Last season, the Raptors 905 took the NBA G League by storm where they shocked the world by finishing with a 39-11 record and eventually winning the title. That impressive record was due to the wonderful combination of Jerry Stackhouse’s coaching and a group of players that just fit wonderfully in the modern scope of pro basketball.
In regards to that rotation, they had a slew of athletic wings like CJ Leslie, Axel Toupane, Bruno Caboclo and EJ Singler that can defend multiple positions. Alongside those solid players stood Edy Tavares, a 7’3 big that stood as the leader of the pack as he averaged 2.7 blocks in only 23.6 minutes per game. Tavares’ terrific production pushed us to name him as the Defensive Player of the Year for that 2016-17 season.
One year later, the 905’s defense stayed elite despite the loss of Edy Tavares, who left the team after the first game of the season to sign with Spanish basketball powerhouse Real Madrid, where he had the opportunity to play with potential #1 overall pick Luka Doncic. Despite Tavares being gone, the 905 stood as the best defense in the G League as they held teams to scoring 103.3 points per 100 possessions.
Although the team was able to find some front-court help in the duo of Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks, the leader of the 905’s defense was probably 6’5 guard Lorenzo Brown. Combined with maintaining a frame that’s terrific for point guards, Brown brought that defensive IQ that comes from a player that has competed against pro competition since 2013. That killer combination allows him to be a terrific perimeter defender that can prevent the best guards from going off while doing work in the passing lanes.
The 2nd part of that is evident by him averaging a team-high 1.8 steals per game. More important than that base stat is looking at the numerous figures that examines how opposing offenses are worse when Brown is on the court compared to off.
Per 100 possessions, opponents were more than three points worse when Brown was on the court (100.9 points per 100) compared to when he’s on the sidelines (97.2 points per 100). Although its really familiar for starters to maintain a better on/off ratio than bench players, that 3.7 point per 100 possession differential is the highest among starters that played 15+ games.
Another stat that shows Brown’s defensive influence is seen with how opposing teams shot 2% worse from beyond the arc when he was on the court (34.3% from 3) compared to when he was on the sidelines (36.3% from 3). That 2% is the difference between the 8th and 19th best perimeter shooting team in the G League. In a game that’s extremely reliant on perimeter jumper, that 2% difference is pretty significant.
His great ability as a ball-hawk and leader of the 905’s elite defense is why Lorenzo Brown is Ridiculous Upside’s pick for 2017-18 NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year.
Runner-Up: Raphiael Putney - Erie Bayhawks: Averaged a career-high 2.3 blocks per game in only 29 minutes per game while also being a key cog behind a Bayhawks defense that finished 5th in the league with a 106.5 DefRTG.
Last year’s winner: Edy Tavares - Raptors 905