Kyle Korver knows he’s never going to be considered a good defender by followers of the NBA.
The Hawks guard can live with that — even as one basketball statistic and a team-defense system suggest he’s better than given credit.
An analysis of the NBA’s plus-minus rating shows that Korver is second on the Hawks with at a plus-88. That means the team has scored 88 more points than it allowed with him on the court. Only Jeff Teague (plus-110) has better numbers in the statistical category through the team’s 34 games. Teague’s plus/minus rating ranks him 49th among all NBA players.
“I’ve always followed that stat,” Korver said. “My second year, (then 76ers coach) Jim O’Brien was my coach and he was real big into plus-minus. He got me onto it.
“Sometimes, it’s a little deceiving. It’s hard to use it on a game-by-game basis because it shows stuff but there are always (other circumstances). I think over the course of season, or over the course of certain stretches, I think those are telling signs. It’s good. You want to be helping the team. As a players when you are out there you want things to be going well.”
Korver is part of a Hawks’ five-man combination, along with Al Horford, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith and Teague, that ranks 11th in the NBA with a plus-49. The Hawks also have the 15th ranked five-man combination with Lou Williams, Korver, Teague, Smith and Horford at a plus-44 rating.
Korver suggested that Smith is the only Hawks with the reputation as a good defender league-wide. Korver has been in this place before. He also points to the Bulls teams he was on that ranked No. 1 in the NBA in defense last season (88.2 points per game) and No. 2 in 2010-11 (91.3) with only Luol Deng and Joakim Noah known for their defensive ability.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play under really good coaches who taught really good team defense,” Korver said. “So, I understand that it’s never a great matchup for me one-on-one. I’m never going to pick up a guy full court and turn him three times before half court and pick his pocket, things like that. I feel like I know how to play good team defense. I’ve been coached very well. I’ve tried to be in the right spot and work the system.”
Despite their four-game losing streak, the Hawks as a team are scoring an average of 1.12 more points a game than the opposition this season. They are 14th in the NBA, the final team with a plus margin. The Thunder lead the NBA with as a team with a plus-9.06 per game average.
“I said at the start of training camp our mission, or our goal, is to become solid as a team,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We will work as hard as we can as individuals but at the end of the day it’s going to depend on how we defend as a team. I think Kyle doesn’t get the credit he deserves as an individual defender but as a staff, when we sit down and watch film of our games, we see that this guy is in the right spots. He understands rotations. He understands spacing. He’s not afraid to make contact with a big guy rolling to the basket. He gets in there and gets his hands on a lot of balls when it comes to rebounding. He may not come up with them but he gets his hands on it which enables us to come up with it. I do think he’s an underrated defensive player.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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