Who is the best defender on the Utah Jazz this season? It is Derrick Favors, right?

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It's Derrick Favors, right? This is dumb. You must have some real interesting points to make here if it's not Derrick Favors. But it's Derrick Favors, I mean, c'mon? It's gotta be. Okay fine, Amar! I'll read this post!

I often lament the fast that we do not yet quantify defense as well as we do offense. After all, being a GREAT defender could mean denying your man the ball, or stiffing him to the point that he has to pass out, and it's not an assist attempt or anything at all that helps his team. Sure, we have some normal stats like defensive rebounds, blocks, and steals -- but the majority of those things don't happen because YOU were the man defending. Most blocks are weakside blocks. Most steals are interceptions or deflections. And most defensive rebounds are guys getting the ball after another one of your teammates made the opposing team miss. Advanced stats and other metrics attempt to look at defense -- but still it's only results based, and the only real results they measure are points. No one keeps tracks of screens you fought through, or times you make the guy with the ball pick up his dribble. Defense is hard to quantify. And as a result, it's hard to know who is the best defender on a team.

For the Utah Jazz we already have a strong feeling that it's Derrick Favors. He gets the defensive numbers, and he also does the things that don't show up in the box score. So he's the best defender right? Well . . . .

Defense is like offense, but few people think of it like that. On offense you have a primary ball handler, a secondary ball handler, one guy to do the dirty work, and a primary scoring target. Most teams usually have those four guys. On defense you have a defensive anchor (effectively as important as the point guard is for offense), a dirty work guy, and at least two perimeter defenders. Everyone has a role, and this is where the concept of overt team defense or switching always (like what George Karl did with the Seattle Supersonics years ago) regardless of match-up could be bad.

So, there are these differing roles, which muddy the idea of who is the best defender.

But, c'mon, we already know the answer -- it's Derrick Favors!

According to the data from basketball-reference, Synergy, 82games, and other places . . . well . . . the data tells conflicting things. This is every player on this team this year, and what they've done on defense.(N.B. These values are for the entire season, but not the Hawks game. Sorry!)

Playing time Opp. FG Net values /48
Player Pos Age G Min MPG DRTG DWS Pos PosPG PPP Rk M A % Score % +/- /100 Pos Opp PER
1 Trey Burke 1 21 51 1,578 30.9 114.0 0.2 511 10.0 0.88 207 160 400 40.0% 41.5% 1.4 16.4
2 John Lucas III 1 2 31 37 556 15.0 114.0 0.0 159 4.3 0.85 146 49 123 39.8% 39.6% -10.1 14.0
3 Diante Garrett 1 2 25 52 781 15.0 111.0 0.3 284 5.5 0.84 124 91 231 39.4% 40.5% 11.2 16.0
4 Jamaal Tinsley 1 35 8 110 13.8 114.0 0.0 29 3.6 1.21 443 13 24 54.2% 51.7% -15.2 18.4
5 Gordon Hayward 2 3 23 58 2,098 36.2 109.0 1.5 494 8.5 0.89 229 159 411 38.7% 39.7% -1.8 13.3
6 Alec Burks 2 1 22 63 1,753 27.8 112.0 0.6 541 8.6 0.87 189 176 446 39.5% 39.4% 4.3 13.8
7 Brandon Rush 2 3 28 35 402 11.5 113.0 0.1 108 3.1 1.00 390 35 89 39.3% 43.5% -3.9 12.9
8 Ian Clark 2 1 22 12 95 7.9 110.0 0.1 30 2.5 0.90 249 11 24 45.8% 46.7% 31.8 25.0
9 Richard Jefferson 3 33 63 1,679 26.7 112.0 0.6 451 7.2 0.95 340 157 376 41.8% 41.9% -6.6 16.4
10 Marvin Williams 3 4 27 52 1,334 25.7 109.0 0.9 341 6.6 0.96 357 123 295 41.7% 43.7% 5.4 17.3
11 Mike Harris 3 4 30 20 225 11.3 106.0 0.2 68 3.4 0.78 55 20 57 35.1% 32.4% 11.7 21.9
12 Enes Kanter 4 5 21 62 1,581 25.5 111.0 0.8 367 5.9 1.04 418 157 322 48.8% 49.6% -12.1 20.0
13 Jeremy Evans 4 26 48 910 19.0 107.0 0.8 217 4.5 0.94 325 71 176 40.3% 44.2% 6.8 15.9
14 Malcolm Thomas 4 3 25 4 23 5.8 110.0 0.0 9 2.3 0.67 2 9 22.2% 22.2% -15.4 12.4
15 Derrick Favors 5 4 22 54 1,623 30.1 105.0 1.8 388 7.2 0.85 146 138 345 40.0% 39.9% -4.6 23.0
16 Rudy Gobert 5 21 34 379 11.1 103.0 0.5 66 1.9 0.82 92 22 49 44.9% 40.9% 7.0 11.5
17 Andris Biedrins 5 27 6 45 7.5 107.0 0.0 7 1.2 0.86 2 6 33.3% 42.9% 3.4 24.0

There's no unifying idea here, and because players play different roles on defense, it's hard to find a unified theory of what's good, or not.

With the point guards we see that DNJ was one of the worst guys we had, period. Trey looks okay at some things, but he's not really close to being one of our best defenders. Diante Garrett makes a stronger claim if you care more for what most of the sites track.

The shooting guard situation has two "good" players and these are two guys who should probably be seeing the floor with one another more. I'm not going to go more into that.

Small forward is the goofus to the shooting guard's gallant. But by defensive win shares they don't look so shabby -- but that's a product of the opportunity they get.

You can't hide the fact that Enes is not defending well this season. Evans, as he does in most metrics, looks amazing.

And then we get Derrick -- he's the best defender, right? RIGHT? WHAT? His opponents get a 20.0 PER value against him? The team is -4.6 with him on the floor per 100 possessions? Okay . . . okay . . .

)

So let's immediately eliminate all the guys who don't play much, and thus, skew the data set.

This is what we're left with:

Playing time Opp. FG Net values /48
Player Pos Age G Min MPG DRTG DWS Pos PosPG PPP Rk M A % Score % +/- /100 Pos Opp PER
1 Gordon Hayward 2 3 23 58 2,098 36.2 109.0 1.5 494 8.5 0.89 229 159 411 38.7% 39.7% -1.8 13.3
2 Alec Burks 2 1 22 63 1,753 27.8 112.0 0.6 541 8.6 0.87 189 176 446 39.5% 39.4% 4.3 13.8
3 Richard Jefferson 3 33 63 1,679 26.7 112.0 0.6 451 7.2 0.95 340 157 376 41.8% 41.9% -6.6 16.4
4 Derrick Favors 5 4 22 54 1,623 30.1 105.0 1.8 388 7.2 0.85 146 138 345 40.0% 39.9% -4.6 20.0
5 Enes Kanter 4 5 21 62 1,581 25.5 111.0 0.8 367 5.9 1.04 418 157 322 48.8% 49.6% -12.1 23.0
6 Trey Burke 1 21 51 1,578 30.9 114.0 0.2 511 10.0 0.88 207 160 400 40.0% 41.5% 1.4 16.4
7 Marvin Williams 3 4 27 52 1,334 25.7 109.0 0.9 341 6.6 0.96 357 123 295 41.7% 43.7% 5.4 17.3
8 Jeremy Evans 4 26 48 910 19.0 107.0 0.8 217 4.5 0.94 325 71 176 40.3% 44.2% 6.8 15.9
9 Diante Garrett 1 2 25 52 781 15.0 111.0 0.3 284 5.5 0.84 124 91 231 39.4% 40.5% 11.2 16.0
10 John Lucas III 1 2 31 37 556 15.0 114.0 0.0 159 4.3 0.85 146 49 123 39.8% 39.6% -10.1 14.0
11 Brandon Rush 2 3 28 35 402 11.5 113.0 0.1 108 3.1 1.00 390 35 89 39.3% 43.5% -3.9 12.9
12 Rudy Gobert 5 21 34 379 11.1 103.0 0.5 66 1.9 0.82 92 22 49 44.9% 40.9% 7.0 11.5
  • Hayward: most mins, third most total defensive possessions, his opponents shoot 38.7 fg% against him, score 39.7% of the time against thim, and have a 13.3 PER
  • Burks: most defensive possessions, ranked in Top 200 in NBA by PPP, +/- of 4.3
  • Jefferson: played for the Spurs, is pretty vet.
  • Favors: 2nd best DRTG, 1st in Defensive WS, Top 150 player by PPP, but not without some warts
  • Kanter: THE BLEEDING! WHY WON'T IT STOP?
  • Burke: Welp. Worst DRTG on the team, defends 10.0 possessions per game (most on the team), pretty respectable everywhere
  • Williams: Doesn't hurt you anywhere, good on/off splits
  • Evans: Lack of attempts downplay his effectiveness.
  • Garrett: Solid defender for sure, not spectacular
  • Lucas III: His dad was a head coach
  • Rush: Has made a lot of money in his career
  • Gobert: Best DRTG, best PPP, best NBA Rank, and a +7 when he's on the floor.

Clearly there are too many numbers here. So let's add some more. First: ranks all of these players by ordinal values (best to 12th), add it all up; and then second, find out who is the best "overall".

Hmmmm.

Playing time Opp. FG Net values /48
Player Pos Age G Min MPG DRTG DWS Pos PosPG PPP Rk M A % Score % +/- /100 Pos Opp PER T A
1 Alec Burks 2 1 22 1 2 4 8 6 1 2 5 5 1 1 4 1 5 4 50 3.33
2 Gordon Hayward 2 3 23 4 1 1 4 2 3 3 7 7 3 2 1 3 7 3 51 3.40
3 Derrick Favors 5 4 22 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 3 6 5 6 4 9 12 72 4.80
4 Trey Burke 1 21 8 6 2 11 10 2 1 6 6 2 3 7 7 6 8 85 5.67
5 Diante Garrett 1 2 25 6 9 10 6 9 8 8 2 2 8 8 3 5 1 7 92 6.13
6 Richard Jefferson 3 33 1 3 5 8 6 4 5 9 9 4 4 10 8 10 9 95 6.33
7 Marvin Williams 3 4 27 6 7 6 4 3 7 6 10 10 7 7 9 10 4 10 106 7.07
8 Jeremy Evans 4 26 9 8 8 3 4 9 9 8 8 9 9 8 11 3 6 112 7.47
9 Rudy Gobert 5 21 12 12 12 1 8 12 12 1 1 12 12 11 6 2 1 115 7.67
10 Enes Kanter 4 5 21 3 5 7 6 4 6 7 12 12 5 6 12 12 12 11 120 8.00
11 John Lucas III 1 2 31 10 10 9 11 12 10 10 4 4 10 10 5 2 11 5 123 8.20
12 Brandon Rush 2 3 28 11 11 11 10 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 2 9 8 2 141 9.40

(A little more angry this time) HHHmmmmmmm.

So on ordinal ranks and the mean of them, it means that Burks is our best overall defender. G-Time is second, and Favors is third. Favors isn't BAD at anything (his worst ordinal rank is Opp PER), he's just not getting a lot of 1st or 2nd places on these categories. AB and GH "medal" more frequently.

So in comparison to the rest of the team, four of our five best defenders are Trey, Alec, Gordon, and Derrick. And Derrick isn't the best overall defender by ordinal rank. but if you look at what he does on the floor, you see that he's the anchor of our defense and the one guy responsible for so much.

Effectively, the eye-ball test tells us something the combined stats do not.

Also, Rudy, damn. You are 12th in 7 things, and most of them are just related to how frequently your number is called on defense. You are a beast in the making.

But who is the best defender on the Jazz this season? Oh, you still don't know who it is, do you? No. You always knew. It is Derrick Favors. I just wanted to show you all that AB and GH are doing good things as well compared to guys like Marvin and RJ. Please don't rage-quit this blog post.

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