Offense wins games, but defense wins Championships, so having great defensive players on your roster has to be one of your greatest priorities if you intend to make a playoffs run in this league.
Year in and year out, top-notch defenders go head to head to try and determine who’s going to get the Defensive Player of the Year award, mostly because of their true defensive impact than for flashy stats.
This year’s race features some new faces, with Rudy Gobert spending a lot of time on the shelves and Kawhi Leonard not being able to suit up for most of the season, but still, the gap is as narrow as it gets.
So, now that we’ve hit the season’s midpoint, we’re going to let you know about the top 5 Defensive Player of the Year candidates of the season.
5. Andre Drummond
This one may come as a surprise, as Andre Drummond has never been much of a dominant defender despite his physical presence, and he’s always been cataloged as a soft big man, something that may finally change after the course of this campaign.
Actually, Drummond currently ranks first in defensive rating among qualified players with a 98.7 Drtg, as well as being first in defensive rebound percentage with 36.6 and defensive rebounds with 587 and defensive win shares with 4.1 and a defensive plus-minus of 5.8, so he’s definitely making everybody notice his presence down low this year.
4. Paul George
Paul George has definitely taken a major step forward in the defensive end of the floor this season, leading the league in total steals with 124 and a league-best 2.2 steals per contest while also being 8th in defensive win shares.
George is more known for his offense rather than his defense so he’s not likely to take home this award, especially with the Thunder struggling to get stops without Andre Roberson, but this kind of hustle is definitely worth noticing this year.
3. Clint Capela
Clint Capela has quietly surged as one of the league’s elite big men this season, also flourishing as a very reliable pick and roll scoring option with Chris Paul and James Harden feeding him, but his defensive impact on the court is the thing that has made him so valuable for the surging Houston Rockets this season.
Capela currently ranks 4th in defensive rebound percentage with 32.9, has 2.7 defensive win shares (13th in the league), a 2.7 defensive plus-minus, a 5.8 block percentage (3rd in the league) and a 25.8 PER.
2. Kevin Durant
Yeah, that’s right, Kevin Durant is the best defensive player in the best team in the league this season, over Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. As a matter of fact, Durant is a statistically better rim protector than Myles Turner, Steven Adams and even Clint Capela, allowing opponents to shoot 57% below the rim.
Also, Durant ranks 4th in the league with 1.9 blocked shots per game and has become one of the best isolation stoppers in the league due to his great wingspan and lateral quickness. He’s blocked 97 shots this season, and even his hard-nosed teammate Draymond Green believes he should win the award already.
1. Joel Embiid
Despite being known far more for his offense rather than his defense, Embiid is 12th in defensive rebounds with 391, 15th in defensive plus-minus with 2.5, 16th in defensive win shares with 2.7, tied 3rd in defensive rating with 101.1, 6th in block percentage with 4.9, 10th in defensive rebound percentage with 29.8, and 10th in blocks with 80.
But what we love about him the most is that he Actually takes part in 3 of the top defensive duos in the league this season, allowing opponents to shoot 40.9% when he and Simmons are on the floor, 41.4% when he’s with Redick, and 41.5% when he’s with Robert Covington.