In a league that’s dominated by uber-athletic shooting guards and small forwards, it’s strange to see a big man that’s able to just dominate in the NBA D-League. While that pattern is also evident in the NBA, it’s more glaring in the D-League as there hasn’t been a single big tht’s been given a major NBADL award (Rookie of the Year, MVP Defensive Player of the Year) since the 2010-11 season. However, that changes with former Raptors 905 big Walter Tavares.
From the moment that the Raptors 905 acquired 7’3 center Tavares off waivers on November 13th, he immediately stood as one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire D-League. Of course, a lot of that intrigue was due to Tavares standing at 7’3 while possessing an incredible 7’9 wingspan, which immediately put him as one of the tallest players in league. In addition to that awe-inspiring frame, Tavares showed incredible mobility on the defensive end, which gave him tremendous potential as a shot-blocker.
While a lot of players just shrink when the attention is directed on them, Tavares stood as a spectacular defensive weapon once he landed in Mississaugua. In Jerry Stackhouse’s great defensive system that featured a slew of defensive-minded wings and forwards, Tavares was immediately able to fit right in. From the jump, Tavares just looked extremely comfortable, whether he was just standing in the paint or working his way towards the perimeter to defend pick-and-rolls.
Tavares’ incredible mobility immediately became his best trait as he was actually able to go out and defend against guards or forwards without becoming a burden. Although that tremendous wingspan definitely helps, Tavares’ quick feet was able to stop any kind of pick-and-roll opportunity that the opposing squad may even think that they possibly had. An example of Tavares’ ability to hedge on pick-and-rolls is seen in the play below where he sticks with Pistons rookie Henry Ellenson from the perimeter to the paint.
Those quick feet also helps Tavares out when he’s working inside the paint as a rim protector. His mobility combined with his huge 7’8 wingspan allowed Tavares to be the most feared inside presence in the entire D-League. The fear of opposing squads was due to him averaging a league-high 2.7 blocks per game in only 27 minutes per game. Tavares’ block party was headlined by him blocking 12 shots in a late March matchup against the Erie Bayhawks.
Tavares’ great work on the defensive end was also evident when you look at on/off numbers. Opponents averaged nearly seven points per 100 possessions less when Tavares was on the court (97.9 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines (104.4 points per 100).
Those traits allowed Tavares to play a vital role in the NBDL’s best defense while also pushing them to an incredible 39-11 record. Taking all of that into consideration, there’s no doubt that Edy Tavares has allowed himself to be named as Ridiculous Upside’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 2016-17 D-League season.