Note: The piece is the continuation of our ongoing series where we give our finalists for individual NBA D-League awards. Prior to this piece, we made our picks for NBA D-League MVP and Rookie of the Year finalists.
Stephane Lasme - Texas Legends
Stephane Lasme Opponent On/Off Per 100 Possessions:
On: (105.8 points per 100) Off: (110.4 points per 100)
Unless you’re a follower of European basketball or a long-time NBADL fan, you probably didn’t know much about Stephane Lasme before the Texas Legends acquired him on Feburary 15th. While he stood as a relative unknown to most, Lasme entered Texas with a huge resume of being an incredible defensive force. During the nine years before his arrival in Texas, Lasme stood as a 2008 NBADL Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Greek League Defensive Player of the Year (2013,2014) and also stood as the 2014 EuroLeague Defensive Player of the Year during his time with Panathinaikos.
To the surprise of nobody, Lasme was able to continue that defensive dominance once he landed in Texas. During his 18 games with the squad, Lasme has averaged a league-high 3.3 blocks per game. Coinciding with his flurry of blocks, he’s just made the Legends such a better defensive squad since he arrived in February. The one man that truly appreciates Lasme’s defensive play is Legends head coach Bob McKinnon.
“To start out with, we are around 5 points a game better defensively when he is on the court.” McKinnon told Ridiculous Upside. “He may be the only guy in the D-League that teams have to game plan for on the defensive end. He allows us to switch up and down the line as he can guard point guard through center. Lasme changes the game with his shot blocking & awareness. We have charted that over 90% of his blocks stay in play while we’ve received over 70% of them. That’s is a huge skill.”
Alex Caruso - Oklahoma City Blue
Alex Caruso Opponent On/Off Per 100 Possessions
On: (99 points per 100) Off: (103.7 points per 100)
Throughout the season, most of the attention around the OKC Blue has been centered around potential NBA D-League MVP Dakari Johnson. However, rookie guard Alex Caruso has stood as the heart and soul of an elite D-League squad by averaging 11.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.1 steals on 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc in 3 perimeter attempts per game. While most people would focus on those great facilitating or perimeter shooting numbers, Caruso’s biggest impact comes from his work as an elite perimeter defender.
His status as a great perimeter defender is shown by him averaging 2.1 steals per game, which stands out as one of the highest averages in the D-League. As those numbers might tell you, Caruso has shined as a tenacious on-ball defender that constantly looks to pick the pockets of his opposing guard. Caruso’s defensive aggression has earned the respect of everyone on the OKC Blue which includes the aforementioned Dakari Johnson.
“he's really been best our defender as he gets over screens and is always in the right position in help defense,” Johnson told Ridiculous Upside. “Caruso’s also very vocal on the defensive end”.
Edy Tavares - Raptors 905
Edy Tavares Opponent On/Off Per 100 Possessions
On: (96.3 points per 100) Off: (101.4 points per 100)
Due to how incredible the Raptors 905 defense has been during the current season, I could’ve put Axel Toupane or CJ Leslie as a nominee, as they’ve both been fantastic defenders this season. However, I have to give the nod to Edy Tavares due to his stance as arguably the most frightening defender in the NBA D-League. While the Raptors 905 are filled with great defenders, Tavares stands alongside Stephane Lasme as one of the lone players in the NBADL that opposing squads have to game plan for.
Coinciding with his huge 7’3 and 260 pound frame, Tavares is an incredibly mobile big that can quickly work his way around the rim. Throughout the season, Tavares has shown a real knack of being able to work his way towards the perimeter to interfer with any pick-and-roll opportunity that the opposing team may have.
While some players decide to just run under his legs, Tavares is really able to just an opposing team’s possession in a blink of an eye, whether he’s located on the perimeter or inside the paint. Tavares’ from inside the paint is evident by him averaging 2.7 blocks in only 24 minutes per game.
Eric Moreland - Canton Charge
Eric Moreland Opponent On/Off Per 100 Possessions
On: (101.5 points per 100) Off: (107.4 points per 100)
While both Caruso and Tavares have shined as the leaders of the two best defenses in the D-League, Moreland might stand as the biggest defensive difference-maker in the entire NBA D-League. Coinciding with his 2.71 blocks per game, teams are six points per 100 possessions worse when Moreland is on the court compared to when he’s sitting on the sidelines. Those six points are the difference between a team standing as the 3rd to 16th best defensive squad in the NBA D-League.
Briante Weber - Sioux Falls Skyforce
Briante Weber Opponent On/Off Per 100 Possessions
On: (101.7 points per 100) Off: (106.5 points per 100)
Honestly, it took a while to truly get comfortable with putting Briante Weber on this list due to him only playing around 60% of the 2016-17 season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. However, I decided to place him here because of how amazing he was during his time with the squad. With the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Weber averaged a league-high 3.3 steals per game.
More important than those great base stats is the gigantic impact that he made to the Skyforce’s defense that’s still felt despite Weber being in the NBA for the last two months. During Weber’s time with the team, opponents were averaging 101.6 points per 100 possessions against the Skyforce, which was good enough from to be the 6th best defensive squad. Things turned upside down since his departure as opposing squads are now putting up 109.2 points per 100 possessions.