Grant Hill worthy of every ounce of defensive praise

Grant Hill defends the opposition's best player every night and does a darn good job of it. (AP Photo/Tom Strickland)

Grant Hill defends the opposition's best player every night and does a darn good job of it. (AP Photo/Tom Strickland)

PHOENIX — Praising Grant Hill’s defense has become an almost routine part of Alvin Gentry’s postgame press conferences.

Gentry was at it again Tuesday night after Hill put the clamps on Kevin Martin, holding the sharpshooter to 5-for-16 shooting a game after frustrating Kevin Durant into a 3-for-14 night.

“I’m going to say it until somebody hears it or somebody writes it: If Grant Hill is not on the All-Defensive team, then I don’t know who should be. I really don’t,” Gentry said. “Every single night we ask him to guard the best player; it doesn’t matter what position he’s in, we ask him to guard the best player unless it’s the five man. … I’ll say it again; I think Grant Hill, without a doubt, deserves to be on the All-Defensive Team for what he does for our team and what we ask him to do.”

Gentry’s assertions certainly pass the eye test; anybody who watches Phoenix Suns basketball can immediately see the kind of work Hill puts in at the defensive end. To get an objective view of Hill’s defensive performance this season I took a look at his defensive stats via Synergy Sports Technology and found the numbers largely back up Gentry’s assertions.

Hill allows a meager 0.78 points per play overall, best on the Suns by a decent margin and 41st in the league. Opponents shoot 34.5 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from three against Hill, who gives up scores just 35.4 percent of the time.

Nobody in the NBA defends hand off plays better than Hill, who has allowed just 0.38 points per play in his 29 opportunities to defend the play. That includes 20.8 percent shooting from the field (5-for-24) and 0-for-7 shooting from three, with baskets resulting on 20.7 percent of such plays.

It makes sense that Hill would guard hand offs so well because of his mastery of angles. He understands exactly where to push his opponent in such a situation, so it’s no surprise that this is a major strength of his defensive repertoire.

Hill has also yielded 0.58 points when guarding the roll man, good for 12th in the league although that’s mitigated by the fact it makes up just 2.1 percent of his plays defended.

Aside from those two, Hill consistently stays within the 0.78 to 0.84 range in defending all other plays, which means his defensive game has no major holes in it.

Hill allows 0.78 points per play off screens (11.6 percent of his plays), 0.79 when defending the pick and roll ball handler (18.9 percent), 0.82 on spot-up shooters (29.7 percent, No. 32 overall), 0.83 on post-ups (7.1 percent, No. 41) and 0.84 in isolation (24.7 percent).

What makes this all the more impressive is that it’s coming against the other team’s best player every night, from Kevin Durant to Blake Griffin to Deron Williams, and he also leads the NBA having drawn 50 offensive fouls.

Perhaps it’s a combination of the YUMS — the nickname Shaq dubbed Phoenix’s esteemed Young Unorthodox Medical Staff — Hill’s insatiable work ethic, his relentlessly healthy diet and his superior knowledge of defending great players, but whatever the reason Gentry is absolutely right about his 38-year-old: Grant Hill deserves a spot on the NBA’s All-Defense team.

Nash NBA’s best overall?

As long as we’re hitting you with the numbers today, it’s worth mentioning that Wayne Winston took a look at the stats he keeps this week and sees Nash as a legitimate MVP candidate (in the advanced stats world at least) since he’s +21 points in adjusted plus/minus and boasts a +58 Impact factor. Winston also noted that Aaron Brooks “has been a huge upgrade” over Goran Dragic with a +6 rating.

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Tags: Aaron Brooks Grant Hill Steve Nash

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