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How did DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul overcome Clippers’ defensive mediocrity to make All-Defensive first team?

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game One

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 04: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers (C) waits alongside his coach Doc Rivers and DeAndre Jordan #6 near the bench late in their game against the Houston Rockets during Game One in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

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All-Defensive team voters must think little of Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and the Clippers’ reserves.

That’s because DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul were voted to the All-Defensive first team despite the Clippers being roughly average defensively.

The lack of faith in the Clippers’ bench is understandable. But Griffin, Barnes and Redick are all capable defenders – not liabilities holding back Jordan and Paul. Considering the Clippers’ starters played together more than any other five-man unit this season, the Clippers’ reserves alone don’t explain the disconnect between the teams’ overall defense and Jordan’s and Paul’s accolades.

The Clippers ranked 15th in defensive rating, allowing 0.1 points fewer per 100 possessions than NBA average. They’re also the 34th team with multiple players on the All-Defensive first team.*

*Counting only players who spent the entire season with an All-Defensive teammate. Dave DeBusschere was trade mid-season to the Knicks in 1968-69, joining Walt Frazier in New York.

Here’s how each of those 34 teams rated defensively relative to league average that year:


TeamAll-Defensive first-teamersDefensive rating relative to NBA average
2015 LACChris Paul, DeAndre Jordan-0.1
2011 BOSKevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo-7
2008 SASBruce Bowen, Tim Duncan-5.7
2007 SASBruce Bowen, Tim Duncan-6.6
2005 SASBruce Bowen, Tim Duncan-7.3
1998 CHIMichael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-5.2
1997 CHIMichael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-4.3
1996 CHIDennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-5.8
1995 SASDavid Robinson, Dennis Rodman-2.9
1993 DETDennis Rodman, Joe Dumars0.9
1993 CHIMichael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-1.9
1992 DETDennis Rodman, Joe Dumars-2.9
1992 CHIMichael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-3.7
1990 DETDennis Rodman, Joe Dumars-4.6
1989 DETDennis Rodman, Joe Dumars-3.1
1988 HOUHakeem Olajuwon, Rodney McCray-2.3
1987 BOSDennis Johnson, Kevin McHale-1.5
1986 MILPaul Pressey, Sidney Moncrief-4.5
1985 MILPaul Pressey, Sidney Moncrief-4.3
1984 PHIBobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks-3
1983 PHIBobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Moses Malone-3.8
1982 PHIBobby Jones, Caldwell Jones-3
1981 PHIBobby Jones, Caldwell Jones-6
1978 PORBill Walton, Lionel Hollins, Maurice Lucas-3.7
1976 BOSDave Cowens, John Havlicek, Paul Silas-1.6
1975 BOSJohn Havlicek, Paul Silas-3
1974 NYKDave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier-3
1974 CHIJerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier-4.1
1973 NYKDave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier-4.3
1973 LALJerry West, Wilt Chamberlain-5
1972 NYKDave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier-1.6
1972 LALJerry West, Wilt Chamberlain-5.3
1971 NYKDave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier-3.9
1970 NYKDave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed-6.6

The only worse defensive team to get two players on the All-Defensive first team was the 1992-93 Pistons, who placed Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman despite allowing 0.9 points MORE than league average per 100 possessions.

It was Dumars’ and Rodman’s fourth straight season making the All-Defensive first team together, and Detroit defended very well the prior three. Some of the Pistons’ downturn was due to the Bad Boys aging – and that probably should have applied more to Dumars. This was his last All-Defensive selection. But Isiah Thomas declining rapidly and Terry Mills filling a larger role aren’t the fault of Rodman and Dumars.

Plus, the Pistons played at a vey slow pace. Though they ranked just 15th of 27 teams in points allowed per possession, they ranked seven in points allowed per game.

Jordan and Paul have no such explanations. The Clippers’ core isn’t moving past its prime, and they play at a reasonably fast pace. I didn’t have Paul on my All-Defensive first team, but he’s at least close. Jordan, on the other hand, didn’t stack up favorably to Rudy Gobert, Andrew Bogut, Nerlens Noel and Marc Gasol. Yet, he topped them anyway.

The best rationale I see: Doc Rivers is a heck of a campaigner.