Was Herbert Jones snubbed in the Defensive Player of the Year voting?

Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

On Monday, it was announced that the Memphis Grizzlies forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. is this season’s winner of the Hakeem Olajuwon Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Award.

This news should come as no surprise to anyone. Jackson has been spectacular all season, leading the Grizzlies to the third-best Defensive Rating in the league (despite key defensive pillars Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke missing extensive periods of time).

What has garnered some scrutiny, though, is seeing some of the other names who did (and did not) get votes for the award.

From a New Orleans Pelicans perspective, it is at least a little surprising to see that our defensive ace Herbert Jones did not earn a single DPOY vote.

Obviously, his defensive impact doesn’t match up to the titans that occupy the top of this list. As a player whose defensive role exists largely on the perimeter, it is hard for him to have the same effect on defensive possessions as bigs like Jaren Jackson and Brook Lopez because, unlike them, he’s not charged with protecting the most important part of the floor (the paint).

It’s for this very reason that, before Marcus Smart last season, no guard has won the award since 1996. In fact, it is very rare for any player who is not a center/power forward to win the award. Since the year 2000, only Smart, Kawhi Leonard (twice), and Ron Artest (now Metta Sandiford-Artest) have won the award as non-centers/power forwards.

Even with this in mind, it is interesting that O.G. Anunoby, Jrue Holiday, Alex Caruso, and Jimmy Butler all got DPOY votes. Are all these guys clearly a tier above Jones as perimeter defenders?

Defensive metrics are not at a place right now where we can glean a ton of information from them without copious hours of film, but we do have enough available to where we can get an idea of where a player stands in comparison to their peers.

For instance, one of the best publicly-available one-number metrics (provided by Dunks & Threes) is Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus (DEF EPM) because it blends plus-minus data with tracking data. Jones’ DEF EPM (+2.6) is lower than Caruso’s (+4.1) and Anunoby’s (+3.3) but higher than Butler’s (+1.8) and Holiday’s (+1.7).

Another thing we can look at is how your team’s defensive rating fluctuates when you are on the court versus when you are off the court. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Pelicans defense is one point stingier (60th percentile) when Jones is on the floor versus when he’s off of it. That is a lower mark than Caruso, Holiday, and Anunoby but a higher mark than Butler.

One last thing we’ll look at here is steal rate. Steal percentage is not only a good estimate of defensive playmaking ability, but it also is a great indicator of a player’s positional awareness on defense.

Here, Jones’ 2.6% steal rate is pretty much tied with the steal rates of Butler and Anunoby (both are at 2.7%). That mark also puts him behind Caruso (3.0%) and ahead of Holiday (1.7%).

Now, there is a lot of noise in all of these statistics, and also, there are a lot of other ways to measure perimeter defense analytically. But at the very least, we can conclude that Jones is on the same level as these guys as a defender and (probably) should have gotten a vote thrown his way too.

Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon. dark