Last season, the decision to name then-Raptors two-way forward Chris Boucher as our G League Defensive Player of the Year was as easy as remembering the sky was blue or tying my shoes before going outside every day. That ease was due to Boucher arguably having the best defensive season in the league as he averaged 4.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game for the 905.
With Boucher now an integral part of Toronto’s rotation, there hasn’t been a player that has been leaps and bounds better than other defensive stalwarts. However, that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been fantastic defensive players in the G League this season. In fact, it’s been the opposite as the difficulty behind this decision deals with the quality of rim protectors like Christ Koumadje and Kenny Wooten and on-ball defensive stoppers like Jaylen Adams or Sir-Dominic Pointer.
After looking over the statistics multiple times and watching a lot of film, my pick for this award goes to the least known player of the bunch: Grand Rapids guard Tra-’Deon Hollins. Compared to the other four finalists, Hollins played a more limited role with the Drive as he played in only 24 minutes per game while only making ten starts. That lack of play is due to the presence of Pistons two-way guard Jordan Bone play at his position and being a lackluster scorer that has maintained a 45% True Shooting Percentage during his first three seasons as a G Leaguer.
While he struggles on offense, it’s a complete 180 degree shift on the other end of the court as Hollins has stood as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league since he was selected by Fort Wayne during the 2017 G League draft. Whether it was with the Mad Ants or Drive, he has this rare mix of being able to force turnovers and be able to stick onto his man like velcro and make stops when the opposition is utilizing on-ball screens.
When it comes to the skill of forcing turnovers, Hollins stands as the GOAT in the G League. There’s no hyperbole or exasperation with that as he stands at #1, #2, and #3 in steals per 36 minutes during an individual D/G League season dating back to the 2007-08 season. If you want a visual example of him putting that skill into action, just watch this video of him snatching the ball from some of the best G League guards.
“I’m very happy for Tra’Deon, He’s a hard worker and did a great job of leading the team to being the #1 ranked defense in league,” Drive head coach Donnie Tyndall told Ridiculous Upside. “He set the tone every day not just during game day but during each practice. He also proved himself to be a great defender both in full-court and half-court.”
Aside from compiling a lot of steals, Hollins’ impact is seen from how well the opposition does when he’s on the court compared to sitting on the sidelines. Per 100 possessions, opposing teams are seven points worse when he’s on the court (96 points per 100) compared to when the guard is sitting on the sidelines (103.1 points per 100). His impact was a huge factor behind the team finishing the year with the G League’s best defense.
After looking at those statistics and watching film of him snatching the ball from the best offensive guards in the G League, Ridiculous Upside feels it’s only right to name Tra-Deon Hollins as their pick for G League Defensive Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.
G League Defensive Player of the Year Runner-Up: Kenny Wooten, Grand Rapids Drive