People don’t give me enough credit for my defense. I can do a lot better job than what I’m doing now. I love challenges. Whatever the coaches and front office ask of me, that’s what I’m going to do.
A quote from Jason Richardson after being traded to the Suns, his last stop before arriving in Orlando. A surprising comment, to say the least. To throw some Hubie Brown at you, here's what we know...
Richardson is a 6'6" 225 lb SG. A career 37% shooter from deep who has improved with age (or, Steve Nash, depending on your perspective), and a high flier who won the slam dunk contest in consecutive years. He's good on the break and strong enough to do some posting up.
What we don't know is why Jason Richardson thinks he doesn't get enough credit for his defense.
Defense is the black box of the NBA. Even though there are quibbles over whether a player is good or not on the offensive end (see: Carmelo "Chucker/Closer" Anthony), there is more consensus about the talented offensive players than there is about the talented defensive players.
The Magic definitely need defense at the 2/3. Any road to the Finals will go through offensive TNT that can blow up your entire defense like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Manu Ginobili, as well as firecrackers that can detonate any given quarter like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Luol Deng. At 6'6" 225, most of these guys are in Richardson's physical wheelhouse.
So is Richardson right? Can he be a positive on the defensive end?Basketball Prospectus lends an assist with some defensive metrics called the dMULT or Defensive Multiplier. dMULT basically divides Player A's usual offensive output into the offensive output he generates against Player B (the player for whom we are trying to derive dMULT). So a dMULT of 0.95 means that Player A only generates 95% of his typical offensive production against Player B.
No surprise here that Dwight Howard had the league's best dMULT this time last year at 0.709.
To be fair to Jason, let's take a look at his dMULT stats the year he made the claim that he doesn't get enough credit for his defense (before he went to Phoenix where, allegedly, nobody gives a rat's Kardashian about lockdown).
In his last season in Charlotte (2009), Richardson had a dMULT of 0.914. For some perspective, let's compare him to a guy of similar size and position who has a good reputation on the defensive end.
Interesting....Jason Richardson is a better defender than Thabo Sefolosha! Well, there are other factors that go into defense, and you can't use the dMULT as the definitive measure of defensive ability (there are some questionable names on Basketball Prospectus' Stopper's Spotlight http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=918).
The interesting take away from this data is that Thefolosha, who had a relatively pedestrian dMULT in Chicago of 0.946, was able to improve to 0.908 in Oklahoma City. What's even more intriguing is that last season his dMULT improved to an impressive 0.829. Conversely, Richardson's numbers plummeted from 0.914 in Charlotte to a 0.997 last year in Phoenix.
This suggests that players can significantly improve their defensive numbers (if not their actual defensive play) by being in a different system under a different coach with different players around them.
It is possible that Jason Richardson was right about not getting enough credit for his defense. It's also possible that he could develop into a positive defender for the Magic (a defense-first squad). Unfortunately, I couldn't access data for his performance with the Magic this season. Maybe somebody can provide that info for us.
What I do know is that there might be a little "D" in Jason Richardson just yet.