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The Bargnani "Terrible Defender" Myth?

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  • The Bargnani "Terrible Defender" Myth?

    First things first, mods feel free to move this over to the everything bargnani thread when you feel it's time to move.

    I apologize for this post in advance, but it is a slow news cycle and this guy does actually use numbers to make his case so (theoretically) we can have an intelligent discussion about his numbers and whether they equate to bargs not being a terrible defender.

    I came across this article in bleacher report and thought that it would make me laugh. turns out the guy does actually use statistics to make his case. Personally, I've always felt like Bargs was a passable man defender, but not "very good" man defender as this article suggests. The only problem I have with the article is the author doesn't do a good job of putting bargs numbers within the context of other players, so despite looking like good numbers I don't know how they hold up to the numbers that other players are putting up in the same situation(s).

    View the article in its entirety HERE

    However, is this Bargnani’s fault, and is he truly a “terrible” defender. To be terrible, you shouldn’t really be able to do anything good (in this case, on the defensive end). Does Bargnani fit into this category?
    Not sure I agree with this definition. Let's say player X does everything above average to good, except for 1 specific thing. Now this specific thing he does unbelievable bad and his deficiency is exploited 80% of the time buy the opposing teams. Would you call this guy a terrible defender? I probably would. Not saying that example applies to bargs, just that I'm not sure I agree with his definition. But that's mostly just splitting hairs.

    On to the good stuff... everything in bold and italics is highlighted by yours truly.

    On Ball Defense

    Despite the reputation, Bargnani is actually a very good on ball defender, both on the block and when put in isolation one-on-one situations.

    In the 205 times he was posted up last season, Bargnani held his opponent to just 182 points (0.888 PPP) on just 46.8% shooting.
    How good are those numbers? How does Bargs compare to other players/starters/C and PFs in that situation?

    Even better than his post defense is Bargnani’s one-on-one defense in isolation situations. When faced with isolation situations, Bargnani is in the top 17% of the NBA in terms of Points Per Possession (PPP) allowed, giving up just 0.684 points per possession on 29.7% shooting.
    Top 17% sounds good, but I'd still like a more specific comparison to other players in a similar role.

    Off Ball Defense/Rebounding

    This isn’t to say that Bargnani is a tremendous defender, there is a reason why he has a reputation as a bad defender, and that reason is his help defense and poor defensive rebounding. Bargnani is not good at all when it comes to recognizing when he should send help and when he should stick with his man.
    He also has a video demonstrating how bad bargs is at help defense... +1 for using game tape!

    Even at times, his own man gets open looks on him when working off of the basketball. In “Spot Up” situations, opponents are shooting 49.4% (eFG% 60.6%) and posting a PPP of 1.142, which is a number that places him in the bottom 15% of the NBA:

    Bargnani’s lack of understanding when it comes to help defense really hurts him in a number of ways. First, he doesn’t really know how to help properly, so when he does help, he usually ends up turning his back to his own man, making it difficult to return to him and contest a shot. He also struggles understanding rotations. He never finishes off rotations correctly and always seems to run at a shooter when it is too late.
    Also included in defense in my opinion is rebounding. To end a possession, you need to be able to secure the defensive rebound. This is something that Bargnani doesn’t do, almost ever. Bargnani’s Defensive Rebound Rate was the second worst in the NBA among centers who play at least 20 minutes per game in at least 20 games (behind Brook Lopez). He doesn’t have the size, or the want to frankly, to get in there and grab rebounds. It should be at least mentioned that Bargnani’s DRR of 13.9 last year, the worst of his career, happened with Reggie Evans (a rebounding machine) playing next to him (his DRR holds around 16.0 for his career, which is still below average but not as bad as 13.9).


    So is Bargnani a terrible defender? I got to say that this one is “busted” in my opinion. Does he deserve a large part of the blame for last year’s poor defense? Yes, but in my opinion, that doesn’t mean that he is this terrible defender that you can’t put out there. In my opinion he can be an average or even a good defender moving forward. It sounds crazy, but if you break things down and look at them, it isn’t that far fetched. First of all, he can stop players when they go at him one-on-one, whether in the post or out the outside in isolation. Second, he is still 26, I know he has been in the pros for a while now, but he is still young and is still learning.

    Although he does have some numbers to support the argument that bargs is a descent man defender, help defense and def rebounding are HUGE parts of the game, and I am not as optimistic about barg's ability to improve. Is bargs a "terrible" defender? Maybe not. He just might be a really bad defender.

    Anyway, more fire for the bargs thread. Have fun with it!
    Last edited by ezz_bee; Sat Jul 23, 2011, 01:08 PM.
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