Pop on Bogans, Krolik on James
One thought I can’t chase away, no matter how remote the possibility, is the thought of LeBron James coming west this summer. Imagine a conference featuring Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy and LeBron James.
Hold that thought a moment.
A lingering curiosity for the current season is why Keith Bogans receives so many minutes in San Antonio’s rotation. Statistically-speaking, there is very little, if any, evidence that he deserves heavy minutes. He has a reputation as the Spurs’ best wing defender, which may be true. But he’s backed his way into the distinction. The Spurs, simply put, lack noteworthy wing defense. The notion of George Hill or Keith Bogans as game-changing perimeter stoppers is something of a myth. Each player has his moments, but neither consistently stifles the opponent.
San Antonio’s lack of a go to wing defender is a glaring personnel issue.
Still, Gregg Popovich rolls with Bogans out of an abiding philisophical conviction, not a statistical one.
â€œHe’s really the centerpiece of the whole thing,â€ Popovich said.
â€œIt sounds strange,â€ Popovich said. â€œYou’ve got Timmy out there, and Tony and Manu â€” to say he’s the centerpiece. By that I mean … I like to have a starter who doesn’t need the ball, who gives us a defensive identity … somebody I can say, â€˜Go play him. Go do your best to stop him.’ For us, that’s been our style for 12 years.â€
More than any other wing, LeBron James demands defensive scrutiny. John Krolik frames James’ statistical dominance this way:
LeBron James currently leads the league with 26.3 wins added. Dwyane Wade is second, with 18.3 wins added. That is an 8-win gap. The size of the gap between James and Wade is the size of the gap between Wade and Marc Gasol, who is currently 18th in Wins added. If the Cavs had lost eight more games, they would be behind the Magic for the lead in the East, and right in the mix with Boston and Atlanta.
James, Wade, and Durant are the only players with more than 15 wins added. Only nine players have half as many wins added as James does so far this season. The gap between James and Dirk Nowitzki, who is currently #8 in wins added, is the size of the gap between Dirk and Dante Cunningham, who is tied for 198th in wins added.
According to EWA, if James was replaced with a replacement-level small forward like Mickael Pietrus, the Cavaliers would be 23-41. That would make them a slightly worse team than the Clippers this season.
Early last decade, the Spurs built their roster with an aim toward beating the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. But the game has changed, and the next decade requires a roster designed to slow the league’s best wings. It’s foolish to think one can stop Durant or James, but Popovich shows the right impulse by insisting on a rotation which features the best possible wing defense.Â It’s the single most important defensive consideration facing would-be contenders. But it is, sadly, one question for which San Antonio’s answers are found wanting.