Avery Bradley, widely regarded as one of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league, has been left off the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams. Other noteworthy (if you’re a Celtics fan) exclusions include Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, although it was Bradley’s name being left out that drew reactions from around the league and for good reason. Players make it onto the list due to reputation and defensive highlights alone, and Bradley has easily made his mark by closing out games with his defensive prowess, most notably against the Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers during the regular season.
Stats are a useful indicator of good defense, but ultimately don’t decide who makes it. I looked at the leaders in points per possession with a minimum of 700 defensive possessions (a somewhat high and arbitrary number to weed out the players with only 10 or so possessions) and Amir Johnson came up in the top 15. Are we going to argue that Amir was contending for a spot on these lists? No, we’re not. Again, the stats are nice, but ultimately not needed.
A quick note to contradict myself: Draymond Green is at the top of the aforementioned list and is easily the most deserving player to make an All-Defensive Team, but I think my point still stands. There’s no way I would prefer Chris Paul over Avery Bradley to defend the last possession of a basketball game.
Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has suggested the following form of retribution, which I wholeheartedly endorse:
Here’s how another gifted backcourt Blazer responded:
Lillard and McCollum account for exactly 50 points per game on average and stand out as a premier backcourt duo in a league fleeced with All-Star level guards.
Perhaps the most important co-sign comes from Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, who dropped 70 points on Boston in a game where Bradley was injured. Booker and the Suns were criticized for stat padding in what was an otherwise uncompetitive game, but real recognize real, and Booker knows he wouldn’t have made history with Bradley on him.
Even the NBA's most booming voice of social media has graced us with his thoughts:
The only strike against Bradley that I can imagine affected voting was that he missed 27 games due to injury. I would almost accept that as a legitimate disqualification if we didn’t also have Joel Embiid as a Rookie of the Year finalist after playing a grand total of 31 games as well as Erik Spoelstra finishing above Brad Stevens in Coach of the Year voting after winning a total of 41 games.
The full media voting results just went up here. Fun fact: Isaiah Thomas was given a Second Team vote alongside Steph Curry on the same ballot. I'll never know how certain people get to participate in voting.