Upon release of the NBA 2K14 Signature Skills list, one of the first things fans began complaining about were the players given the signature skill "Pick Dodger". Many of the players are not highly regarded defensively in the eyes of the masses. Perusing some forums across the interwebs...
"pick dodger is for defensive players. None of those listed should have that sig"
"wait Jodie Meeks has a defensive skill? I know there are some Laker fans in the office but cmon"
"If Meeks has any defensive sig skill then you know the person who does the ratings for 2k has no clue about basketball"
Meeks is a great example. People think he is a weak defender because he's a spot up shooter and plays for Mike D'Antoni right now (even though his best years came with a scrappy Sixers team). He's 6'4", 210 pounds, and his speed graded very well at the draft combine: 3.10 Sprint, 10.98 Agility (which basically converts to 95 Speed & 87 Quickness in NBA 2K), and has about 30 pounds of muscle on someone like say, Ricky Rubio.
Everything about his profile says he'd be good at chasing players around screens, whereas for a one-on-one "Lockdown Defender" you'd put greater emphasis on length, wingspan, and good hands. Do we ultimately overlook this side of defense when making our evaluations of players?
The best way to find out whether or not 2K fans have a valid point is to look at data Synergy Sports collected on Ball Handler Pick and Roll defense last year.
NBA 2K14's "Pick Dodger's"
A few things stand out to me at a first glance.
- All but three of these players posted a mark < 0.70 PPP.
- All but two of these players experienced > 100 possessions.
- Every player had P&R defense make up at least 20% of their defense.
- With the exception of Barnes and Hinrich, all of these players are very quick, and it's not surprising they can use that to get around screens better than most.
- Leandro Barbosa and Eric Gordon lack an appropriate volume of possessions (due to injuries) to really put much merit behind their PPP marks. Gordon in particular wasn't even all that great at it.
- Kirk Hinrich accumulated the highest volume of possessions in this sample, but he was easily the least effective, ranking middle of the pack among his peers.
- I am on the fence about Corey Brewer since he is regarded as a good defender, and will try using him as the cutoff point for this study.
Using the minimum requirements: Greater than 100 possessions, equal to or less than 0.73 PPP we get...
POINT GUARDS (15)
|DAL||PG||Calderon, Jose (DET)||0.67||43||123||26|
- We lose Barbosa and Hinrich, but gain 11 new candidates. Hinrich in particular doesn't look so good in this expanded look at PG defenders.
- Jose Calderon had good numbers in Detroit, but did not fare as well in Toronto (0.81 PPP) where he spent the other half of this season. Let's cross him off the list.
- Mario Chalmers, Rajon Rondo, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Harris, and Chris Paul are well-regarded defensive players.
- Rondo, Williams, and Paul are superstars and already have 5 signature skills, which ultimately DQ's them from Pick Dodger.
SHOOTING GUARDS (17)
- We lose Eric Gordon but gain a whopping 15 new candidates (which means I may need to make the requirements stricter).
- Crawford barely makes the possession cut, but you certainly can't argue with his PPP. His quickness and length aid him here.
- Rude awakening to some, but Monta Ellis actually does something well defensively, and it's puzzling why Monta wasn't given Pick Dodger when you compare his body of work to Barbosa, Sweet Lou, etc. His speed/athleticism is unquestioned.
- Dwyane Wade has a good score but P&R defense but it only makes up 15% of his defensive possessions, easily the lowest we have seen so far.
- Ray Allen likewise has a good score but P&R defense made up less than 20% of his possessions. It bears noting that the entire Heat backcourt defended P&Rs very well, which is a testament not only to their individual ability, but to how underrated Chris Bosh is as their starting center.
- Was Tony Allen really passed over for a defensive skill like Pick Dodger?
- By the numbers, Jimmy Butler clearly deserves Pick Dodger before Kirk Hinrich (Editor's Note: I made a mistake here and should have listed Butler at SF where his numbers are VERY impressive).
- Jodie Meeks and Keith Bogans are the only SGs here whose P&R defense exceeds 30% of their possessions.
- Andre Miller is listed at SG because he played more of his minutes there. Had I listed him at PG, he'd have been the only PG with P&R defense making up less than 30% of his defense.
- Wayne Ellington cracks this list when you combine his work with Memphis and Cleveland (124 total poss). 0.64 PPP (74 poss) w/ MEM, and 0.68 PPP (50 poss) w/ CLE.
SMALL FORWARDS (7)
- There aren't many SFs who met the requirements, we only gain 5 here.
- It should surprise no one that Durant and LeBron both performed well, though both superstars would need around 10 Signature Skill slots to make Pick Dodger a realistic consideration.
- Korver is quietly a solid defensive player dating back to his time in Utah. What he lacks in overall athleticism he makes up for in IQ.
- Most impressive for Leonard is P&Rs make up 26% of his defense, meaning he is spending a lot of time defending non-SFs.
- You may have expected to see Shane Battier's name here. Battier made a full transition to PF, illustrated by the fact that P&Rs only made up 3.5% of his defense (25 possessions on the year). His days as an elite on the ball defender are largely over.
Between the three positions, that makes 39 potential "Pick Dodgers". Take away the 6 superstars who already have maxed out skill slots (Paul, Rondo, D.Williams, Wade, LeBron, Durant) and we're down to 33 players, three times the number 2K Sports started us out with. Is this an acceptable number? Should the requirements be more stringent? Ultimately, It's too early to say as we still need to play NBA 2K14 and test the mechanics of the skill.
One thing that IS certain: advances in statistical measurement in sports continue to diversify our understanding of the game... and it certainly hasn't hurt the depth of our video games.