Being a successful NBA isn’t just about scoring, it is about defense as well. LeBron would not have been able to win his third ring without a key block on Iguodala late in game 7. Jordan wouldn’t have won 6 titles had it not been for his great defensive ability. Defense wins championships and having a player that can spearhead it is important. With that being said, here are my top 5 DPOY candidates.
5. DeAndre Jordan
While the Clippers have been playing poorly as of late, Jordan has built a solid season for himself, especially on the defensive end. He is averaging 13.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on the season. While his block number seems low, defenders know that he is ready to jump up and block it or at least contest the shot.
A big part of playing defense is securing the ball at the end of the possession and currently, Jordan is 3rd in the league in rebounds. His ability to clean the glass and alter shots has made him a good defender and a defensive player of the year candidate.
4. Hassan Whiteside
At one point in the season, the Heat were the second worst team in the east and could have easily called it a season. However, they turned it around thanks in part to two players. The first, Dion Waiters (the best irrational confidence guy in the NBA). The second is Whiteside. This 7-foot tall athletic freak of nature is leading the league in rebounding at 14 and averaging 2 blocks a game.
He plays a lot like DeAndre with more offensive capabilities. The Heat’s recent success has given Whiteside a strong case for DPOY.
3. Rudy Gobert
Gobert currently is 5th in the NBA in rebounding at 12.8 and first in blocks averaging 2.5 per game. What makes Gobert has always been a talented prospect, so much so that he rendered a third overall pick in EnesKanter useless to the Jazz. No one wants to go in the paint while Gobert is in there, his presence is intimidating, and I rarely see people dunking on him.
Whenever I watch Gobert, I’m thinking “pass it for the open three, don’t drive” cause He’s going to send the ball three rows up. The Jazz are also playing very well, holding the 4th seed in the western conference. Their defense is great and Gobert has everything to do with it.
2. Draymond Green
A jack of all trades, Green can pass, score, rebound and defend. He is one of the most complete basketball players in the NBA and he got his start on the defensive end. Green is an emotional guy, always barking out orders and getting his teammates fired up and that is the first sign of a guy who competes on defense, making sure that everyone else it too. Green is leading the NBA in steals per game, averaging 2.2, and he gets 1.5 blocks a game.
Green’s size plus the way the game is played today means he can guard one through five. Green can do it all for a team on defense and he is the reason that the Warriors defense is doing well.
1. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi is just the best defender in the game (if not the best player in the game). Like Green, he can guard 1 through 5. Leonard is 5th in steals per game at 1.9 and averages under a block a game but, he gets into guys, makes it so they can’t breathe. His giant hands let him steal the ball whenever, and he so fast and strong that he can throw it down once he gets the ball. The Spurs are a great defensive team and having a guy, having a cold-blooded assassin, who can shut down the best player on the opposing team at will, solidifies that.
Should Leonard win DPOY again, that will be his third straight however, I cannot think of anyone more deserving.
There are other great defenders like Anthony Davis and Giannis but their teams are not performing well and this award (in my opinion) should go to not only a great individual defender but a great team defender as well. Defense elevates the good player to great players and good teams to great teams. While it is not the most flashy things at times, playing defense is the key to success in the NBA.