Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 5/24/12

The NBA unveiled its All-Defensive Teams yesterday.

LeBron James was the leading vote-getter. Joining him on the All-Defensive First Team were Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.

You’ll notice that Knicks center Tyson Chandler, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, didn’t make the first team. He is on the All-Defensive Second Team with Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Luol Deng.

How can the Defensive Player of the Year not make the All-Defensive First Team?

How can the player who is supposedly the league’s best defender not be named to a team of the league’s best defenders?

Tyson Chandler: the league's best defensive player but only the league's second best defensive center. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Because the people who voted Tyson Chandler Defensive POY were not the same people who selected the All-Defensive Teams.

A panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters selects the Defensive POY. Each voter selects three players then ranks them. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote three points, and a third-place vote one point.

The 30 NBA coaches are responsible for selecting the All-Defensive Teams. Each coach votes for five first-team players (two forwards, two guards, and a center) and five second-team players. Coaches are not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

It also doesn’t help that Chandler plays center. The coaches need only decide that one player—in this case Dwight Howard—is slightly better than Chandler on the defensive end of the court for Chandler to be relegated to the second team. If he were a forward or guard, the coaches would have to find two players to put in front of Chandler.

This has actually happened twice before:

  • In 1995 writers selected Dikembe Mutombo, then center of the Denver Nuggets, as the Defensive Player of the Year. The coaches, however, put Mutombo on the All-Defensive Second Team. David Robinson was the center on the first team.
  • In 1986 Spurs guard Alvin Robertson was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. But the coaches selected the Bucks’ Sidney Moncrief and the Sixers’ Maurice Cheeks as the guards for the All-Defensive First Team. Moncrief was making his fifth appearance on the first team, Cheeks his fourth. Robertson, in only his second NBA season, hadn’t been selected to either time prior to 1986.

Alvin Robertson was Defensive Player of the Year in 1986 but didn't make the cut for the All-Defensive First Team.

There have also been four occasions when the league’s Most Valuable Player did not make the All-NBA First Team. Today, the same panel of writers and broadcasters that votes for the Defensive Player of the Year selects both the MVP and the All-NBA teams. But prior to the 1980-81 season, players chose the NBA’s MVP.

  • In 1958, 1961, and 1962 the players voted Celtics great Bill Russell the Most Valuable Player but the writers placed Russell, a center, on the All-NBA Second Team. Bob Petit was the center on the first team in 1958; Wilt Chamberlain was the center on the first team in 1961 and 1962. (Russell also won the MVP in 1963 and 1965 and made the first team both times.)
  • In 1973 the players selected another Celtics center, Dave Cowens, as the MVP, but the writers put Cowens on the second team behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

By 1962, Bill Russell had won three NBA MVP awards but had only made the All-NBA First Team once (and in a year when he didn't win the MVP).

The rookie awards, like the defensive awards, are split, with the writers choosing the Rookie of the Year and the coaches choosing the All-Rookie teams. Despite this, every Rookie of the Year has made the All-Rookie First Team.

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