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ESPN's Haberstroh: Mike Bibby Stinks Defensively

<strong>News Flash.</strong>
News Flash.

If the name and topic sounds familiar, it should, as it was Tom Habertroh who exactly one month ago, wrote a defense of Mike Bibby using statistical analysis.

Consider the facts:

  • The Hawks are ranked 13th in defensive efficiency this season (above-average with Bibby playing all but three games).
  • The Hawks were tied for 13th in defensive efficiency last season (above-average).
  • This season, the Hawks were better defensively with Bibby on the floor than when he sat on the bench. The Hawks allowed 105.4 points per 100 possessions with him and 106.6 points with him riding pine.
  • He grades out as an "average" defender this season according to data from Synergy Sports. The grade spectrum for a given player is as follows: "poor," "below average," "average," "good," "very good" and "excellent" depending on how many points he allows on every play he directly defends.

Our response to this was swift and effective, as one who had been subject to his subject for over 2 seasons.

The case has been made that Bibby's overall effectiveness comes from playing with the best Hawks' defenders on the team, Al Horford and Josh Smith, nearly exclusively. Bibby has never had to come on the court with the likes of those on the Hawks "bench".

It's that bench that features the guard who is as bad as Bibby at defending his man on the perimeter, Jamal Crawford. When Bibby and Crawford have been on the floor at the same time, I swear I can see Horford's heart rate increase 20 percent.

His on/off court numbers are an indictment of the lack of quality depth on the bench, rather than an abatement of the criticism due Bibby's defensive abilities.

If anything, Haberstroh should go back and write another love letter to Horford for his amazing defensive efficiency in spite of what he's had to work with at the perimeter.


Fast forward a month later, and Haberstroh has seen the light, and has different numbers to communicate to the masses.

When point guard Mike Bibby has been on the floor for the Heat, Miami's defense has surrendered 15 points per 100 possessions more than when he has sat on the bench. (We use per 100 possessions as the standard to control for potential tempo effects). 

That sounds bad, but how damaging is that? Consider this: the difference between the league's top defense (Chicago) and the league's worst defense (Cleveland) is 12.5 points per 100 possessions. Do the math, and you find that Bibby's defensive impact has been about three points wider than that.     


Sounds about right to those who have watched Al Horford get ground into jelly the last few seasons having to work his rear end off trying to cover for Bibby's (and Jamal Crawford's) defensive shortcomings.

But when Bibby was signed, the Heat were supposed to have more firepower to hide Bibby, at least that was the optimistic musings of Tom, who has to cover the Heat full time this season. 

Moreover, Spoelstra knows Bibby can't keep up with the game's quickest point guards. The Heat luckily have two defenders who can: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The Lakers face a similar dilemma with their aging point guard Derek Fisher and what do they do? They put Kobe Bryant on the Rajon Rondos of the NBA. Expect the Heat to deploy a similar strategy if the Heat can't stomach Mario Chalmers' erratic play.         


Hey, for those who didn't watch the Hawks, I can accept that it would be easy to believe the above. But I know the truth, as does everyone who have been witnesses in the ATL. Bibby put an ungodly strain on guys like Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson.

Now, after a month, Haberstroh knows the truth, too.

Bibby's matador act on the defensive end of the floor forces Spoelstra to hide him on the floor. That means that Dwyane Wade or LeBron James often have to cover the opposing point guard, which, in turn, puts Bibby on a taller opponent. A switch like that can have a disorienting effect on the team that has been normally lock-tight with rotations. Making things worse is that Bibby has been dreadful at closing out on shooters. He tends to over-help on other players, leaving his man wide open to knock down a perimeter shot. In fact, according to Synergy Sports, opponents have shot 51.2 percent on spot-ups when guarded by Bibby, but it's effectively 66.3 percent shooting once you account for the fact that many of those spot-up shots come from beyond the arc. You don't need a leaderboard to gauge how atrocious that is.     


The Hawks won 53 games last season with Mike Bibby at the point starting every game, at fact that should now bring a bouquet of flowers to the homes of all the Hawks that were sent scrambling and switching to "cover" Bibby on the floor.

Immediately after we ran our post a month ago calling out the ridiculousness of the notion that Bibby's defensive atrocities might be exaggerated after all, Haberstroh DMd me on Twitter to say that his article was "tongue and cheek". I replied that I probably wasn't the only only one who missed the memo on that particular TPS report, because it looked like a legit effort to cast some doubt about Bibby's rep to me. In this new item, he tries to explain again that his previous launch on the subject was less than serious.

Now I've written quick comments that I intended to be one way and they missed the mark and I have had to explain, so I believe that, if Tom said it was a hammy write-up, ok, I'll give him a pass.

But whatever the intention of the previous item, this new article's message is clear. It's a mea cupla that says yes, indeed, Mike Bibby is that bad. I see it. I believe it. 

Welcome aboard, Tom.