Over the past few years the Defensive Player of the Year award has been an obvious one to predict as the season goes on. But with new defensive powerhouses, and players seeking both redemption and the award itself, the race for this award could turn into a rare close finish.
Legend: SPG = steals per game, BPG = blocks per game, DWS = defensive win shares
#5 – Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
Defensive Awards: 2 x All Defensive 1st Team (2014, 2019), 2 x All Defensive 2nd Team (2013, 2016), NBA Steals Leader (2019)
2018-19 Defensive Stats: 2.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 4.9 DWS, 103.9 Defensive Rating
PG’s defence continues to impress, especially averaging 2.1 steals a game for OKC, and finishing 4th and 3rd in Defensive Player of the Year voting for the last 2 seasons. With a move to the Clippers to be alongside Kawhi, an equally impressive defender, this could either further enhance his capabilities, or his work might become unnoticed in the presence of a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. These contrasting scenarios could equal out, with PG continuing his defensive form into next season.
#4 – Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Defensive Awards: NBA Blocks Leader (2019)
2018-19 Defensive Stats: 0.8 spg, 2.7 bpg, 4.4 DWS, 104.5 Defensive Rating
A lot of people were upset that Myles Turner did not get the credit he deserved for his defence throughout last season. Leading the league in blocks with 2.7 per game, Turner finished 5th in Defensive Player of the Year voting, but did not get selected to an All Defensive team. Turner went to twitter to voice his frustrations; “Blantant Disrespect…Real 1’s Know What’s Up”, and it’s safe to say that he’ll seek to prove the haters wrong. In his 5th season in the NBA at 23 years of age, Turner will undoubtedly improve his game even further.
#3 – Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Defensive Awards: Defensive Player of the Year (2017), 3 x All Defensive 1st Team (2015-17), 2 x All Defensive 2nd Team (2018-19), NBA Steals Leader (2017)
2018-19 Defensive Stats: 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg, 3.2 DWS, 105.0 Defensive Rating
Draymond has featured prolifically in the Defensive Player of the Year voting each of his past 5 seasons, and he continues to be one of the league’s most tenacious and unapologetic defenders. From defending Point Guards to Centres, Green can do it all. Just like Curry for this upcoming season, without help from other great defenders like Klay and KD, Draymond is going to have to lift his game, which will definitely help him break out of his ‘defensive slump’ that some people have been critical of. Watch him return to his best defensive form.
#2 – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Defensive Awards: All Defensive 1st Team (2019), All Defensive 2nd Team (2017)
2018-19 Defensive Stats: 1.3 spg, 1.5 bpg, 5.5 DWS, 101.8 Defensive Rating
With such rare size, length, and athleticism, it was only a matter of time before Giannis became an elite defender. Giannis was only 131 out of 500 votes off achieving what only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon have been able to do – win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year. Whilst Giannis might aim to take a tiny step back during the regular season, he won’t be holding back on his defence. Giannis seems like the kind of guy who will aim to win every award at least once in his career, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he was extra focused on his defensive efforts this season.
#1 – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Defensive Awards: 2 x Defensive Player of the Year (2018-19), 3 x All Defensive 1st Team (2017-19), NBA Blocks Leader (2017)
2018-19 Defensive Stats: 0.8 spg, 2.3 bpg, 5.7 DWS, 103.6 Defensive Rating
Having gone back-to-back, it’s highly likely that Gobert will turn that into a three-peat, something only accomplished by Dwight Howard from 2009-11. At 27 years of age, there are no signs of Gobert slowing down at all, and with a Utah Jazz team now lacking in defensive frontcourt talent, Gobert is an even more intrinsic part of Utah’s defence. Maybe this season he will finally get his All Star nod too.
The Next 5:
#6 Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
#7 Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
#8 Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
#9 Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
#10 Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets
Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers
With the loss of Jimmy Butler, and Joel Embiid being the only good frontcourt defender, the 76ers did well to secure Horford who will tend to those defensive needs. Horford quietly goes about being a great defender, but the media ABSOLUTELY FROTH him. That’s why he is a solid dark horse. He will be playing a defensive role in Philly, he always gets plenty of love from the media, and is a proven elite defender.