i know i said i was done writing about all-star weekend, but there’s just this one thing that i couldn’t get out of my head. we all had a good laugh at chris bosh’s expense over the break, but there was one joke that wasn’t funny: the defense. oh lord, the defense.
so if you hit the jump (it’s a bit long-winded), i’ll dissect the impact of the seven defenses from the main all-star weekend events with advanced stats and advanced snark. here’s a hint: inanimate objects are far and away the best defenders listed.
defensive efficiency (DEF EFF) is the amount of points a defensive allows its opponents to score per 100 possessions. giving up a point per possession is generally considered good, so i’ll use that as the bench mark for judging each defense. i will also include the opponent’s field goal percentage (OPP FG%), which is the percentage of field goals the opponent made against the defense in question. neither is a perfect or complete metric to quantify aptitude, but they are more than adequate for our purposes.
all five events involve the same basic objective of getting a basketball through a hoop so field goal attempts are pretty self-explanatory. turnovers are assessed when players lose the ball and fail to regain possession, such as when losing control of the ball on the way up for a dunk or by having a pass bounce off of the skills challenge obstacles. attempts after the buzzer do not count, such as a gerald green dunk and a missed three by paul george. box score information was available for the rising stars challenge and the all-star game. statistics for the other events were pulled from broadcasts of the events and interpreted by me. without further ado, here is a ranking of the defenses we saw at all-star weekend in the five main events.
7. the rim (3-point contest): 176.4 DEF EFF; 58.8% OPP FG
as it just so happens, if you take some of the best long-range shooters in the league and leave them wide open from beyond the arc, they’ll dominate your defense. In 199 possessions, the contestants scored 351 points on 117-of-199 from three-point range for a defensive efficiency of 176.4. that’s not too far removed from just shooting into your opponents hoop for them in terms of defense quality. the rim had a good weekend overall, as you’ll see in this list, but this was absolutely a low light for this typically reliable defender. verdict: NO DEFENSE.
6. team shaq: 161.1 DEF EFF; 63.9% OPP FG
although they defended better than an inanimate object that “guarded” its opponents from 23 feet away, this team was terrible. what made it so bad is that they combined that lack of perimeter defense with a total lack of defensive rebounding. the rim didn’t have to worry about rebounding in the three-point contest, but you do if you want to play a competitive game (yes, even in an exhibition). a 28-point loss should tell you all you need to know. verdict: JUST BARELY BETTER THAN NONE.
5. team chuck: 130.1 DEF EFF; 61.9% OPP FG
not much needs to be said here. the only thing they did on defense was rebound, but that’s all it took to win big against the miserable team shaq. verdict: WORSE THAN AWFUL.
4. east all-stars: 117.2 DEF EFF; 55.4% OPP FG
finally a defense made of sentient beings. it’s still bad, but it’s at least realistically bad. you could easily see defense this indifferent in a sacramento kings game. verdict: AWFUL.
3. west all-stars: 115.6 DEF EFF; 49.5% OPP FG
just slightly better than the eastern conference, forcing them to shoot worse and commit a few more turnovers. again, this was bad, but not impossibly bad. verdict: AWFUL.
2. skills obstacles & rim: 95.8 DEF EFF; 57.5% OPP FG
despite how easy the shots were (two layups and a jumper per round), this was actually a very nice defensive effort. the obstacles and rim forced tony parker and jeff teague into poor performances, combining for over half of the wasted possessions with 5-of-14 shooting and 5 turnovers. verdict: EXCELLENT.
1. the rim (dunk contest): 60.9 DEF EFF; 33.3% OPP FG
this will be a controversial pick for the best defense over all-star weekend, but the numbers don’t lie. the most efficient shots in basketball are three-pointers and layups, so you’d expect that rim would be as much a defensive sieve in this event as it was in the three-point contest. well, put on your surprised face because james white and gerald green have something to show you! the contestants shot just 14-of-42; that’s 28 missed dunks with the only defender being a thin metal hoop surrounding a net (well, usually there’s a net)! verdict: HALL OF FAME.
there you have it, folks. there was some really nice defensive efforts this weekend. the problem is the events that are made more entertaining by even an average defensive showing (rising stars, all-star) didn’t have nearly enough and the events that are ruined by it (slam dunk, skills) had way too much. also, all of the noteworthy defense was played by the rim so that’s not great.
thanks for reading. i hope you found this as informative as you did fascinating. if you notice an error, please let me know. here is the stats worksheet. let’s ball.