3.56 +0.71
Kemba Walker -0.80 -0.10 +0.70
Aron Baynes +1.82 +2.49 +0.66
Draymond Green +4.43 +5.09 +0.66
Isaiah Thomas -2.62 -1.99 +0.63
Luc Mbah a Moute +1.59 +2.21 +0.62
Raymond Felton -0.74 -0.13 +0.61
Montrezl Harrell -0.05 +0.56 +0.61
Derrick Favors +2.03 +2.63 +0.61
Wilson Chandler -0.75 -0.15 +0.60
Andre Roberson +2.47 +3.07 +0.60
Jaylen Brown +0.11 +0.71 +0.60
Dewayne Dedmon +2.04 +2.62 +0.59
Klay Thompson -0.91 -0.34 +0.57
Tyler Zeller +0.62 +1.19 +0.57
Matthew Dellavedova -1.16 -0.60 +0.56
Jerami Grant +0.27 +0.82 +0.55
Jrue Holiday +0.72 +1.25 +0.54
Langston Galloway -0.81 -0.30 +0.51
Mirza Teletovic -1.67 -1.20 +0.47
Kevin Durant +0.57 +1.03 +0.46
Jeremy Lin -0.41 +0.04 +0.45
Robin Lopez +1.24 +1.68 +0.44
Mike Conley -0.38 +0.06 +0.44
LaMarcus Aldridge +1.19 +1.62 +0.43
Rudy Gobert +4.66 +5.09 +0.43
Derrick Rose -2.11 -1.68 +0.43
Kosta Koufos +1.57 +1.99 +0.42
JJ Redick -1.66 -1.25 +0.41
Quincy Acy -0.21 +0.19 +0.39
Serge Ibaka +1.53 +1.92 +0.39
Gerald Green -1.82 -1.44 +0.38
Myles Turner +2.35 +2.72 +0.37
Roy Hibbert +2.34 +2.71 +0.36
Clint Capela +2.18 +2.54 +0.36
Trey Burke -2.72 -2.36 +0.36
Spencer Hawes +0.77 +1.12 +0.36
Eric Gordon -1.76 -1.41 +0.35
Isaiah Canaan -2.13 -1.79 +0.34
Jonas Valanciunas +0.57 +0.91 +0.34
Hassan Whiteside +2.74 +3.08 +0.34
Alex Len +1.05 +1.38 +0.33
Josh Richardson +0.43 +0.75 +0.32
Goran Dragic -0.92 -0.61 +0.32
James Harden -0.33 -0.02 +0.31
Anthony Tolliver -0.28 +0.02 +0.31
Hollis Thompson -2.08 -1.77 +0.31
Bradley Beal -0.95 -0.64 +0.30
Trey Lyles -0.46 -0.16 +0.30
Miles Plumlee +0.85 +1.15 +0.30
CJ McCollum -1.18 -0.89 +0.29
Dion Waiters -1.16 -0.87 +0.29
James Johnson +1.49 +1.78 +0.29
Mike Dunleavy +0.89 +1.17 +0.29
Tim Duncan +4.86 +5.14 +0.28
Ryan Anderson -1.85 -1.57 +0.28
Mario Chalmers +0.25 +0.53 +0.28
Lance Thomas -1.01 -0.75 +0.26
Jarrett Jack -1.23 -0.98 +0.25
Paul Pierce +0.83 +1.08 +0.25
Aaron Gordon +0.27 +0.52 +0.25
Devin Booker -2.76 -2.51 +0.25
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist +1.66 +1.91 +0.25
Andrew Wiggins -2.06 -1.82 +0.24
Marreese Speights -0.54 -0.31 +0.23
Spencer Dinwiddie -1.30 -1.07 +0.23
CJ Miles -0.86 -0.63 +0.23
Taj Gibson +1.23 +1.45 +0.22
Ish Smith -0.57 -0.35 +0.22
Al Horford +2.23 +2.45 +0.22
Reggie Bullock -0.91 -0.69 +0.22
Dwight Powell +1.04 +1.26 +0.22
Jeff Teague -0.75 -0.53 +0.22
Austin Rivers -1.70 -1.49 +0.21
Cory Joseph -0.15 +0.06 +0.21
Terrence Ross -1.48 -1.27 +0.20
Steven Adams +1.61 +1.81 +0.19
Jared Dudley +0.88 +1.07 +0.19
Dennis Schroder -2.10 -1.91 +0.19
Justin Holiday -0.09 +0.09 +0.18
Damian Lillard -1.27 -1.08 +0.18
Jeff Green -0.99 -0.81 +0.18
Lou Williams -2.83 -2.64 +0.18
Jerian Grant -0.75 -0.57 +0.18
Patrick Patterson +0.14 +0.31 +0.18
Deron Williams -0.92 -0.74 +0.17
Vince Carter +0.26 +0.44 +0.17
John Wall +0.10 +0.27 +0.17
Eric Bledsoe +0.81 +0.98 +0.17
Marcin Gortat +2.26 +2.42 +0.16
Tim Hardaway Jr. -2.23 -2.07 +0.16
Allen Crabbe -1.50 -1.34 +0.16
Gerald Henderson -0.76 -0.60 +0.15
George Hill +0.38 +0.53 +0.15
Jason Smith -0.44 -0.30 +0.15
Jodie Meeks -1.90 -1.75 +0.15
Giannis Antetokounmpo +1.80 +1.94 +0.14
Nikola Mirotic +0.79 +0.93 +0.14
Jeremy Lamb -0.32 -0.18 +0.13
Solomon Hill +0.29 +0.42 +0.13
Devin Harris -0.80 -0.67 +0.13
Jason Terry -0.54 -0.42 +0.12
Brandon Knight -2.13 -2.01 +0.12
Danny Green +2.20 +2.32 +0.12
Chris Bosh +1.14 +1.25 +0.12
John Henson +1.31 +1.42 +0.12
Rudy Gay +0.31 +0.42 +0.11
Jordan Clarkson -2.79 -2.68 +0.11
Wesley Matthews -0.46 -0.35 +0.11
DeMarcus Cousins +2.58 +2.68 +0.10
Trevor Booker +0.47 +0.57 +0.10
Evan Turner -0.14 -0.04 +0.10
Domantas Sabonis +0.93 +1.03 +0.09
Bojan Bogdanovic -2.29 -2.20 +0.09
Aaron Brooks -2.47 -2.38 +0.09
Markieff Morris +0.76 +0.85 +0.09
Kyle Kuzma -1.15 -1.07 +0.08
Bobby Portis -1.45 -1.37 +0.08
Donovan Mitchell +0.26 +0.34 +0.08
Kyle O’Quinn +2.12 +2.20 +0.08
JaMychal Green -0.39 -0.32 +0.07
Karl-Anthony Towns +0.31 +0.38 +0.07
Stephen Curry +0.33 +0.39 +0.06
Darren Collison -1.34 -1.28 +0.06
Marcus Morris -0.48 -0.42 +0.06
Khris Middleton -0.17 -0.11 +0.06
Brandon Ingram -1.01 -0.95 +0.06
Pau Gasol +2.16 +2.21 +0.05
Jared Sullinger +1.24 +1.29 +0.05
DeMarre Carroll +0.58 +0.63 +0.05
Danilo Gallinari -0.44 -0.40 +0.05
Nick Young -2.61 -2.56 +0.05
Brandon Bass -0.13 -0.08 +0.04
Ramon Sessions -1.74 -1.70 +0.03
Tony Allen +2.82 +2.86 +0.03
Enes Kanter -1.59 -1.55 +0.03
Shaun Livingston +0.18 +0.21 +0.03
Paul George +1.30 +1.32 +0.03
Mike Scott -1.18 -1.15 +0.03
Buddy Hield -1.61 -1.59 +0.02
Evan Fournier -1.48 -1.45 +0.02
Wayne Ellington -1.29 -1.27 +0.02
Jerryd Bayless -1.88 -1.86 +0.02
Tristan Thompson +0.17 +0.19 +0.02
Maurice Harkless +0.41 +0.42 +0.02
Randy Foye -1.05 -1.04 +0.02
Jonas Jerebko +0.23 +0.24 +0.02
Joe Harris -1.57 -1.56 +0.01
Nik Stauskas -2.08 -2.07 +0.01
Jae Crowder +0.38 +0.39 +0.01
Malcolm Brogdon -0.63 -0.62 +0.00
Dario Saric -0.80 -0.79 +0.00
Dirk Nowitzki +0.06 +0.05 +0.00
Shane Larkin -1.12 -1.12 -0.01
Kevin Love +1.16 +1.15 -0.01
T.J. Warren -1.66 -1.67 -0.01
Luol Deng +0.57 +0.56 -0.01
Richard Jefferson -0.76 -0.77 -0.01
J.J. Barea -2.39 -2.41 -0.01
Kyle Lowry +0.89 +0.88 -0.01
Kyle Korver +0.20 +0.19 -0.02
Zach LaVine -2.74 -2.76 -0.02
Kawhi Leonard +2.28 +2.25 -0.03
Courtney Lee -0.71 -0.75 -0.03
Noah Vonleh +0.95 +0.91 -0.04
Jimmy Butler +1.32 +1.28 -0.04
Omri Casspi -0.11 -0.15 -0.05
Dwyane Wade -0.55 -0.60 -0.05
Bismack Biyombo +1.46 +1.40 -0.06
Shelvin Mack -1.28 -1.34 -0.06
Tony Parker -1.44 -1.50 -0.06
Cody Zeller +2.11 +2.05 -0.06
Jusuf Nurkic +3.25 +3.18 -0.06
Jamal Murray -1.66 -1.72 -0.07
Garrett Temple +0.35 +0.28 -0.07
Marvin Williams +0.59 +0.52 -0.07
Patty Mills -1.01 -1.08 -0.07
Tyler Johnson -0.24 -0.31 -0.07
Justise Winslow +1.41 +1.34 -0.07
Reggie Jackson -1.15 -1.23 -0.07
Tobias Harris -0.40 -0.47 -0.07
David West +2.61 +2.53 -0.08
Amir Johnson +2.46 +2.38 -0.08
Rodney Hood -1.25 -1.34 -0.09
Brandon Jennings -2.44 -2.53 -0.09
Thabo Sefolosha +2.21 +2.12 -0.09
Pascal Siakam +1.64 +1.55 -0.09
Patrick Beverley +0.93 +0.83 -0.09
Gary Harris -0.94 -1.04 -0.09
Jameer Nelson -1.84 -1.93 -0.10
Manu Ginobili +0.71 +0.61 -0.10
Victor Oladipo +0.85 +0.75 -0.10
Jayson Tatum +1.44 +1.34 -0.10
David Lee +1.29 +1.19 -0.10
Tyreke Evans -0.64 -0.74 -0.10
Kent Bazemore +0.31 +0.21 -0.11
Michael Carter-Williams +0.23 +0.12 -0.11
Joe Johnson -0.91 -1.02 -0.11
Ian Clark -1.99 -2.10 -0.11
Tony Snell -0.85 -0.97 -0.11
Doug McDermott -2.42 -2.53 -0.11
Carmelo Anthony -1.31 -1.43 -0.11
Nikola Vucevic +1.83 +1.71 -0.12
Arron Afflalo -2.24 -2.36 -0.12
Meyers Leonard -0.31 -0.43 -0.12
D.J. Augustin -2.33 -2.45 -0.12
Kyle Singler -0.50 -0.64 -0.14
Marc Gasol +2.49 +2.36 -0.14
Taurean Prince -0.69 -0.83 -0.14
Gordon Hayward -0.11 -0.25 -0.15
Rodney Stuckey -1.33 -1.47 -0.15
T.J. McConnell -0.40 -0.55 -0.15
LeBron James +1.74 +1.58 -0.15
Channing Frye +0.26 +0.10 -0.16
Mario Hezonja -1.07 -1.23 -0.16
Emmanuel Mudiay -2.25 -2.41 -0.17
Will Barton -0.98 -1.15 -0.17
Blake Griffin +0.97 +0.80 -0.17
Ersan Ilyasova -0.23 -0.40 -0.17
Thaddeus Young +1.19 +1.01 -0.18
Mike Muscala +0.58 +0.40 -0.18
Avery Bradley -0.62 -0.80 -0.18
Kelly Olynyk +0.90 +0.71 -0.18
Monta Ellis -0.39 -0.58 -0.19
Ben McLemore -1.15 -1.34 -0.19
Anthony Morrow -1.67 -1.86 -0.19
D’Angelo Russell -1.66 -1.86 -0.20
Omer Asik +1.87 +1.67 -0.20
Ben Simmons +1.70 +1.49 -0.21
Harrison Barnes -0.33 -0.54 -0.21
Norris Cole -1.61 -1.83 -0.21
JR Smith -0.99 -1.21 -0.22
Matt Barnes +0.57 +0.34 -0.23
Ian Mahinmi +3.03 +2.80 -0.23
DeAndre Jordan +3.11 +2.87 -0.24
Tyson Chandler +2.47 +2.23 -0.24
Jon Leuer +0.39 +0.15 -0.24
Derrick Williams -2.07 -2.32 -0.25
Andrew Bogut +5.17 +4.92 -0.25
Ed Davis +1.71 +1.46 -0.25
PJ Tucker +1.23 +0.98 -0.25
Frank Kaminsky -0.74 -1.00 -0.25
Terry Rozier +0.09 -0.17 -0.26
Robert Covington +2.35 +2.08 -0.26
Jordan Hill -0.25 -0.52 -0.27
E’Twaun Moore -1.25 -1.53 -0.28
Nene +2.73 +2.44 -0.29
Jamal Crawford -3.25 -3.54 -0.29
Chandler Parsons -0.00 -0.30 -0.30
Elfrid Payton -0.35 -0.65 -0.30
Joakim Noah +3.28 +2.97 -0.30
Marco Belinelli -2.47 -2.78 -0.31
Corey Brewer -0.16 -0.46 -0.31
Stanley Johnson +0.55 +0.25 -0.31
Paul Millsap +2.64 +2.32 -0.32
Iman Shumpert +0.80 +0.48 -0.32
Willie Cauley-Stein +1.24 +0.92 -0.32
Julius Randle -0.62 -0.94 -0.33
James Ennis III -0.28 -0.62 -0.34
Dwight Howard +2.46 +2.12 -0.34
Joe Ingles +0.83 +0.48 -0.35
Marcus Smart +1.11 +0.76 -0.35
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson +1.15 +0.80 -0.35
Kelly Oubre Jr. -0.95 -1.30 -0.35
Ty Lawson -1.62 -1.98 -0.36
Terrence Jones -0.56 -0.93 -0.37
Nicolas Batum +0.15 -0.22 -0.37
Boris Diaw +0.73 +0.35 -0.37
Kyrie Irving -1.42 -1.79 -0.37
DeMar DeRozan -1.15 -1.55 -0.39
Norman Powell -0.51 -0.92 -0.41
Wesley Johnson +0.67 +0.26 -0.41
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope -0.38 -0.80 -0.42
Ricky Rubio +1.32 +0.89 -0.42
Al-Farouq Aminu +1.91 +1.49 -0.43
Chris Paul +1.46 +1.03 -0.43
Andre Drummond +1.84 +1.40 -0.44
Luis Scola +0.30 -0.15 -0.45
Al Jefferson +0.90 +0.45 -0.46
Zach Randolph +0.12 -0.34 -0.46
Larry Nance Jr. +2.01 +1.54 -0.46
Nerlens Noel +3.36 +2.89 -0.47
Mason Plumlee +1.40 +0.93 -0.47
Jose Calderon -1.67 -2.14 -0.48
Greg Monroe +0.81 +0.32 -0.50
Kenneth Faried -0.30 -0.82 -0.52
Jabari Parker -1.46 -1.99 -0.53
Nikola Jokic +2.62 +2.08 -0.53
Jonathon Simmons -0.92 -1.47 -0.55
Alec Burks -1.50 -2.08 -0.58
Lance Stephenson -0.53 -1.13 -0.59
Andre Iguodala +1.89 +1.27 -0.61
Gorgui Dieng +1.66 +1.03 -0.62
Otto Porter Jr. +0.78 +0.15 -0.63
Zaza Pachulia +2.47 +1.74 -0.72
Trevor Ariza +0.78 +0.03 -0.75
Kyle Anderson +2.91 +2.14 -0.77
Dante Cunningham -0.05 -0.85 -0.80
Rajon Rondo -0.21 -1.17 -0.95
Russell Westbrook +1.16 +0.02 -1.14

* Defensive Rating Accounting for Yielding Minimal Openness by Nearest Defender

These are some pretty interesting lists. Porzingis, Embiid, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are among the players whose defense had been most underrated by BPM and RPM. There’s also new Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker and, in something of a surprise, former Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, who still rates as a pretty terrible defender, just not quite as terrible as before when you incorporate his DRAYMOND data. The most overrated defenders include players such as Westbrook, Rondo, Ariza, Otto Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic.

Cases such as Thompson and Westbrook are interesting because the conventional wisdom has been way off from where the advanced metrics have them. RPM and BPM say that Westbrook is the much better defensive player, when a lot of NBA general managers might prefer Thompson or at least would regard it as close. But Thompson is a good defender according to DRAYMOND, whereas Westbrook is a wretched one, which closes at least some of the gap. Undoubtedly, there are even better ways to use opponents’ shooting data than what we’ve established with DRAYMOND, but the data ought to be a central part of the conversation about player defense going forward.



Check out our NBA player ratings.

Footnotes

  1. Between the playoffs and regular season combined.

  2. A more advanced version of DRAYMOND might identify which player was supposed to have defended a shot (e.g., Westbrook was originally assigned to Damian Lillard) and compare it against which player was actually the nearest defender (e.g., Stephen Adams picked up the shot after Lillard blew by Westbrook). But that requires more detailed data than is currently available publicly, so we’re sticking with the simpler version for the time being.

  3. By regressing against five-year Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM); see the discussion later in this article for more detail.

  4. The adjustment works by multiplying the number of shots faced by 17 then dividing it by the number of shots faced on average at the position. For instance, for a power forward, the number of shots defended is multiplied by 17/19ths.

  5. Specifically, the raw version of BPM, without the adjustment for team performance.

  6. I have a couple of technical objections to RAPM, based on the question of whether a player should essentially be punished for his teammates performing well while he’s off the floor, but I’ll spare you those for now.

  7. As a technical aside, RPM is essentially a combination of BPM and one-year RAPM. That is, it leans fairly heavily on box score statistics because RAPM is quite noisy over the short run. Therefore, DRAYMOND is picking up information that isn’t well-measured by either RPM or BPM.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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