Third Best Defense Ever

Two days ago I observed that the often cautious Danny Ainge spoke without qualification in calling out the 2008 Celtics as the best defensive team of its era. Bold words, no doubt. I agreed that the defense has been stifling, but said I'd need to see some more proof before paying homage (a championship wouldn't hurt either).

Well, Ainge must have seen the numbers that I wasn't privy to, because today I got some additional proof.

According to John Hollinger, Tommy Thibodeau's defense ranks third all time. Yes, that is correct. Not just third since the turn of the millennium. Not just third since Pat Riley's 1994 New York Knicks. But third best ever.

Hollinger doesn't elaborate, cite any sources, or provide any links to substantiate his claim.

Maybe one of you know what he's relying on.


Michael said...

I think he means defensive efficiency, which is the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions.

Leaders can be found here for this season.

I'm not sure but I think from reading Hollinger before, that the two teams ahead of them are one of those Riley Knicks squads and either a more recent San Antonio or Houston team. Maybe Houston, in which case Thibs might have been the def. coach on all three...not sure though...

Lex said...


So what is your take on the difference between saying third most efficient defense and third best ever?

I suppose efficient is quantitative and the other is qualitative?

Michael said...

Well, for Hollinger, I don't think there is a difference. But he is a stat geek, and I am not. I wouldn't necessarily make the leap to equate the two (although it sounds pretty good, doesn't it?) because I don't really understand a lot about statistics.

I guess it could boil down to a difference of quantitative versus qualitative, but the stat does give it a measure of "objectivity". Saying third "best" seems more subjective to me.

As far as best ever goes (assuming I haven't misrepresented Hollinger), I think Danny takes a wiser tact in eschewing the comparison of eras. To me, they just don't play defense like they used to.

Lex said...

Yeah, maybe objective over subjective is a better description.

I don't know much about stats, either.

But it does make me wonder if someone who did might say Hollinger's measure favors one stat over another.

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