On his new blog, APBR bigfoot Dan Rosenbaum has unveiled his findings in using adjusted +/- statistics to find the best and worst defenders at every position. In his analysis of big men, Tyson Chandler was found to be in the top 5, and conversely Eddy Curry was in the bottom 5. Kindof expected.
In his latest post on the subject (ranking PGs, SGs, and SFs) however, his results are completely counter to what I assumed. Chris Duhon AND Ben Gordon made the top 5 in their respective positions.
Rosenbaum was naturally surprised in Gordon's case, so he dug deeper:
In particular, Gordon is a puzzle since he has a reputation of being a terrible defender. He played the bulk of his minutes with Tyson Chandler and it appears to me he is getting credit for a lot of Chandler's handiwork because the few times Gordon was in but Chandler was not, the Bulls played great defense. On the other hand, in the few times when Chandler was in but Gordon was not, the Bulls played pretty poor defense.
Statistically, this implies that it was Gordon and not Chandler that was the reason for the Bulls' good defense. And thus he gets more credit for the good defense during the times when they were both in the game. Gordon may be a better defender than he has gotten credit for, but I suspect that part of this is just good fortune. Once we have another season to try to separate Chandler and Gordon, it should be easier to assess Gordon's defensive effectiveness.
Again, this is the opposite of what management has said and what many have observed watching the games. But before you go stat-hatin' Rosenbaum as he mentions this caveat several times: For a player's rookie season, this analysis is more prone to error.
Although, even if there is error, perhaps Gordon is not as bad on D as we all thought. However this doesn't change the offseason need for defensive help at guard. Gordon still forces Hinrich to guard the two, and as we saw at the end of this past season it really wore him down. Not that new-signee Eddie Basden will get too many minutes, but he'll help Hinrich no matter how underrated Gordon turns out to be as a defender. And if Gordon continues to show on the court what the resulting numbers indicate, there will be more time out there for him to further showcase what he's best known for: lighting up the other guys.