By just a few votes, Serge Ibaka finished runner-up to Tyson Chandler for Defensive Player of the Year.
Chandler tallied 311 points to Ibaka’s 294. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received. Chandler had 45 first, 25 second and 11 third. Ibaka had 41 first, 24 second and 17 third.
Chandler completely reinvented the Knicks defensively turning them into a top five defensive team. Last season New York finished 22nd in defensive efficiency. This season, fifth.
The Knicks ranked among the top half of the league in several key defensive categories, including opponent turnovers per game (17.0, 2nd), opponent field goal percentage (.442, 10th), and opponent scoring (94.7 ppg, 11th). Opposing teams averaged 22.5 more points and shot .520 from the field when Chandler was not in the lineup. Opponents shot .438 with Chandler in the lineup. In addition, Chandler grabbed 22.1 percent of his team’s defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.
Ibaka was an incredible shot-blocker, registered 3.7 a game while having three games of 10 or more, the first player to do that since Shawn Bradley in the 1996-97 season. Ibaka actually finished just 19 blocks shy of the New Jersey Nets and had more than a hundred more than DeAndre Jordan, who finished second.
But Chandler was more of an overall defensive force. Ibaka played only 27.2 minutes a game as Thunder coach Scott Brooks often would favor Nick Collison or Kevin Durant at the power forward position late in games. Ibaka is only 22 and a growing defensive player. His time will obviously come. He’s an incredible defensive force, but not a complete defensive player.
I do think people undervalue blocked shots a bit though. I think it’s a worthy stat because for one, you’re obviously preventing a potential basket, but two, you become something opposing players think about as they’re attacking the rim. Ibaka bailed the Thunder’s defense out repeatedly by swatting shots in the paint. The Thunder weren’t a great defensive team, but Ibaka certainly often made them appear like one. Because of his presence inside, OKC was able to deny the ball more, apply more ball pressure and try and contest shooters.
KD said a couple weeks ago that he would pick Ibaka though.
“I think he is,” Durant said. “If you look at the guys that block shots, Dwight Howard, he got Defensive Player of the Year for blocking shots three years in a row. But some of that stuff is sometimes reputation and name. It’s sad to say those awards and stuff is like that but hopefully, I think he deserves it. How many shots he’s blocked and double-digit shot blocks he had in the season and how he changes every shot for us. If people really watch our games they’ll really know how much of a defensive force he is. But like I said that stuff goes down to popular names or stuff like that. But I hope he’s in the top two voted.”
That’s exactly where he was. Top two, which is quite the honor in of itself. Beating out some of the names Ibaka did, there’s a lot of pride to be taken in that.
Dwight Howard finished third with 186 points, LeBron James fourth with 112 points and Kevin Garnett fifth with 44 points. As there usually is, there were a few curious votes as Russell Westbrook somehow picked up a third place vote, Mike Conley got two third place votes, Greg Monroe one third place vote and Joakim Noah two second place votes.