ROUNDTABLE: Defensive Player of the Year
Eight of OTG's defensive gurus give you their pick for Defensive Player of the Year
Barring a Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green repeat, Defensive Player of the Year will go to Rudy Gobert. Defense is determined by impact and the award is determined by the story of a player’s season as much as their individual impact on D. John Wall and Patrick Beverley lock the perimeter, Kawhi and Draymond can switch everywhere, but Rudy Gobert controls the paint. Perimeter defense isn’t enough, so Kawhi and Draymond can win because they maintain some of the league’s most impressive defenses — but Rudy’s past few seasons of paint domination coupled with this year’s potential storyline should grant him the hardware. If the Utah Jazz manage to fight for playoff contention, despite losing major pieces like George Hill and Gordon Hayward, then it will be on the back of Gobert’s dominance. New addition Ricky Rubio is a talented defender on the perimeter, but the rest of the Jazz roster (Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson, Derrick Favors) are not known for their defensive prowess so if Utah is indeed stifling this season, their shield and protector Gobert’s ability will seem uncontested and any positive steps taken by their average roster should get credited to Gobert’s leading example. Kawhi and Draymond have earned their fanfare, so it should be Rudy Gobert’s time to shine if the Jazz manage to remain relevant this year without Hayward.
Last year we saw Draymond Green win, the two years prior, Kawhi Leonard. Now Both of these guys surely will be in the hunt and in this category all season. I’m going in a different direction, picking the french stud, Rudy Gobert. Gobert was a big part of the Utah Jazz's success last year, and with the loss of Gordon Hayward they’ll need him more than ever, especially on the defensive end. Last season Gobert averaged 2.6 blocks per game and a career high 6 defensive win shares. Now these are just stats, and I’m not a huge stat guy, but it gives you some substance to what I’m saying. In a league with everyone shooting and playing less defense at the center position, Gobert remains something of a throwback. A rim protector, a tall monster in the paint, this is the year that the Utah Jazz don’t win a chip, but a year they catch a little hype. Rudy Gobert is your 2018 Defensive Player of the Year.
Draymond Green won last year and I believe he wins again. Blocks. Steals. Rebounds. He does it all on the defensive end for the Golden State Warriors. And I feel like once a player gets recognized, it is easy to give it to him again. But that’s not the only reason I think he wins. He is 27 and in the prime of his career. Presumably he will still be at this high level this year, or get even better and improve on his impressive 2016-17 season. A season that saw him tie for the league lead in steals per game with John Wall and Chris Paul at 2.0 steals per game. Think about that. A 6-foot-7 forward averaging 2 steals a game. That is no fluke. He reads and understands the defensive side of the game as good as anybody. Also, it helps to play on the league’s best team. That sort of exposure goes a long way. He might not be everyone’s favorite player with some of his dirty play on the court, but it is hard to argue the impact he makes on a possession-to-possession basis surely impact voters.
It's hard to foresee who is going to be the DPOY next year. You naturally look to last year's best and inevitably those guys will be in the running again. Kawhi Leonard looks a more likely contender for MVP than DPOY; his offensive burden may affect his defensive presence. Rudy Gobert will also be asked to take strides on that end, however, his defensive skill set is less likely to wane as the league’s premier rim protector. I'm going with Draymond Green though. Green has the best defensive versatility of the lot including his ability to switch while also capably defending the rim and paint. For lack of a better term Green will be able to 'stay in his lane' and hone in on his defensive prowess while his superteam crew take care of the offensive side. I picked Gobert towards the end of last year and that may be the case going into next year but I just can't go past a guy who can do both this
Albert Roman/ @Al_Roman87
In the past two seasons, Kawhi Leonard has joined the conversation for best overall NBA player. His offensive game has steadily improved, while his defense was never a doubt. Leonard is coming off an impressive 2016-17 campaign, where he averaged a career high 25.5 points per game. As the San Antonio Spurs grow another year older, the team will heavily lean on their star forward. Leonard will need to be front and center for the Spurs in an extremely tough Western Conference. I believe at 26 years old, Leonard’s game can only continue to reach a higher level. Teams have learned over the years to never “doubt the Spurs.” They just always find a way to win. Fans will once again learn to never doubt the Spurs and the main reason this season will be Leonard’s defense. Leonard, a two time Defensive Player of the Year, will join Dwight Howard as the only two players to win the award three times.
Draymond Green won his 1st Defensive Player of the Year Award last season and there is no reason to think that he will not repeat. He will continue to play for the best team in the league with the best defense. He will continue to play the four and five as an undersized big. He will continue to switch onto all offensive players on the court. He will continue to lead the Golden State Warriors with the passion and emotion that some of their key players are missing. It is so hard to measure defense with stats, but watching a Warrior game you can quickly see how good Draymond Green is as a defender. It is not only that he can switch, but he is so smart defensively. He knows when to help and he knows when to get back. There are not many times in the course of a game where you can say that Green messed up defensively and that is an accomplishment for any NBA player.
The Defensive Player of the Year will be Anthony Davis. Davis is a shot blocking and rebounding machine. There was a while where the Defensive Player of the year was always a big man. It will go back to that in 2018. Davis will bring that back this year with the New Orleans Pelicans. According to Basketball Reference, Davis has averaged 7.6 defensive rebounds for his career. His defensive rebound numbers have been on a steady incline every year since he broke into the league. If the rebound numbers are not enough, Davis has led the league in blocks per game twice in his five-year career. According to Basketball Reference, Davis averages 2.4 blocks for his career. Those are numbers of a guy that is All-World defensively.
The reason Davis has not won the award already is because he is not on a great team. If you look at the last few winners they all have been on some of the better teams in the league. This is Davis’s year to win the award. The Pelicans are going to be a better team this year and he will get the respect he deserves.
I think this year the Defensive Player of the Year award will be given out to Rudy Gobert. With Gordon Hayward in Boston, Gobert is the new face of the Utah Jazz. I believe Quin Snyder will adjust his defense ever so slightly and feature Gobert even more than he already does. Last year Snyder encouraging strong closeouts from their long and pesky perimeter defenders (Rubio, Hood, Exum, Burks, Mitchell) and funneled players into the lane where Gobert was waiting, expect more of the same from the Jazz. In addition, because Gobert will be featured more on offense due to George Hill and Hayward leaving, the extra media exposure will only help to shed light to how dominate he is on the defensive side of the ball.