Category Archives: defense

NBA History: Best ‘Career’ Sixth Man

Miami Heat center Chris Andersen has never started more than three games in an NBA season.  Birdman has played in 69 playoff games coming off the bench in every one.  In his entire career Anderson has started ten games.   For a guy who has earned nearly $30 million dollars playing a dozen seasons in the NBA this is quite unique.

His career per 36 minute numbers are 11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks with a 58% true shooting.  Throw in the ring he won with Miami last season and we are looking at a really good career.  Further, is it possible that Chris Andersen is the best sixth man in NBA history?

Thanks to we can attempt to answer this question.  Using ‘win shares’ as an estimate of career value let’s start with players who have accumulated over 30 career win shares.  This is a comprehensive list of nearly every substantial player in league history.  There are 626 players (and counting) at this level of production.

Unfortunately, we don’t have solid ‘games started’ data before 1980.  Of course most great players are starters so there are probably only a few key sixth men who were really good before the early ’80s.  To be accurate we will just include players who were primarily coming off the bench after 1980 in this study.

A few notable points:

  • Bobby Jones won the first sixth man of the year award in 1983 while playing for the NBA champion Philadelphia 76’ers.
  • Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale took home the award in each of the next two seasons.
  • Only Detlef Schrempf and Ricky Pierce would ever win sixth man of the year multiple times after McHale.
  • McHale, Schrempf and Pierce would start over 250 games in their NBA career’s.

Back to the study.  Using 250 career games started as a cut-off we find forty-five players with 30+ win shares and less than 250 starts.  This criteria yields us with Michael Cooper, Vinnie Johnson and Kyle Korver as the best ‘career’ sixth-men.

Korver is going to finish with well over 250 starts so we should exclude him.  Cooper and Johnson are both great candidates for best of all-time.  The Microwave won two titles with the Detroit Pistons while not starting any games in their playoff runs.  He averaged 14 points/game off the bench in the ’89 playoffs for the Pistons.

Mike won at least three titles with the Lakers while not starting a game.  In the ’87 playoffs he averaged 13 points, 5 assists in 29 minutes while shooting 49% from three and making almost two three’s per game.  Plus Cooper played great defense against Larry Bird and Danny Ainge in the Lakers win in the NBA Finals.  We are probably looking at the greatest single year performance for a sixth man right here.

On the note of career value, the only players who started fewer games than Michael Cooper but still compiled over 30 win shares are:

Looking at the career value (including the playoffs) of these six players it’s hard to choose against Kerr.  Five championship rings and the career record for three-point percentage he’s got my vote.

Chris Andersen is probably the best minute-for-minute ‘career’ sixth man in NBA history.  He just won’t have the longevity of Kerr.

So it depends on how you want to define your terms but the finalists for greatest career sixth man are Michael Cooper, Steve Kerr and Chris Andersen.


NBA Defensive Player of the Year

Yesterday we highlighted the 2014 All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team.  Today we present the All-NBA Defensive 1st Team:

F – Andre Iguodala, GS

F – Tim Duncan, SA

C – Andrew Bogut, GS

G – Jimmy Butler, Chi

G – Danny Green, SA

The 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is the Golden State Warriors Andre Iguodala.  Check this out…


In ‘Defense’ of Mark Jackson

The Warriors are coming off their first fifty win season since Chris Webber‘s rookie year twenty years ago.


Oakland was the fourth best team in the NBA this year by ‘simple rating system’.

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and others forced a seventh game in a playoff series against the second best team in the NBA despite not having their best defensive player Andrew Bogut.

The 2014 Warriors were one of the handful best defensive units in the league even with Bogut and Andre Iguodala missing 34 total games in the regular season.

Mark Jackson is the first Warriors coach to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since Don Nelson in 1992.

You can even argue that this Warriors season was the second best by the franchise since they moved to Oakland in 1966…when Bill Sharman was head coach…and Nate Thurmond was an all-star.

I don’t know if Mark Jackson is a good coach or poor coach or great coach.  Coaching is extremely hard to evaluate objectively from afar.

But I would have a really hard time firing a guy with the above resume.

The Nene Factor Shines Against the Bulls

Despite winning four more regular season games than the Washington Wizards no one should be surprised if the Bulls are knocked out in round one.

Chicago is the worst offensive team in the NBA playoffs.  They were the worst shooting team in the entire league this season.  D.J. Augustin is their number one scoring option at this point.

On Washington’s side is Nene Hilario.  After missing 6 weeks due to injury he played great in their last four games of the year (14 points/game, 66% FG).  The Wizards lineup with Nene at the four was a great defensive unit (98 points allowed/100 possessions).

Don’t expect big scoring numbers from the Wizards throughout the playoffs but it will be hard to score on them with a healthy Nene and Marcin Gortat protecting the basket.

Five Reasons Pacers Fans Shouldn’t Worry

Despite the Indiana Pacers going just 3-8 over the past three weeks I’m not writing them off.  Here are five reasons Pacers fans shouldn’t worry:

  1. Frank Vogel’s team is the best defensive squad in the NBA.  If defense wins championships then Indiana has a good shot at the title.
  2. Depth.  Indiana gets all-star caliber play from both guard spots (Lance Stephenson, George Hill) and both forward’s (Paul George, David West).
  3. Upside.  Their worst starter is Roy Hibbert who is a 27 year old, two time all-star and the best rim protector in the NBA.
  4. Overall body of work.  The Pacers have won more games this year than the Rockets, Trail Blazers and Warriors.
  5. Experience.  Vogel and these same five starters were 11-8 in last years playoffs losing a game seven to the champion Miami Heat.

More Blocks Than Fouls

We have written before that nearly all post defenders commit more fouls than shots they block.   Milwaukee Bucks second year man John Henson went the first few months of this season with a near one-to-one ratio.  He has since slipped and committed about fifty more fouls than blocks through almost sixty games.

So which NBA players are blocking more shots than fouls this year?  Just one man, Tim Duncan.  The Spurs center has 122 blocks and 118 fouls.

The only other players who are close to Duncan are Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis.  Each has fewer than twenty more fouls than blocks.