Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. It’s always been like that, and that’s not a trend that’s likely to change any time soon, even with the high-octane offenses we see nowadays.
That’s why it’s so important to have good defenders on your team. Guys that you can trust to get a stop every night regardless of the players they’re defending. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of those players in the league right now.
However, there are a handful of players that have played outstanding defense so far in the season, and today, we’re going to give you our top 10 candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year award:
Honorable Mention: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez made a living in this league thanks to his offense, but he’s quickly becoming one of the league’s most underrated defenders. Under Mike Budenholzer, he’s now 5th in blocks per game (2.3), 3rd in block percentage (7.6%), 6th in defensive rating (98.8), 15th in defensive win shares (1.4), and 7th in defensive plus-minus (4.3).
10. Andre Drummond
Drummond entered the league as a dominant rebounder and offensive threat in the pick-and-roll but didn’t turn the corner as a defender until the last couple of seasons. Now, he’s a defensive force and physical presence down low that must be reckoned.
Andre picked up things where he left them last season. So far, he’s 4th in defensive plus-minus (4.9), 3rd in defensive win shares (1.7), 8th in defensive rating (99.5), 18th in block percentage (4.6%), 9th in blocks per game (1.9), 10th in steals per game (1.7), 1st in defensive rebounds percentage (39.8%) and 1st in rebounds (16.7).
9. Kawhi Leonard
Obviously, Kawhi Leonard is a perennial MVP candidate as much as he is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. However, he’s sat during back-to-backs and the Clippers are still thriving without him, so his impact isn’t as big as always.
Still, he’s got the 11th best defensive rating in the league (99.9), is 9th in steal percentage (2.8%), and 7th in steals per game (1.9). Those numbers are likely to trend up once he’s back at full strength and playing at his usual level.
8. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. But with his length, speed and strength, he’s able to guard one through five with ease, and he’s deadly in the half-court. So far, he’s been the Sixers’ best defender.
Thanks to his huge wingspan, Simmons is currently leading the league in steals per game (2.3), is 5th in steal percentage (3.2%), 14th in defensive rating (100.4), 5th in defensive win shares (1.6), and 17th in defensive plus-minus (3.4).
7. Bam Adebayo
There was a lot of hype around Bam Adebayo before the start of the season and so far, he’s exceeded all expectations. We all knew he was a good defender, but he’s taking it to a whole new dimension this season, besides his much-improved offense and handles.
Adebayo is one of the main reasons why the Heat have thrived so much this season. So far, he’s 17th in defensive rebound percentage (25.8%), 17th in defensive rating (100.7), 4th in defensive win shares (1.6), and 5th in defensive plus-minus (4.6).
6. Joel Embiid
Ever since making his debut, Joel Embiid has sat near the top of the standings when it comes to defense. He’s a nightmare in the post and below the rim, and can even guard all the way to the perimeter. However, he’s not a top-3 candidate so far this year.
The Philadelphia 76ers big man has taken a slight step back compared to last season, but he’s still 18th in blocks per game (1.4), third in defensive rebound percentage (35.1%), 3rd in defensive rating (98.4), and 13th in defensive win shares (1.4).
5. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler made a name for himself for being a tough competitor and a physical defender. He can take big men in the post, or stay in front of quicker guards. He has great instincts, as is never going to be outhustled by another player on the floor.
That’s why his impact with the Miami Heat has been so big this season. His energy is just contagious and you know his teammates won’t be caught sleeping in defense. He’s 8th in steal percentage (2.9%), 2nd in steals per game (2.1), 17th in defensive win shares (1.3).
4. Jonathan Isaac
It took him a while, but Jonathan Isaac is finally starting to show why the Orlando Magic were so high on him and why he could be one of the leading candidates for the Defensive Of the Year award on a yearly basis.
Despite playing mostly as a small forward, Isaac is leading the league in blocks per game (2.9), is second in block percentage (8.3%), 8th in defensive rating (99.5), 12th in defensive win shares (1.4), and 2nd in defensive plus-minus (5.3).
3. Rudy Gobert
Another year, another top-3 finish for Rudy Gobert, who many may argue is the most disruptive presence in the paint nowadays. Gobert’s presence alters the entire flow of the game, and that’s why the Utah Jazz have found that much success with him below the rim.
The Frenchman is currently 12th in defensive rating (100.0), 6th in defensive win shares (1.6), 8th in defensive plus-minus (8.1), and 10th in blocks per game (1.8), a number that’s definitely going up once the season keeps its course.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo just keeps improving year after year, and that’s scary. He’s barely scratching the surface on his potential, and he’s quickly becoming one of the most versatile defenders in the league thanks to his length.
The reigning MVP is now a dominant two-way player. He’s 10th in defensive rebound percentage (31%), 1st in defensive rating (95.4), 1st in defensive win shares (2.0), and 4th in defensive plus-minus (5.1).
1. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has thrived in both ends of the floor during his first season with the Lakers, and there’s no wonder why Frank Vogel and LeBron James have started a campaign to make him the DPOY for the first time on his career.
Davis has always been a solid rim protector, but he’s taken things to a whole new level this year. So far, he’s 10th in defensive plus-minus (3.9), 2nd in defensive win shares (1.8), 4th in defensive rating (98.5), 7th in block percentage (6.9%), and 2nd in blocks per game (2.7).