The Phoenix Suns are not a good defensive team. They currently rank 23rd defensively, allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions. This is nothing new, of course. Since Steve Nash returned to Phoenix in 2004, the Suns have ranked no better than 13th defensively, with an average ranking of 18.
But this season, some have called for Grant Hill to receive consideration for an All-Defensive Team selection. (He received two First Team votes and zero Second Team votes last season.)
Hill drew more praise from Brent Barry and Chris Webber Tuesday night on TNT, after he did an admirable job defending Kobe Bryant in a 139-137, triple-OT classic in L.A. Bryant scored a game-high 42 points and was relatively efficient (15-for-31 from the field, 3-for-5 from 3-point range, 9-for-11 from the line) in doing so. But Hill made Mamba work for his points, frustrating him at times.
You would have to have watched the game to appreciate the work that Hill put in defensively, because the numbers just don’t spell it out. Bryant’s True Shooting Percentage for the night (.586) was higher than his number for the season (.548).
True Shooting Percentage = Points / (2 x (FGA + (.44 x FTA)))
Over 67 games though, the numbers should give us a pretty good idea of what kind of defensive impact Hill makes on the Suns and their opponents.
According to NBA.com StatsCube, the Suns have actually allowed fewer points per 100 possessions with Hill on the bench (106.4) than they have with him on the floor (107.2). But the same is true of Dwight Howard this season — basically because starters generally face more potent offenses than the reserves do.
Hill has also had the defensive disadvantage of playing 86 percent of his minutes with Nash and 71 percent of his minutes with Channing Frye, two guys who will never receive All-Defensive Team consideration, and who clearly hurt Hill’s on-court defensive numbers.
But by looking a little deeper, we can see that Hill does make an impact. When they’re playing alongside Hill, Nash and Frye’s numbers are much better than when Hill is on the bench.
Suns’ defensive efficiency
|Player on floor||Hill on floor||Hill off floor|
Still, when it comes to slowing down the league’s stars, Hill has had mixed results. Beyond Tuesday night, Bryant has been pretty efficient against the Suns all season, with a True Shooting Percentage of .595 over four games. They’ve had a little more success slowing down some of the league’s other top scorers.
True Shooting Percentage vs. Phoenix
The numbers say the Suns and Hill have defended Durant, Gordon and Martin pretty well. But overall, they haven’t really forced this group to score less efficiently.
Is Hill worthy of consideration for an All-Defensive Team selection?
But putting him among the top 10 defenders in the league may be a stretch.