Behind the ESPN paywall, Senior Writer Kevin Pelton has dedicated different weekly mailbags to addressing interesting and noteworthy topics throughout the league. On this week’s iteration, Pelton spends the first portion of this mailbag attempting to address different aspects of defense around the association, particularly: Does it still matter in an offensive-minded, perimeter-oriented league, how important is on-ball defense vs. rim protection, and — most relevant to Pounders — picks for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive Teams.
Pelton shared with readers his elections for First and Second Team at each position and followed those choices with three Honorable Mention options in each slot.
Point Guard: At arguably the most important position, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday are given their proper due as the best in the profession. Pelton additionally lists Dejounte Murray in a small cadre of backcourt studs that provide outstanding defense:
“Two years removed from an ACL tear, Murray is back to hounding opponents with his length and specializes in swiping entry passes by his own matchup.”
Shooting Guard: Miami’s Jimmy Butler and surprisingly Lugentz Dort are identified as the best in class for shooting guards. Along with Derrick White’s substantial contributions in making the Spurs offense hum, he is recognized very clearly as the “NBA’s premier guard shot-blocker.”
Center: Pelton lists Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Atlanta’s Clint Capela as the obvious players for the first two All-NBA center spots. Pelton affirmed Poeltl’s belonging in this pantheon (along with Joel Embiid and Myles Turner) as “also reasonable candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year ballot.” The detail about Poeltl that is noteworthy is that he “contested more shots at the rim on a per-minute basis than Gobert.”
Also, a former Spur was chosen as the top defensive small forward.
Now if PATFO can only find two capable defenders on or outside the roster in 2021-22 to fill in the two other frontcourt slots ... Perhaps this gives all Spurs supporters involved in the betterment of the team’s prospects a clearer picture of who would need to fill the forward positions going forward. Will it be Devin Vassell or Luka Samanic, or could it come from a draft pick such as Kai Jones or Scottie Barnes? Time will tell.