NBA: Defensive Player of the Year Candidates

In the NBA, scoring has skyrocketed exponentially due to the pace of play as well as how teams are built. As a result, defensive stoppers are rare, which makes them absolute game changers and game wreckers.

With less than 30 games to go in the NBA’s regular season, the Defensive Player of the Year race is wide open so let’s take a look at the candidates.

Rudy Gobert

  • Defensive Win Shares – 2nd in league
  • Team defense ranking – 3rd in league

Gobert is the reigning DPOY and a shot blocking machine. When he was crowned DPOY last year, the Jazz had just finished the season 30-8 after he had returned from injury. Due to Gobert’s return the Jazz, they finished the year with the league’s second-best defense.

This year the Jazz have the third best team defense while Gobert’s defensive rating is a measly 100 points per game. Though counting stats like blocks and steals are important when assessing DPOY candidates, the importance of stats like loose balls recovered and shots contested can’t be discounted.

Gobert is third in shots contested and first in two-pointers contested. When watching him on the court, he deters opponents from entering the restricted area. His shot blocking prowess is in the back of opponent’s minds. They often shoot the ball from worse positions or rush shots rather than try and take the ball right to the rim. With the Jazz improving as the year goes on, look for the Frenchman to be right in the mix for his second DPOY award.

Joel Embiid

  • Defensive Win Shares – 8th in league
  • Team defense ranking – 20th in league

The Sixers big man is one of the best defenders in the NBA. With a combination of foot speed and defensive prowess around the rim, he can defend on the perimeter as well as in the restricted area.

Though the 76ers dont have an elite defense, Embiid can lock down the paint. When he is on the court, Philly only allows 104 points per game. He is also second in the league in overall shots contested while only allowing opponents to score on 45 percent of their shots.

Embiid’s advanced stats are hurt by the fact he doesn’t play on an elite defensive team, but he is still in the running for the award due to his massive impact in the painted area.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • Defensive Win Shares – 1st in league
  • Team defense ranking – 8th in league

Antetokounmpo is having the best defensive year of his career. Milwaukee, as a team, has a top 10 defense and while Giannis has the best win share ranking, he also has the league’s best defensive rating.

When Giannis is on the floor, the Bucks only allow 97.9 points per 100 possessions. His defensive game stretches all the way from the three-point line to the painted area also. Adept at jumping passing lanes for steals, Giannis uses his massive wingspan to either swat shots or deflect the ball away for teammates.

The Greek Freak is fourth in the league in contesting beyond the arc and is also in the top 10 in recovering loose balls. Coach Budenholzer has utilized his superstar’s physical gifts by playing him next to Brook Lopez. This leaves Giannis free to fly in for help-side blocks and steals. The Bucks league leading record goes a long way towards putting Giannis in contention for his first claim as the best defender in the league with DPOY.

Paul George   

  • Defensive Win Shares – 4th in league
  • Team defense ranking – 12th in league

PG13 is having the best season of his career on both ends of the floor. Leading the league in both steals and deflections, he has been a nightmare for the opposition all season. He always takes the task of defending the opposition’s best player. Be it James Harden or Kevin Durant, George has locked down some of the league’s best scorers this season.

When George is defending the 3-point line, opponents only hit on 30 percent of their attempts. Though perimeter players like George don’t often win DPOY, George is having a standout year and is in the running for his first major award.

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