John Hollinger used defensive stats and firsthand observation to find out which players are the best defenders in the NBA. The results are in. He has his All-Defense First, Second, and Third teams up at ESPN.com. Two Magic players made the cut. Keyon Dooling and Dwight Howard, come on down!
Hollinger on Keyon:
I was skittish about putting somebody who played so little so high up the list, but he's an active defender with good size, plus he can guard two positions and willingly pressures the ball. More importantly, his numbers pretty much leap off the page in terms of how much better the Magic defend with him on the court.
Indeed, the Magic are fantastic defensively when Dooling is on the court, holding offenses to 104.4 points per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, only three teams have better defenses over the whole season: Boston (100.0), Houston (103.0), and San Antonio (103.8). (Sources: 82games' page for Keyon Dooling and KnickerBlogger's stat page)
Hollinger on Dwight:
To me, the two more pertinent numbers are that opposing centers had a 12.9 PER against him and that Orlando is seventh in defensive efficiency with Howard as the only truly strong defender in the starting lineup.
The average PER is 15. According to Hollinger's stat page, then, Jermaine O'Neal is the "averagest" center in the NBA, currently posting a PER of 15.02. The center with the closest PER to what Dwight allows is DeSagana Diop, who, as Hollinger notes, is "so poor offensively that he hardly plays."
Further illustrating Howard's great defense is this statistic, which Magic fans and broadcasters repeat ad nausem: the Magic are 26-3 this season in games in which Dwight blocks three shots or more.
If we're able to re-sign Keyon this summer, and if Tony Battie returns completely healthy, we should be a top-five defense next season. And if our offense clicks the way it has this season, we'll be pretty damn hard to beat.