NUGGETS

KCP snubbed from defensive teams, Jokic lacks honor-worthy cast

May 21, 2024, 1:13 PM

The Denver Nuggets defense improved big time in 2023-24 but the point-of-attack stopper leading the way, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, did not get enough votes for the NBA’s All-Defense Teams.

The Nuggets defense was ranked 15 in the two seasons before the current one, improving to eighth by defensive rating this season. KCP was picked up ahead of the 2022-23 season and was key for the Nuggets in capturing the franchise’s first title, and his second personally. The shooting guard is a great shooter but he’s more known for his stout defense. The clamping was more notable in the title defense which is why 11 voters cast ballots for Caldwell-Pope as a second-team defender. That fell 25 points and seven places shy of earning a nod on Tuesday’s revealed year-end honor. Which is to say, if the NBA had a third team for defenders, KCP still wouldn’t have made the list.

Caldwell-Pope played 76 games, averaging 10.1 points, 2.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks on 41% shooting from deep.

The Nuggets defensive rating of 111.0 when KCP was on the floor was 36th-best among players who played at least 65 games and 20 minutes a night. Christian Braun was actually the best defensive on Denver according to that metric at 109.3 points for the other team scored per 100 possessions. Similarly, KCP’s 0.114 defensive win shares were 26th-best in the NBA among players who hit those qualifiers. The 1.3 steals a game, were tied for 14th-most in the NBA this season.

It’s understandable why KCP didn’t make the list of top 10 defenders despite his good season as his numbers hint that he’s likely just outside the league’s elite class. Plus rim protectors get a lot of love in the NBA and KCP is a perimeter player.

With just the All-NBA teams left to be revealed, which will happen and Wednesday, the streak of the Nuggets cast not getting any recognition continues. Right or wrong, it means three-time MVP Nikola Jokic remains the lone MVP to never have played with an All-Star, All-NBA or All-Defense teammate through nine seasons of their career—and Jokic has won three of those awards.

Given the Nuggets starting five’s struggles against the Wolves in the second round, it’s worth wondering if Denver makes a giant splash this offseason and finally pairs Jokic with somebody worthy of awards.

Colorado native Derrick White was honored for a second-straight year by making the All-Defensive Second Team.

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