Rating Perimeter Defenders; Tony Allen Still King

By Steve Shea (@SteveShea33)

February 1, 2017

It has always been more difficult to quantify a player’s defense than his offense.  Box scores offer little beyond blocks and steals.  While many players play 60-70 defensive possessions a game, most only accumulate 1 or 2 steals or blocks.  What is happening in the other approximately 95% of possessions?

Each season, NBA offenses are becoming more perimeter-oriented.  Unquestionably, the 3-point shot is a huge component of today’s game.  In this modern landscape, it is all the more important that analytics be able to assess perimeter defense.

But how?  There are two approaches one can take.  One approach is a top-down metric.  Top-down metrics quantify individual performance by looking only at full lineup production, such as plus-minus or adjusted plus-minus. The motivation for using a top-down approach for defense is that defense is a team endeavor.  Four players can be playing great d, but if one player gets caught ball-watching and loses his man on a backdoor cut, it can lead to an easy layup.

Unfortunately, even when trying to adjust for quality of teammates, top-down metrics for the individual can be heavily pulled by who the player plays with.  The perimeter defender that has the benefit of help defense from a great rim protector tends to look better.

Alternatively, one could use a bottom-up approach, which is to use statistics based on individual actions.  In this case, that would be steals, fouls or something of that sort.  Historically, there have been very few such bottom-up stats that pertain to perimeter d, leaving a purely bottom-up approach impossible.

Fortunately, with recent improvements in data gathering (including spatial-tracking data gathering), a bottom-up approach becomes more feasible, and this is the approach we’ll take here.  No, we will not use defended FG% as presented by NBA.com.  This metric looks at opponents’ FG% when each defender is the closest.  Krishna Narsu recently explained why this is troublesome, especially on 3-point shots.

Instead, we’re going to use new metrics from NBA.com that get at some of the nuanced actions on defense, including deflections.

In this new metric, called Perimeter Defense Rating (PDR), we’re approximating a player’s production as a perimeter defender.  When measuring production, it’s always important to consider context.  This metric cannot account for important components of a player’s context on defense.  Perhaps the most important factor is the defensive scheme.  Certain schemes put players in better positions to succeed.

PDR should not be viewed as purely a measure of a player’s intrinsic skill set as a defender.  It is largely influenced by a player’s skill set, but there are also extrinsic variables.  It is possible that a player’s PDR is enhanced or diminished by the system he plays in.

Below are Perimeter Defense Ratings (PDR) for NBA players as of January 31, 2017.  We only included players that played at least 800 minutes and excluded players that are typically classified as centers.

1Tony AllenMEM3512088.91
2Chris PaulLAC3111126.82
3Draymond GreenGSW2615276.44
4Thabo SefoloshaATL3211376.39
5Rondae Hollis-JeffersonBKN229435.97
6Mike ConleyMEM2912355.93
7TJ McConnellPHI2410985.81
8Thaddeus YoungIND2814735.73
9Kris DunnMIN228215.44
10Robert CovingtonPHI2613615.28
11Ricky RubioMIN2613255.26
12Patrick BeverleyHOU2811495.10
13Kelly Oubre Jr.WAS219115.05
14Joe InglesUTA2910294.93
15Paul GeorgeIND2614294.84
16Jrue HolidayNOP2610314.75
17Kawhi LeonardSAS2514464.71
18Giannis AntetokounmpoMIL2216174.71
19Garrett TempleSAC3012834.64
20John WallWAS2616334.36
21Marcus SmartBOS2213774.31
22Rudy GaySAC3010134.18
23Stephen CurryGSW2815754.10
24Andrew HarrisonMEM2211013.91
25Rajon RondoCHI3010903.89
26Justin HolidayNYK279563.71
27DeMarre CarrollTOR3011213.70
28Paul MillsapATL3115463.68
29Trevor BookerBKN2911453.62
30Elfrid PaytonORL2214673.47
31Raymond FeltonLAC3210123.25
32Jabari ParkerMIL2116103.16
33Dwight PowellDAL259283.16
34Jordan ClarksonLAL2413853.15
35Kyle LowryTOR3017573.15
36Seth CurryDAL2612103.09
37Dwyane WadeCHI3513393.03
38Wesley MatthewsDAL3015912.97
39PJ TuckerPHX3113542.97
40Ty LawsonSAC2911452.94
41Tyler JohnsonMIA2412582.87
42Otto PorterWAS2315832.81
43Michael Kidd-GilchristCHA2313972.80
44Jeff TeagueIND2815332.67
45Cory JosephTOR2510742.66
46Luc Mbah a MouteLAC3010702.62
47Terrence RossTOR2510562.57
48James JohnsonMIA2911532.55
49Eric BledsoePHX2715962.36
50Bradley BealWAS2314742.34
51Avery BradleyBOS2612572.32
52Shelvin MackUTA269462.28
53Victor OladipoOKC2413252.23
54Langston GallowayNOP259882.21
55Jimmy ButlerCHI2717292.21
56Kelly OlynykBOS258872.16
57James Ennis IIIMEM269262.03
58Danny GreenSAS2910351.99
59Jae CrowderBOS2612961.98
60Iman ShumpertCLE2611591.95
61Trevor ArizaHOU3117621.94
62Lou WilliamsLAL3012181.63
63Tim FrazierNOP269511.63
64Monta EllisIND3110631.61
65Kemba WalkerCHA2615991.59
66D'Angelo RussellLAL208941.59
67Nikola MiroticCHI259791.57
68Solomon HillNOP2512851.51
69Dorian Finney-SmithDAL2310141.43
70Anthony DavisNOP2315791.34
71James HardenHOU2718631.33
72Malcolm BrogdonMIL2411931.31
73Al-Farouq AminuPOR268801.26
74Evan TurnerPOR2812091.20
75Kent BazemoreATL2712641.16
76Rodney McGruderMIA2511601.15
77Maurice HarklessPOR2313311.14
78Marquese ChrissPHX198671.08
79Patty MillsSAS2810160.99
80LeBron JamesCLE3216520.94
81CJ McCollumPOR2516980.89
82Shaun LivingstonGSW318080.79
83Russell WestbrookOKC2816670.78
84Matt BarnesSAC3610840.74
85Sam DekkerHOU2210090.73
86Josh RichardsonMIA238750.70
87Andre IguodalaGSW3311730.65
88Andre RobersonOKC2514750.60
89Ish SmithDET2811210.58
90Kentavious Caldwell-PopeDET2314490.58
91Malcolm DelaneyATL278460.51
92Brandon JenningsNYK2711780.47
93Darren CollisonSAC2911930.47
94Julius RandleLAL2212850.43
95Kevin DurantGSW2816450.40
96Markieff MorrisWAS2714670.37
97Zach RandolphMEM3510410.30
98Dennis SchroderATL2314870.29
99Vince CarterMEM4010390.24
100Kyrie IrvingCLE2414740.21
101TJ WarrenPHX2310140.17
102Isaiah WhiteheadBKN218990.13
103Kenneth FariedDEN279430.03
104Matthew DellavedovaMIL2611200.02
105JaMychal GreenMEM2614000.02
106Courtney LeeNYK311382-0.02
107Blake GriffinLAC27927-0.12
108Kristaps PorzingisNYK211402-0.21
109Domantas SabonisOKC201029-0.26
110Kevin LoveCLE281290-0.28
111DeMar DeRozanTOR271593-0.28
112Tim Hardaway Jr.ATL241093-0.28
113Gerald HendersonPHI291033-0.38
114Evan FournierORL241212-0.56
115Dion WaitersMIA25889-0.57
116Nicolas BatumCHA281564-0.57
117Derrick RoseNYK281379-0.64
118David LeeSAS33848-0.64
119CJ MilesIND29923-0.68
120Patrick PattersonTOR271028-0.71
121Jonas JerebkoBOS29808-0.72
122Luol DengLAL311254-0.80
123Andrew WigginsMIN211782-0.84
124Sergio RodriguezPHI301014-0.97
125Terrence JonesNOP251114-1.07
126Brandon KnightPHX25981-1.10
127E'Twaun MooreNOP271084-1.12
128Devin BookerPHX201626-1.15
129Jameer NelsonDEN341176-1.22
130Marco BelinelliCHA301057-1.32
131Goran DragicMIA301414-1.34
132Isaiah ThomasBOS271510-1.38
133Trey LylesUTA21948-1.40
134Harrison BarnesDAL241720-1.41
135Tony SnellMIL251335-1.42
136Cody ZellerCHA241023-1.47
137Richard JeffersonCLE36909-1.49
138Wilson ChandlerDEN291269-1.59
139Taj GibsonCHI311295-1.60
140Joe HarrisBKN25903-1.60
141Dario SaricPHI221115-1.61
142Klay ThompsonGSW261604-1.61
143Glenn RobinsonIND231004-1.69
144Jeff GreenORL301166-1.71
145Marvin WilliamsCHA301146-1.75
146Dante CunninghamNOP29889-1.77
147Tobias HarrisDET241571-1.85
148Sean KilpatrickBKN271256-1.85
149Carmelo AnthonyNYK321625-1.88
150Zach LaVineMIN211680-1.90
151Mike MuscalaATL25855-1.92
152Jamal MurrayDEN19893-1.97
153D.J. AugustinORL291004-2.02
154Brandon IngramLAL191394-2.11
155Marcus MorrisDET271539-2.14
156Gordon HaywardUTA261462-2.21
157Joe JohnsonUTA351062-2.32
158Bojan BogdanovicBKN271277-2.38
159Emmanuel MudiayDEN201173-2.46
160Ersan IlyasovaPHI291281-2.47
161Deron WilliamsDAL321112-2.47
162Damian LillardPOR261572-2.53
163Buddy HieldNOP23959-2.55
164Kyle KorverCLE351161-2.60
165Nick YoungLAL311141-2.62
166Aaron GordonORL211381-2.72
167Austin RiversLAC241258-2.78
168Danilo GallinariDEN281439-2.89
169Will BartonDEN26961-2.90
170Allen CrabbePOR241405-3.01
171Rodney HoodUTA241137-3.08
172Jerami GrantOKC221020-3.10
173JJ RedickLAC321262-3.10
174Serge IbakaORL271487-3.32
175Jon LeuerDET271120-3.33
176LaMarcus AldridgeSAS311391-3.36
177Shabazz MuhammadMIN24841-3.59
178Eric GordonHOU281432-3.62
179Nik StauskasPHI231186-4.04
180Doug McDermottCHI25905-4.15
181Tony ParkerSAS34872-4.17
182Jamal CrawfordLAC361273-4.17
183Ryan AndersonHOU281474-5.03
184Arron AfflaloSAC311025-5.70




Leave a comment


  1. Is there going to be some explanation of how this is calculated? If you’re going to point out the flaws in other ways of calculating defense, you need to provide something more than an extremely vague explanation:

    “PDR should not be viewed as purely a measure of a player’s intrinsic skill set as a defender. It is largely influenced by a player’s skill set, but there are also extrinsic variables. It is possible that a player’s PDR is enhanced or diminished by the system he plays in.”

    This is not an explanation, it’s lots of good words strung together in a way to make it appear sensical while being nonsense. Can you give us an actual idea of how this is calculated so we at least know what it’s measuring and can judge the strengths and flaws? Otherwise, this just looks like a random list of players.

  2. Michele

     /  February 1, 2017

    I’d appreciate the explanation, otherwise it’s a bit hard to believe that Rondo is still such a good defender or Wade (who hardly covers opponents fast breaks) is better than Kidd-Gildchrist.

  3. will

     /  February 1, 2017

    Are you guys going to publish the formula? If not, any idea what Justise Winslow was at before he went down? He was ~200 minutes short of qualifying for the list.

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