Milwaukee Bucks Player Awards: Defensive Player Of The Year

Luc Mbah a Moute might be the Bucks' best individual defender, but did he win Brew Hoop's Defensive Player of the Year award?

Here at Brew Hoop, we're not ready to forget the 2011-2012 Milwaukee Bucks season. It is a memory we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, like the passing of a beloved pet or the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Therefore, in the interest of preserving our sanity, we're handing out the major player awards to our top picks among the Bucks' roster. Even in a disappointing season, there are performances to be applauded. Members of the Brew Hoop staff have cast their votes and given their flimsy justifications, and we want to hear which player you think deserves these awards too.

Today we're voting on Defensive Player of the Year. Seems strange to hand out this award to a team that, compared to the lockdown style of the past few years, didn't seem to be playing much defense at all, but the Bucks did manage to finish a respectable 16th in defensive efficiency. Gosh darn it, we're going to find whoever's responsible! We've gotta get rid of these gaudy trophies somehow.

After the jump, read who we think deserves the award, and vote for your pick!

Steve: Andrew Bogut. I promised myself I would avoid another long-winded Andrew Bogut trade rant outside the comfort and privacy of my own home, so I figure this chart should do the trick (statistical support from NBA.com) :

Andrew Bogut

Minutes

Team Defensive Efficiency

Equivalent NBA Ranking

2011-12 On-Court 364 93.2 pts allowed/100 poss 1st
2011-12 Off-Court 1657 105.5 26th
2010-11 On-Court 2297 98.6 3rd
2010-11 Off-Court 1669 101.7 7th
2009-10 On-Court 2229 98.2 1st
2009-10 Off-Court 1767 104.4 17th
2008-09 On-Court 1124 97.7 1st
2008-09 Off-Court 2832 107.7 24th


Dan: Larry Sanders. It's tough to really identify the best defensive player on the Bucks, since the franchise went from one defined by defense to one that struggled to stop much of anybody when it had to. Obviously Luc Mbah a Moute remains one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, but he operates mostly as a 1-on-1 guy--valuable in itself, but not necessarily DPOY material. In any case, I went with Larry Sanders, despite his limited playing time. Had he qualified for the leaderboard, Sanders' block percentage of 8.9 would've been second in the NBA, behind only Serge Ibaka's 9.8%. Doing some generous extrapolation, his 2.0 steals/40 minutes ranks 4th among PFs playing at least 10 minutes per game. Outside of Andrew Bogut's limited action, nobody on the Bucks posted a better defensive on/off-court differential than Sanders' 10-point swing (using data from 82games.com). Even his rebounding has gone from "utter liability" to "just below average". Sanders is still a long way off from being a legitimate starter, and at some point soon he'll have to prove he can stay on the court against top competition, but he's quickly rounding into form as the prototypical "long, athletic forward" who can wreak havoc on defense.

Mitchell: Brandon Jennings. I have a hard time picking anyone for this award. Andrew Bogut was the Milwaukee defense, and between him getting shipped out and LRMaM's knee issues, there was very little defensive prowess to be had. At least we scored loads of points, AMIRITE?

So let's see...Larry Sanders was probably the best shot blocker, Ekpe Udoh was the best positional defender, Drew Gooden and Jon Brockman get a tie for highest effort (visually, which isn't necessarily a good thing: if you look like you're trying really hard in the NBA, you're already at a disadvantage)...but I can't really give it to these guys. What about the backcourt?

Delfino took a step back, Mike Dunleavy was never an impressive defender, nor was Monta Ellis...I'll have to go with Brandon Jennings, only because of his 12th-ranked steals/game average (1.58) and his ability to get after the ball without fouling (0.91 steals/personal foul, 9th in the league). Someone who's undersized and gets thwarted by picks needs to have some defensive value, and Jennings finds his in disrupting passing lanes and interdicting opponents on the dribble.

Jacob: Larry Sanders. It's probably reasonable to assume that had Andrew Bogut been in action for longer then he was, that he would probably have this spot locked up. Nevertheless, in season where bright spots were somewhat uncommon, Sanders provided some defense where it was lacking. He made improvements at virtually every area, including blocking and rebounding, and there's little question the Bucks were better on defense when he was on the floor. I would argue that Luc Richard Mbah Moute probably made the bigger impact as a whole on defense, but Sanders' overall improvement from the previous year contributed more to a season that was generally lacking in optimism.

Frank: Luc Mbah a Moute. No player made bigger strides defensively this year than Larry Sanders, with his complete reversal in the +/- department the most obvious reflection of that. Milwaukee surrendered a mind-boggling 13 fewer pts/100 possessions with Sanders on the floor, proving that he was much more than just a guy piling up gaudy block totals. And while backing up Drew Gooden will always make you look better defensively, the Bucks' defensive rating with Sanders on the floor was fantastic by any standard. Via MySynergySports.com, opponents converted a mere 35.1% of their field goal attempts against Sanders (42nd in the NBA) while among players getting more than 10 mpg, only Serge Ibaka could better Sanders' 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes. However, Sanders lacks the court awareness of Ekpe Udoh (too few games in a Bucks uni to win the award this year) and still has a penchant for letting his emotions get the better of him, which (along with a dose of stubbornness from Scott Skiles) meant fairly limited minutes for a second straight season.

So with Andrew Bogut gone, Sanders still seeing fairly limited minutes and Udoh arriving only recently, Luc Mbah a Moute would seemingly win this award by default. Bringing a cerebral approach that allows him to lock down wings and frustrate big men alike, Mbah a Moute passes the eye test and as usual made the Bucks' defense demonstrably better statistically as well. While a bum knee cost him a third of the season and put a damper on Luc's abilities while he was on the court, the Bucks were still 5 pts/100 better defensively and 4 pts/100 better overall with Mbah a Moute on the floor as he continued to split time between the SF (7% of all Bucks minutes) and PF positions (23%). Via MySynergySports.com, opponents shot just 38% against Luc overall--the same as last season--including 36% in isolation and 42% in the post. While the sample sizes aren't big, he was slightly better a year ago (33% and 36%), which isn't terribly surprising given he played hurt and didn't have Andrew Bogut backing him up for most of this year. Either way, you don't need numbers to tell you that Luc remains one of the league's best and most versatile defenders.

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