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2011 WNBA Awards (Part 3): Talking Defense With The WNBAlien

My favorite quote about statistics - aside from the famous "lies, damn lies, and statistics" line - is probably the one attributed to W.I.E. Gates: "Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches." Context matters and that notion obviously applies to the use of any stats in basketball and that might be exponentially so for defensive matters.

So I contacted Richard Cohen of the WNBAlien blog to help flesh out the context for 2011 WNBA end of season defensive awards, partially because we've had productively contrasting perspectives about the game in the past.

And then he proceeded to throw stats at me while I just wanted to discuss my feelings.

The following is a condensed and edited version of our extended e-conversation in which we tried to figure out "the real depth" of that stream before "crossing it" with our individual picks for defensive awards. You'll find that we came to rapid agreement on some major points but also found some points of divergence: Where do you place Phoenix Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner and Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry? And perhaps a bigger shared question: Should we be able to take some liberties with positional confines?

(Bear in mind that since this happened over a number of days, the statistics referenced are not final numbers from the 2011 season and weren't even from the same day at all times. But since they're numbers from the final week, they're not too inaccurate. Now that I've expressed my feelings, I will use final numbers in the post with my selections.)

But before you get lost in this maze of the defensive imagination, if you aren't following Richard on Twitter (@RichardCohen1) and reading his blog (, I'd suggest you do that. Go do that now, then come back for the conversation.

We're waiting patiently.

Photo by Kailas Images.

Richard Cohen: Defensive Player of the Year: This one perhaps isn't the easy choice that it's been in previous years. Tamika Catchings has won this award each of the last four times she's been healthy from the start of the season to the end. She's been healthy this season, so she's the easy pick yet again, right?

She has indeed been a dominant defensive force yet again. But in case you haven't noticed, Chicago were a very good defensive team this year. And their defense revolves around one player.

The closest thing that the WNBA has to Dwight Howard, Sylvia Fowles is a force of nature in the paint, and changes at least as many shots as she blocks (and she's comfortably leading the league in rejections). I think it's a two-way argument this year, although Catchings's long-standing rep will probably continue to hold sway with the voters. I haven't decided which way I'm going to jump just yet.

You may also hear Angel McCoughtry's name thrown into the mix, but I'm still not drinking the Kool-Aid on Angel's defense quite as much as many viewers. I'm not remotely convinced that she's the best defensive perimeter player on her own team, never mind in the league. But don't be surprised to see her pick up a few votes when the official results come in.

All-Defensive Team: This one's always tricky, simply because it's so hard to judge defense. I also continue to feel that it's even more difficult in the women's game, where there's more of a concentration on team ethics than individual play. That applies to defense as well as offense, so in many ways the best defenders are those who buy into their coach's scheme and produce within it. It's rare to see one player just follow her individual matchup around for an entire game and shut her down.

There are either too many or too few candidates to get into in a preview, so I'll leave you hanging on this particular group. Just don't expect to see anyone from Tulsa or LA making an appearance in my selections.

Nate Parham: Well, right off the bat, I think we can just settle on Fowles as the DPOY, for the reasons you stated. I do think you could make an argument for Catchings as a more versatile threat vs. Fowles being a primarily interior force, but that shouldn't negate the value Fowles brings in anchoring her team defensively from the post.

But your point about McCoughtry not necessarily being the best perimeter defender on her team is a good segueway to begin generating candidates for the All-Defensive team: Armintie Price obviously comes to mind, but Lindsey Harding is one of the better defenders at point guard and Sancho Lyttle racks up steals at a ratethat most interior players (short of Nicky Anosike in 2009) simply couldn't imagine doing; steals aren't always a good way of measuring 
defense, but for an interior player it does speak to an agility an awareness that sets her above the other players.

I totally agree about the difference in identifying top defenders in the women's game vs. the men's game: in a game less predicated on one-on-one play, top one-on-one defenders don't stand out in quite the same way. But as someone who has spent the vast majority of the last two years watching the Storm, Tanisha Wright certainly qualifies as one of the league's best on-ball defenders.

Photo by
Kailas Images.

Staying with Storm, when you see how effective players like DeWanna Bonner and Essence Carson have been in containing Sue Bird for stretches - Bonner used in full court press situations, Carson nearly making two game-winning plays - they also have to be in the discussion.

But more to the point about identifying individuals within systems, how do you look at a defensive unit like the Lynx? Obviously Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin's veteran contributions stand out, but a defense that good has multiple players doing something right?

Speaking of those two, I fell into the trap of focusing on perimeter on-ball defenders - what about other interior players?

RC: Yes, I was thinking both Price and Harding when I said that about Atlanta's perimeter players. Also, while I'm not a huge fan of +/- as a statistic, the same thing about McCoughtry's numbers in that area jumped out at me this year as it did last - her team gives up significantly fewer points when she's off the floor than when she's on it. I'm honestly not sure why that is, because to my eyes they're not exactly upgrading the defense when Coco Miller or Iziane Castro Marques comes in for her, but it's been a statistical fact both last year and this.

Per 40 minutes, teams have scored 81.3 points against the Dream when McCoughtry is on the floor this season, 77.0 when shes sitting. Last year it was an even more extraordinary 85.1 on the floor, 74.1 off (but that made slightly more sense because Price was her backup). It's not my only concern about McCoughtry's D - she gambles a little too much, and sometimes quits when she gets caught on a pick - but it adds something more.

I think Lyttle's been less impressive this year due to all her injuries. She's not quite been the pogo-stick athlete we're used to, and I don't think she's too fond of contact right now. It's most obvious offensively, where she's taking a lot of jump shots, but Tina Charles had a lot more success when she found Lyttle defending her than when she was battling de Souza the other night.

I'm with you on Wright, and what about Katie Smith? Slipping too much due to age, or still one of the best individual defenders in the game? You've seen her up close a bunch of times this season, but I had her All-Defensive first team last season for the impact she made in Washington, and I love her fire defensively. Like Wright, she'll happily fight it out in the post if she gets switched on to a bigger player as well, and often come out on top.

I have to admit, I love versatility in defenders. Someone who can guard practically anyone is incredibly valuable to a coach, and Catchings's ability to shut down practically any player has always been one of her central skills. It's part of why I loved watching Erin Perperoglou (née Buescher) play defense - she's take anybody. Bonner is the only player I've seen this season literally guard anyone. And not just on switches. I saw her start a game on Becky Hammon against the Silver Stars, then after a couple of substitutions mixed up the lineups, switch to Ruth Riley. That's ridiculous.

The problem is, I find it hard to consider anyone on Tulsa, Washington, LA or Phoenix for a defensive award. The numbers - and most people's eyes - say there were eight decent-to-really-good defenses in the WNBA this year, and four poor-to-awful ones. Should anyone be on an All-Defensive Team when their team's collective defense was so terrible?

I think it's hard to pick and choose with Minnesota's unit, but Augustus has clearly been vastly improved this year - and the run of games against Hammon and Pondexter recently underlined it - and I'd credit Taj for her influence as much as her play.

Photo by Kailas Images.

I remember the first year when Kevin Garnett moved to Boston. He won DPOY in an absolute landslide, not just due to his individual play, but because he inspired the entire squad to suddenly start caring about defense. Everyone got better because he was in the middle of it.

She's not the ridiculous All-Time Great defender that Garnett is, obviously, but Taj has been part of making that team give a damn about defense. Cheryl Reeve wanted her squad to care last season, and it never really happened. Switching from Anosike to McWilliams-Franklin in the pivot was central to making it work this year. I had her first-team All-Defense last year for her work in New York as well.

Having said all that, I've barely answered any of your questions. So I'll go off and think about them a bit more while you work your way through all that waffle above.

NP: Your point is well taken about bad defensive teams.

But with Bonner - or maybe even Penny Taylor? - the fact that her team doesn't play defense shouldn't negate that she is quite clearly a unique defensive weapon in the league, so it's hard for me to drop her from the running. If you'll keep Bonner in the conversation, I'll gladly move on past the other lowest rated defensive teams.

Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

I definitely think Smith deserves consideration - she would not have continued playing for Agler as poorly as she was shooting early on if she wasn't playing defense. But that's a good time to start drawing some lines: is she really one of the four best guard defenders in the league this season? With the names we've mentioned already, that might be hard to establish.

Back to the interior, I agree with Lyttle - she's played better the last few games, but hasn't had her best season defensively overall. And I agree on Taj. But just to fill in the post outside of Minnesota, a player whose defensive improvement I've been impressed with this season is Kia Vaughn, who is doing a much better job of using her physical gifts without fouling on the defensive end in a new system.

Then we could also ask the question of where strong rebounder/shot-blockers like Alison Bales or Michelle Snow (as a help defender) come into play? Getting defensive rebounds alone is something some of those poor units you mentioned simply don't have, perhaps another reason to keep Brunson in the discussion?

Player, Team Defensive rebounding percentage
Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx 26.64%
Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun 24.93%
Sylivia Fowles, Chicago Sky 24.83%
Michelle Snow, Chicago Sky 24.75%
Nicky Anosike, Washington Mystics 23.49%

Top 5 defensive rebounding percentages among players with 20+ minutes in 75% of team's game.

RC: I'm happy to leave Bonner in the conversation, and I'd love to see her playing on a team that actually gave a damn about defense, but I still have to wonder about her. Is she actually a really good defender, or just a really versatile average defender? I think it's hard to tell on that team, especially when she spends half her time defending opposing centers, for crying out loud.

Vaughn has definitely improved, and she's clearly been trying hard to implement what Whisenant is telling her to do all season, but that defense spent quite a while looking a mess at the start of the year. I keep reminding people that Angel McCoughtry's terrible games early in the season count just as much in the MVP debate as the good ones at the end - that has to apply to defense as well, doesn't it? And is Vaughn a better defender than the more mobile and constantly-hustling Plenette Pierson alongside her?

Huge-but-slow posts like Bales I find very hard to judge. Sometimes they take up so much room that they make it very hard for opposing teams to score inside; sometimes they just look so deathly slow that they can't stop anything. Same stuff applies to people like Jessica Davenport, and even Erika de Souza (who's actually reasonably athletic for her bulk).

Another question I always wonder about with these defensive teams - how much does minutes per game count? Because sometimes you get backup point guards who are a complete pest defensively but are never considered for these awards because you only see them 8-10 minutes a night, or Armintie Price in previous years never would've been considered due to lack of minutes. Is there a cut-off point? Do you just get extra credit if you're a good defender for 30mpg rather than a really good defender for 15? I dunno.

What about Camille Little? Another defender I've loved over the years for her versatility, even as a rookie she took the toughest assignments whenever she was on the floor in San Antonio and guarded everyone from guards to centers. These days she's almost exclusively on posts, but she's still impressive.

One number jumps out from the team section of Mr. Swanson's Field Goal Percentage by Distance numbers (click here) and it's the same one as last year. Even without Lauren Jackson for most of the year, Seattle force the opposition to take a significantly higher percentage of their shots from outside 5 feet than anyone else. Only 28% of opposition attempts are within 5 feet against the Storm - the rest of the league are at 33% or higher. It's effective no-layup basketball, and while Agler's system must get some of the credit (along with Ashley Robinson's useful midseason streak of games), Little's the interior constant.

And yes, I'd keep Brunson in the conversation. Her athleticism and mobility - and the crazy rebounding skills - make her a nice fit alongside Taj, but damn, how many Lynx are we going to involve in these teams?

Photo by Kailas Images.

And if we're going to give credit for rebounding as a significant defensive attribute, should we be talking about Tina Charles?

NP: So glad you brought up Ms. Robinson.

I think with improved confidence this season she fits into the discussion about how minutes impact these defensive awards. Perhaps the distinction that can be made is between players who are demonstrably good defenders (e.g. Price in past years) vs. players who make bigger defensive contributions because they get more minutes - I think we should reward the latter for these awards. Robinson had a rather significant impact on the Storm as a defender with Jackson out and is still having an impact as a reserve, but her minutes were cut in half in Jackson's return so I would think that there are other players who are just making bigger defensive contributions in bigger minutes.

Little is an interesting case: she's better served by having Jackson on the floor because it frees her to use her versatility a bit more instead of guarding posts exclusively as you say. I think that's influenced her impact this year, but no doubt she's among the best defenders at her position in the league - some of the Storm's ability to contain Sophia Young for stretches this season speak volumes about Little's impact.

And since we've turned attention to numbers, it's also worth discussing some of the players who do have rather strong defensive statistical profiles that we've left out of our discussion. And the one that really stands out - and I always struggle to figure out defensively - is in fact Young. Young has the best defensive on/off in the league (opponents score 15.3 more points when she's off the floor) and when I ran defensive MVP numbers, she's by far the defensive MVP of her team (the "Marginal Victories Produced" formula with only defense taken into consideration).

Watching her on the defensive end, what stands out is that she can be disruptive in space as she leads a strong defensive unit with a 3.3% steal percentage. But her relative lack of height for her position leaves her vulnerable around the paint - her defensive rebounding percentage hovers around average for her position, but she's definitely at a disadvantage keeping opponents off the boards or stopping them in the paint. Their rebounding differential has hurt them so badly that it's hard to accept that she's as good as her numbers suggest.

Perhaps her numbers are inflated by their lack of a defensive backup, but that's still extreme. Interestingly, she was the only of the "defensive MVPs" (on the top 8 defensive teams) whose defensive
plus/minus was also the best on the team although many of these players are part of our discussion. Here are those numbers broken down by "interior" and "perimeter" MVP:

Team Interior (MVP) Perimeter (MVP)
Atlanta Dream
Erika de Souza (7.08)
Angel McCoughty (8.0)
Chicago Sky
Sylvia Fowles (11.55)
Epipanny Prince (7.17)
Connecticut Sun
Tina Charles (9.52)
Kalana Greene (4.64)
Indiana Fever
Jessica Davenport (6.2)
Tamika Catchings (10.51)
Minnesota Lynx
Rebekkah Brunson (8.32)
Maya Moore (6.36)
New York Liberty
Kia Vaughn (6.71)
Nicole Powell (6.10)
San Antonio Silver Stars
Sophia Young (9.58)
Becky Hammon (6.08)
Seattle Storm
Camille Little (6.70)
Swin Cash (7.59)
Statistical defensive interior and perimeter MVPs for the top 8 WNBA defenses by points/possession allowed.

The main point here is that Young is in generally good company statistically, based on our discussion. Of the four we haven't mentioned in this set, she would have to at least be discussed before moving forward.

Again, the numbers aren't everything - players like Cappie Pondexter and Sue Bird show up ahead of players like Carson and Wright, which most people would acknowledge doesn't quite feel right.

Also, I'm never sure how to think about rebounding as it factors into defensive awards because I tend to think that the things a defense does to create a missed shot and lead up to the rebounding opportunity matter more. And then I watch the Sparks play and second guess that thinking. So I would look at the top defensive rebounders by percentage (e.g. Bales, Brunson, Charles, de Souza, Fowles) and give credit to the best position and help defenders in that group. For example, how do we compare what Charles does as a position defender to Brunson or Fowles?

Agreed on Vaughn, although I've been very impressed in her ability to body up with Fowles in the second half. But as you say, there are two halves of a season to consider. And I need to make sure I don't allow
you to squeeze Bonner out.

Back to Augustus, her wingspan (numbers we don't have available for the WNBA) and quickness when healthy allow her to do so much. I also like how Whalen plays in a team defense concept, but shall we cap 
Lynx defenders at Augustus, Brunson, and Mama Taj?

Photo by Kailas Images.

Guards Forwards Centers
Armintie Price Tamika Catchings Sylvia Fowles
Lindsey Harding DeWanna Bonner Taj McWilliams-Franklin
Tanisha Wright Angel McCoughtry Ashley Robinson
Essence Carson Camille Little Kia Vaughn
Katie Smith Rebekkah Brunson
Seimone Augustus Plennette Pierson
Preliminary list of 2011 WNBA All-Defensive candidates.

So let's take stock of who we have by position.

Rather than continuing to go through every player on every roster in the league, let's start here: who is that list missing? And am I missing something about Young?

RC: I don't think you're missing anything about Young (although I'm slightly surprised she's up to 'average' in rebounding percentage at her position - as I remember she was rock bottom last season). I did think of bringing her up in this conversation, partly because of the huge on/off difference you mentioned (maybe more an indictment of rookie Porsha Phillips than something that backs Young's credentials?), and partly because the coaches voted her onto the All-Defensive team a couple of years ago.

I do think she's a good defender, but it brings me back to my constant point about her - she's not really a power forward. She's basically a three who happens to play the four most of the time, and for all her qualities that's a central part of why the team is atrocious on the glass. She does her best, but she should be a very good rebounding small forward, not a barely mediocre rebounding power forward. It applies to her defense as well - she does her best against 4s, but quite a lot of them are just too big for her. Which is why I didn't bother to bring her up in this discussion before. I couldn't bring myself to vote for someone who often seems like an immediate mismatch at the start of many games.

I was wondering when you'd take over as the stats guru in this conversation. You're the one with numbers in all his articles; I'm the one with the word 'feel' in most of his. Interesting to see Cash show up as defensive 'MVP' for the Storm. She's another one who's useful to her coach because she's mobile enough to cover perimeter players, but big and strong enough to do a job on power forwards if necessary. Her ability defensively and on the glass has come into even greater focus lately because she's struggled offensively, but she's still been useful in practically every other area. Damn Agler would've been in trouble if she'd gone somewhere else after he chose not to core her in the offseason.

Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

We're missing a perennial member of these teams and the league leader in steals, so I guess we should at least throw them into the ring. Katie Douglas would be the first, as Catchings' partner-in-crime on the perimeter in Indiana's Fire & Ice defense (still trying to get that name to catch on). I feel like she's running on rep at least a little bit these days defensively, but she's still a key part of what Indiana do out there.

The steals leader is Epiphanny Prince. As people like us often point out, usually with Allen Iverson as our primary example, steals aren't always an indicator of a great defender - but taking the ball away more than anyone else has to at least warrant discussion. She certainly is good at playing the passing lanes and tipping balls away for breakout opportunities.

Player, Team Steal %
Epiphanny Prince, Chicago Sky 4.18%
Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream 3.87%
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever 3.52%
Sophia Young, San Antonio Silver Stars 3.36%
Amintie Price, Atlanta Dream 3.07%
The WNBA's leaders in steal percentage (among players who have played 20+ mins in 75% of team's games.

As with McCoughtry though, is Prince even the best perimeter defender on her own team? As the season went on, it seemed like Tamera Young was often the preferred option to defend the biggest perimeter threat from the opposition (then Prince got benched anyway, leaving Young as definitely the preferred option). Also, how much does having Fowles behind her allow Prince to take chances (like when Eddie Jones used to lead the NBA in steals with Shaq in the paint covering his back)?

Looking at the league's best team defenses, I find myself wondering if we should be considering someone from Connecticut and/or San Antonio, seeing they've been two of the better defenses in the league this year and we've barely touched on anyone from those squads. Kalana Greene, maybe? Too soon for Danielle Robinson? Maybe that's just credit to the team units and the respective coaches' systems, more than standout individuals.

Okay, I think I'm out. We've already got way too many candidates for two teams anyway.

NP: I have no particular argument against any of those, except that I might apply the point you made about Young even more strongly to Prince - it's easier to aggressively defend the perimeter if you know you have a
help defense machine inside with all the height they have in the post.

Right now, I put Douglas in the great team defender category, but she's big enough to really bother people one-on-one.
I suppose my question about all three of them - and Jia Perkins, who I'd put in this conversation in the past - was, "Would I select them over any of the others we've mentioned?"

With that in mind, let's just say it's too early for Robinson.

That leaves us with the following players:

Guards Forwards Centers
Armintie Price Tamika Catchings Sylvia Fowles
Lindsey Harding DeWanna Bonner Taj McWilliams-Franklin
Tanisha Wright Angel McCoughtry Ashley Robinson
Essence Carson Camille Little Kia Vaughn
Katie Smith Rebekkah Brunson Tina Charles
Seimone Augustus Plennette Pierson
Epiphanny Prince Tamera Young
Katie Douglas Swin Cash
Jia Perkins Sophia Young
Kalana Greene

Yes, that's a lot of people. So my first stab at a first and second team:

First: Fowles (DPOY) Catchings Brunson Price Wright
Second: McWilliams-Franklin McCoughtry Bonner Carson Harding?*

*Should we have a point guard on there somewhere?

That leaves me with three "snubs", who I'm already reconsidering: Augustus, Little, Prince.

For me at least, sorting out the forwards is the toughest part - is McCoughtry a young reputation choice? As stifling as Minnesota can be on defense, do they just deserve another selection?

I do know this: I'm not sure that anybody would score against that first team if I play that out in my head.

RC: I've gotta say, most of me wants to fudge the positions a little, and slide Taj in ahead of Brunson/McCoughtry on the first team as a 'forward/center'. They're usually a little more relaxed about positions with the defensive teams, and she's basically the same size as Rebekkah, so it wouldn't be too much of a reach. Then Brunson would become a 'forward/center' to fill the 5 spot on the second-team while Angel dropped back down. But you might feel like that is too sneaky.

Ugh, it just feels wrong having a Mercury player on a defensive team. If I was picking the ten myself (as I'll do over at WNBAlien), I think I'd find someone else to pick - probably Little. I love Bonner's versatility, but I'm still just not sure. The whole team just doesn't care about defense.

Photo by SB Nation Arizona.

I don't know about Harding, despite my original question about whether McCoughtry was even her team's best perimeter defender. I understand the wish to at least find one point guard worthy of the lineups, but at this stage I'm starting to wonder why Atlanta aren't an All-World defensive team. I mean, they've been decent this year, but not exceptional (currently 8th in a tight top eight in opponents' points per possession), and we've mentioned their entire starting five and even one or two reserves in this exchange. I think I'd probably reward Augustus instead, and say to hell with the point guards.

That would leave me, theoretically, with:

First: Fowles (DPOY) McWilliams-Franklin Catchings Price Wright
Second: Brunson McCoughtry* Little Augustus Carson

*and even on here a little grudgingly

NP: Yeah - I wasn't sure about Harding, but every year I stick her there because the ability to disrupt an opposing point guard has such a strong impact on an opponent's offense. But if you have players like some of those on this list it doesn't end up mattering much anyway because they (e.g. Carson or Wright) would just pick up the point guard.

So with that point of matchups mattering more than positions defensively, I think it's perfectly reasonable to fudge positions for our purposes of just identifying the league's best defenders - 2 interior, 2 perimeter, and one "wild card" maybe? That better reflects how most basketball teams play defense in real life anyway (somehow matching up with a ball handler, two perimeter-oriented players, and two interior-oriented players) and would change my list (adding Little).

In any event, it looks like we at least agree on four of five first teamers and I have no gripes with your 10... but we are left with this interesting discussion about Angel McCoughtry - I totally understand your objections but it is interesting that we started out with her in the discussion for DPOY and she ended up being debatably first team to debatably outside the top 10 between our two lists.

I never answered your initial point that McCoughtry's "team gives up significantly fewer points when she's off the floor than when she's on it." Two responses, that might be difficult to prove with the data available to us: 1) Is it possible that the number of possessions increases in the 28 mpg McCoughtry is on vs. the 12 mpg that she's off? (The opposite might apply to Bales?) 2) If we use that reasoning against McCoughtry then what about Fowles, whose team allows almost exactly the same number of points less when she's off yet we agree upon as DPOY?

I don't have immediate answers to those questions and I think they might be inherent contextual questions about plus/minus - and thus the reasoning behind the use of "adjusted plus/minus" among NBA stat
geeks - but it's also interesting to note that the "problem" applies to Fowles (and Augustus and Charles) as well as McCoughtry, all of whom who we have in the mix based on observation.

RC: Re: McCoughtry - 1) Yeah, I've thought of pace as an issue in those numbers as well. But I find it hard to believe that Atlanta plays that much slower when she's not in the game. Last year it was Price coming in, who pushes the pace just as much, this year it's Castro Marques, who's got no conscience and shoots at will as well. 2) Fowles' gap I could see as a small sample size issue - she's barely ever off the floor. +/- is such a quirky stat that I don't put too much stock in it - I just mentioned it because it's the second year in a row that a similar gap was there in the numbers (despite lineup changes around her).

I just don't necessarily see the shut-down defender in McCoughtry that some people seem to see. And maybe part of that is the old Kobe issue - when you're carrying the offense, you can't expend too much energy on every defensive possession as well. But I never thought Kobe should've made All-Defense in those years either - when you're a great defender one possession in ten and just drifting around the rest of the time, you're not a great defender overall.

Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

NP: Bringing up Kobe is actually a good way to think about McCoughtry, although I think some people will give him lifetime membership on the All-Defensive team for the job he did smothering Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals. I think when players that athletic demonstrate that they can lock people down when it counts in addition to being so disruptive it sticks with people more than the plays they're expending less energy. That said, just the fact that a coach knows that he/she can rely on that player to shut down an opponent late in the game makes them tremendously valuable, particularly on a contender.

But I might more readily liken McCoughtry defensively to Dwyane Wade because she uses her athleticism extremely well in passing lanes, as a help defender, and as a shot blocker - she has a block percentage that's only behind the likes of Essence Carson and Tamika Catchings among perimeter players and better than a number of post players (2.29%).

Player, Team Block%
Essence Carson 2.55%
Tamika Catchings 2.41%
Angel McCoughty 2.29%
Jennifer Lacy 2.29%
Swin Cash 1.47%

Top 5 block percentages among perimeter players with 20+ mins/g in 75% of their team's season.

While we can debate how good she is as an every play shut down defender, I don't think we can debate that there are few star perimeter players in the WNBA with the ability and desire to chase players down on a fast break and block shots, for example. That aggression means something and I'd argue it's just so unique in the WNBA that she has to have an edge over other perimeter players.

RC: So nice of you to give me an extra reason to compare McCoughtry to Wade - I've been using that link before because they both take way too many threes for players who suck at hitting them.

You make fair points about her defensive game. I admit that some of my negative views about her defense may be reactionary to people viewing her as the next great defensive wing player before I saw anywhere near enough to deserve it (I've heard comparisons to both Swoopes and Catchings, and I mean, come on). Although you realise that if we're going to give credit to the few players who run down opponents who are already past them and block from behind, we'd be talking about Diana Taurasi? If you start trying to talk me into including her in one of these teams, I'm off.

Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

I think your thinking on where we are is pretty good at this point. I can live with Bonner on the second team, and might even talk myself into her being there for my solo picks once everything is said and done. Even if it flies in the face of all my years mocking the Mercury defense.

Epilogue: This did not end because anyone recommended Taurasi to the All-Defensive Team - we parted amicably to put together our final picks.

With that, what did we miss after all of that? Who are we overrating? Who are your picks?