By Kevin Pelton

While ESPN’s new real plus-minus (RPM) is useful at both ends of the floor, it’s disproportionately useful at the defensive end because so much of what makes for good defense can’t be captured by the box score or even necessarily credited or blamed on an individual player on a single play. To wit, my WARP rating explains half the variation in offensive RPM, but less than 40 percent of the variation on defense.

By capturing the impact an individual player has on his team’s defense when on the court, adjusted for teammates and opposition — along with box-score stats that predict those ratings — RPM offers a much more complete measure of defensive contributions.

As important as RPM may be to evaluating defense, it’s still just one of several measures that together can help us assess a player’s defensive value. In fact, my Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive Team picks for this season, which are based on a combination of stats and scouting, include only two of those top seven players. Let’s take a look.

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