Guardians of the (BCL) Galaxy - All-Defensive Team!
LONDON (England) - The end of the Regular Season is just a fortnight away, which means it's about time to start thinking about Regular Season awards. If you'd read Igor Curkovic's column, you would have seen that he has started the debate on the #BasketballCL's best coach.
The current leader in that race probably has to be Roel Moors. Leading Antwerp to qualification and now the Play-Offs is an incredible achievement. Especially in that group with so many strong teams. Either way, make sure you give Igor's column a read. The after timeout (ATO) clip from Antwerp coach Roel Moors was worth the 5 minutes alone.
So, with that debate already started, I figured why not start the debate on who would be in the BCL's All-Defensive Team and who is the #BasketballCL's best defender. We don't actually have that award, but who cares? We probably could/should have an award for Defensive Player of the Year and defensive players never get enough credit anyway.
I was going to base this on a film and data study and really go on a deep-dive. But instead, it struck me that it might be better to get the opinion of the coaches and players in the League. With that in mind, we canvassed opinions from players and coaches that we have interviewed over the past few seasons. It makes sense that they would know better as they have to play and plan against the best defenders in the BCL. Plus, we often decide our end of season awards by allowing GM's and coaches to vote, therefore it seemed more logical to allow them to guide my nominations.
Dario Gjergja is possibly leading the race for the Coach of the Year award.
So, going by player and coach nominations (with a little bit of data and video considered), If the Regular Season were to end now, the following would be my BCL All-Defensive Team:
Ismail Ulusoy (Guard 1)
4.9% Steal Percentage (1st)
It's always good to see a homegrown player get a mention when awards come around and Ismail Ulusoy's name came up more than once. Banvit is the proud owner of one of the BCL's best Defensive Ratings at 99.6 Points Per 100 (3rd) and Ulusoy is a huge part of that. When Aaron Craft finished last season with Monaco, I thought it would be a long wait before we saw a player as intelligent off the ball defensively - especially when it comes to reading attackers' eyes and picking out steals.
Turns out we didn't have to wait long at all. Ismail Ulusoy is an absolute tea-leaf (thief for the uninitiated) and has taken a huge jump as a prominent defensive payer this season. If you are an offensive player handling the ball or receiving a pass, and you can't see him.....chances are, Ulusoy has already taken it from you.
Other candidates mentioned were; Khalif Wyatt, Alex Perez, Oleksandr Lypovvy and Charlon Kloof.
Kendrick Perry (Guard 2)
The next guard spot is reserved for the lock-down, on-ball defenders. This spot was very close between Kendrick Perry and Paris Lee. Perry just edged it. Nizhny's Point Guard has shown all season that he can stay in front of anyone, and in late-clock or after timeout situations, there is nobody better. Perry is so good at predicting where the pass is going or what his matchup wants to do with the ball. When you combine that with his Roadrunner like ability to turn defense into a one-man fastbreak (beep beep), Perry was the obvious choice for this second guard spot.
Other candidates mentioned were; Paris Lee, Kamil Laczynsky, Eugene Lawrence and Phil Pressey. Both Kamil Laczynsky and Paris Lee have been on our podcast. If you haven't listened to those episodes, what are you waiting for?
Kelvin Martin (Wing 1)
Despite his injury layoff, Kelvin Martin had to go in the All-Defensive Team. I'll confess, none of the players and coaches I asked actually nominated Kelvin Martin, possibly due to the length of time he spent in the recovery clinic. But for me, there was no option. We don't have a more explosive defender in BCL and it's certainly very hard to find another player with a similar ability to change the course of a game with their defense.
Other candidates that were mentioned; Sadiel Rojas, Chris Johnson, and Rion Brown. Sadiel Rojas is the captain of BCL's best defensive team and is one of the few players we have in this competition that can match Kelvin Martin for hustle.
Howard Sant-Roos (Wing 2/Forward)
This next spot could have gone to a Power Forward or a wing player. In this case, it just went to BCL's best defender. Howard Sant-Roos is just phenomenal defensively. If AEK needs to put someone on their opponent's best player, there is only one man for the job. I watched hours of footage from this season and I'm yet to find a possession where a player has isolated against San-Roos and scored......
Watch the clips below, you start out by seeing Sant-Roos picking up Tyrese Rice in a late-clock, Iso situation. We have already seen some very good players fall foul to Rice's wizardry in that situation - not Sant-Roos though. The Cuban puts the clamps on Rice and completely shuts him down. In the last clip, you see him do the same to Pako Cruz as well.
Other candidates mentioned were; Christian Eyenga, Demetris Nichols, Javier Beiran, Loic Schwartz and Ovie Soko.
Youssoupha Fall ( Big)
8.2% Block Percentage (1st)
Last but not least, we come to the anchor of our All-Defensive Team. Again with a confession, but my eye-test actually liked Dejan Kravić for this spot. Virtus' Serbian center has swotted shots away at all the big moments for his team and his mobility when it comes to defending switches is invaluable for a guy that tall.
It has been a struggle for Youssoupha Fall at times this season. Foul trouble has kept him off the floor and the times when he has used his height to dominate the offensive end, haven't been as common as they could have been. Still, as a shot blocking and defensive presence, the 2.23m (7'3") Senegalese center has been growing roots in the key all season. And once planted in there, Fall has been an outstanding shot deterrent. It was no surprise to see him leading the BCL in the percentage of shots he blocks and for that reason, he's earned his spot in our All-Defensive Team.
Other candidates mentioned were: Hamady N'diaye, Dejan Kravic, Hassan Martin, Patric Young and Jordan Morgan.
So, there you have it, my All-Defensive First Team would be: Ismail Ulusoy, Kendrick Perry, Kelvin Martin, Howard Sant-Roos and Youssoupha Fall. No doubt I won't have picked the exact same five as all of you reading this and no doubt, I have missed off some excellent defenders. Hit us up on social media and tell us who you think should be in and who should be out....
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