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The Last 40 Defensive Player Of The Year Award Winners: Dikembe Mutombo And Ben Wallace Are The Only Ones With 4 Awards

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The Last 40 Defensive Player Of The Year Award Winners: Dikembe Mutombo And Ben Wallace Are The Only Ones With 4 Awards

The Defensive Player of the Year Award is awarded to the best defensive player of the regular season. The award has technically been given out for the last 39 years because its inaugural season was in 1982-1983. The winner is selected from a panel of 124 writers and broadcasters where the votes are given for first, second, and third place. Each vote has a different vote value that is used to accumulate points.

In today’s league, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is trying to chase down history. Having won the award three times, he is tied with Dwight Howard for winning the second-most awards. Both Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace own the record of winning the award four times. With a handful of games left, Gobert has a few more opportunities to build his resume.

Among other special defensive players include some other Hall of Fame talent. These are the last 40 Defensive Player of the Year recipients.


1981-82 - None

There was no award presented at this time. The Defensive Player of the Year Award began during the 1982-93 season.


1982-83 - Sidney Moncrief

Stats: 22.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Moncrief once joked about the NBA creating the award specifically for him. He remains the only guard in the history of the award to win it twice. He is also one of three players 6-foot-4 or shorter to win the award, joining Alvin Robertson (6-3) and Gary Payton (6-4). Moncrief was tasked with locking down larger players, something he did a good job at. Sometimes, he was tasked with guarding 6-foot-9 forward Larry Bird.


1983-84 - Sidney Moncrief

Stats: 20.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG

For the second year, Moncrief didn’t have any specific defensive stats that shined above the rest. He ranked in the top-10 for defensive win shares, but this was more about respect for him being able to guard players like Bird and Magic Johnson. When it comes to the best two-way players of all time, Moncrief was right up there.


1984-85 - Mark Eaton

Stats: 9.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 5.6 BPG

Eaton had multiple defensive stats to back up that he earned this award. He led the league in total defensive rebounds, as well as total blocks. His 5.6 blocks per game remain an NBA record for a single season. Eaton swept the advanced defensive stats as well, leading the league in defensive win shares, defensive box/minus, and defensive rating. His block percentage was 8.7%, which means that nearly every 10 shots within his vicinity, he was potentially going to land a block.


1985-86 - Alvin Robertson

Stats: 17.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.5 APG, 3.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Robertson was a sneaky, underrated guard that could play swell defense. He led the league in total steals with 301. The second-best mark for steals was 207. His 3.7 steals per game led the league, as well as his steal percentage at 4.8%. All players had to be careful with Robertson around because he was most likely going to pick your pocket.


1986-87 - Michael Cooper

Stats: 10.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Cooper won the award while coming off the bench. He had the advantage of playing with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Looking back, it’s shocking to see that he won the award while averaging just 1.0 steals per game when you had Alvin Robertson averaging 3.2 per game or Mark Eaton averaging 4.1 blocks per game. It goes to show that media coverage can go a far way in some cases.


1987-88 - Michael Jordan

Stats: 35.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Jordan finished the season accomplishing one of the few feats any NBA player could do by winning the MVP and DPOY. Jordan led the league in scoring and win shares, but was also an excellent defensive player. Jordan led the league in total steals and steals per game.


1988-89 - Mark Eaton

Stats: 6.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3.8 BPG

Manute Bol led the league in blocks, but Eaton was given the award. Eaton was second in the league in blocks and fourth in defensive rebounds. He was second in the league in defensive rating and third in defensive win shares. Altogether, Eaton was a complete defensive package.


1989-90 - Dennis Rodman

Stats: 8.8 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Rodman didn’t have specific stats that popped out this season, but his ability to play physical ball in the middle gained the attention of voters. Rodman led the league in offensive rebounding at 16.2% of the time. His defensive rebounding was just as efficient for a player that was sharing time with Bill Laimbeer on the floor.


1990-91 - Dennis Rodman

Stats: 8.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Rodman’s rebounding helped his cause for repeating as the winner. Rodman led the league in offensive rebounds and was fourth in defensive rebounding. Rodman led the league in true rebounding percentage at 21.3% of the time. On top of his normal physical play on the floor, Rodman was an easy choice to repeat as the winner.


1991-92 - David Robinson

Stats: 23.2 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.3 SPG, 4.5 BPG

Rodman finally led the league in defensive rebounds by topping 1,000, but Robinson was pegged as the best defensive player. His blocks helped in that regard, where he led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. Robinson led the league with a block percentage of 7.4% of the time, as well as leading the league in defensive box plus/minus, as well as defensive rating.


1992-93 - Hakeem Olajuwon

Stats: 26.1 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 4.2 BPG

Olajuwon was just five rebounds away from Patrick Ewing to lead the league in defensive rebounding. While finishing runner-up, Olajuwon also led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. His block percentage of 6.5% led the league. Olajuwon also finished fourth in the rebounding race.


1993-94 - Hakeem Olajuwon

Stats: 27.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.7 BPG

Between Dennis Rodman and Dikembe Mutombo, Olajuwon could have easily lost to both. Instead, Olajuwon had a complete resume. He finished second to Rodman in defensive rebounding, second to Mutombo in blocks, and second to Patrick Ewing in defensive win shares and defensive rating.


1994-95 - Dikembe Mutombo

Stats: 11.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3.9 BPG

Mutombo led the league in total rebounds but finished second to Rodman in rebounds per game. He also finished tied for second-most defensive rebounds. However, his 3.9 blocks per game led the league, as did the total of blocks he had. It would be the first of many seasons where Mutombo was in contention for winning the top defensive award.


1995-96 - Gary Payton

Stats: 19.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 7.5 APG, 2.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Payton was the first player to tell you he was the best player on the floor. He led the league in steals and steals per game. He often jumped at the opportunity to guard the opposing team’s best player. That was on full display at one point in the 1996 NBA Finals when he was tasked to guard Michael Jordan.


1996-97 - Dikembe Mutombo

Stats: 13.3 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 3.3 BPG

Mutombo technically lost the rebounding and blocks crown, but led the league in total rebounds and blocks. For those efforts, he was rewarded DPOY at the expense of those titles. Mutombo was runner-up in defensive rebounds and defensive win shares, trailing Patrick Ewing in both categories. He was also third in the league in defensive rating.


1997-98 - Dikembe Mutombo

Stats: 13.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 3.4 BPG

Mutombo led the league in blocks for another year but lost the blocks title to Marcus Camby. He was third in defensive rebounding. As for the advanced stats, Mutombo was near the later end of the top-10. Out of all of his DPOYs, this was his weakest season.


1998-99 - Alonzo Mourning

Stats: 20.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 3.9 BPG

Mutombo finally led the league in defensive rebounds again but did not win DPOY That was given to Alonzo Mourning, who led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. Mourning also finished with a lower defensive win shares number and defensive rating in comparison to Mutombo. Mourning could have won the DPOY last season, so this feels like a fair tradeoff.


1999-00 - Alonzo Mourning

Stats: 21.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3.7 BPG

Mourning led the league in total blocks and blocks per game for a second straight season. For a second year, Mutombo led the league in defensive rebounding, while Mourning was 10th. Mourning did have a significantly higher defensive shares number than Mutombo. He did nearly average a double-double too.


2000-01 - Dikembe Mutombo

Stats: 10.0 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.7 BPG

Mutombo had one job and that was to rebound. Averaging a double-double was a plus. Mutombo led the league in total rebounds and offensive rebounds and was second to Ben Wallace in defensive rebounds. He led the league in total rebounding percentage with 21.9%, but also offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. That also includes finishing fifth in the league in blocks. At the time, Mutombo held the record for most DPOYs.


2001-02 - Ben Wallace

Stats: 7.6 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.5 BPG

For the next five years, Wallace would be one of the game’s best overall players. Wallace led the league in rebounding and was just four rebounds away from Tim Duncan from leading the league in total rebounds. Wallace also led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. Wallace also swept the advanced metrics, leading the league in defensive win shares, defensive box plus/minus, defensive rating, and block percentage.


2002-03 - Ben Wallace

Stats: 6.9 PPG, 15.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.2 BPG

Wallace was once again the league’s top rebounder. He led the league in total rebounds, and offensive rebounds, and was second to Kevin Garnett in defensive rebounds. Wallace’s 3.2 blocks were second in the league, while his total blocks were third. However, advanced metrics spoke again as Wallace led the league in defensive win shares, defensive box plus/minus, defensive rebounding, defensive rebounding percentage, and total rebounding percentage.


2003-04 - Ron Artest

Stats: 18.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Some critics believe Wallace should have won DPOY, which would have given him the record of five awards. However, this season belonged to Ron Artest, who was a solid defensive player. The Pacers were a top defensive team. One could also chalk this up to voter fatigue, who fell short of winning the steals title.


2004-05 - Ben Wallace

Stats: 9.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG

Wallace fell short of the rebounding and blocked the title. He was third in rebounds and fifth in blocks. With that said, he led the league in defensive win shares, while finishing third in defensive rating. Calling this a makeup for last year is a stretch, but this was one of his weaker seasons for winning DPOY.


2005-06 - Ben Wallace

Stats: 7.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.2 BPG

Wallace won his fourth award in a season that saw him lead the league in offensive rebounds. Wallace was fourth in the rebounding race and fifth in defensive rebounds. As for his blocks total, it was the lowest out of all winning years. That had him place ninth. Still, there was no more intimidating figure in the middle than Wallace.


2006-07 - Marcus Camby

Stats: 11.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 3.3 BPG

Camby led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. He also led the league in defensive box plus/minus. Camby was also third in defensive rating and seventh in defensive win shares. One could say that Tim Duncan was a figure to win, but with Camby’s blocks total, as well as having more defensive rebounds, it was a better choice for him.


2007-08 - Kevin Garnett

Stats: 18.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Garnett led the league in defensive rating and was second to Dwight Howard in defensive win shares. Not to take away from Garnett, but his rebounds and blocks were lower compared to his peers such as Howard and Camby. The Celtics also had a lot of attention for forming the big three. With that said, Garnett proved his worth in what should have been a Finals MVP championship series as he helped the Celtics win the title.


2008-09 - Dwight Howard

Stats: 20.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.9 BPG

Howard had one of the best DPOY since prime Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace. Howard led the league in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds, and won the rebounding title. He also led the league in total blocks and blocks per game. That also included leading the league in defensive win shares and defensive rating. Altogether, the numbers didn’t lie.


2009-10 - Dwight Howard

Stats: 18.3 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.8 BPG

For a second straight year, Howard led the league in total rebounds and blocks. That included leading the league in total rebounds and defensive rebounds. Howard swept the advanced analytics as well by leading the league in defensive win shares, defensive box plus/minus, and defensive rating. Howard nearly swept everything but finished second in offensive rebounds to Zach Randolph. Pair that with leading the league in field-goal percentage, he was the best two-way center.


2010-11 - Dwight Howard

Stats: 22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG

For a third straight year, Howard led the league in defensive win shares and rating. Howard led the league in defensive rebounding but lost out on the rebounding title to Kevin Love. Howard remains the only player to ever have won the award three straight seasons.


2011-12 - Tyson Chandler

Stats: 11.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.4 BPG

While it was Tyson Chandler’s first DPOY, it was also the first time that a player that didn’t make the All-Defensive First Team won the DPOY. Chandler finished the season All-Defensive Second Team. Winning DPOY was also contradictory to his numbers for the season. Chandler finished with the highest offensive rating after being the most efficient player in the paint. Chandler also finished in the outside of the top-10 of defensive rebounds, rebounds, and blocks.


2012-13 - Marc Gasol

Stats: 14.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG

The one metric that Gasol led the NBA in was defensive box plus/minus. Gasol also finished outside of the top-10 in any rebounding category and was 10th in the league in blocks. With that said, the Memphis Grizzlies were the best team in the NBA defensively, and that all started with Gasol. Like Chandler, Gasol won the award without making All-Defensive First Team.


2013-14 - Joakim Noah

Stats: 12.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.5 BPG

Offensively what Joakim Noah did this season for the Bulls is another story. Defensively, he led the league in defensive win shares and rating. Noah finished sixth in defensive rebounds and rebounds per game, ninth in total blocks, and 12th in blocks per game. There was enough all-around to give Noah this award, who stepped up in a big way without the play of Derrick Rose.


2014-15 - Kawhi Leonard

Stats: 16.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG

The next generation of the best two-way players was born in 2014 when Kawhi Leonard won Finals MVP. The following year, he stepped it up by winning his first Defensive Player of the Year Award. Leonard finished fifth in total steals but won the steals title as he played 64 games. He led the league in defensive rating and was sixth in defensive win shares. This defensive season brought back flashbacks to the days of Sidney Moncrief for what he did offensively as well.


2015-16 - Kawhi Leonard

Stats: 21.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Like Moncrief, Leonard repeated as the recipient of the award, while playing impressive offense. The advanced stats helped Leonard’s case. Leonard finished runner up in defensive win shares and third in defensive rating. He did not finish in the top-10 in steals, but his blocks number was relatively high for someone primarily having to guard bigger players.


2016-17 - Draymond Green

Stats: 10.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG

The Warriors were an extremely efficient team defensively with Green leading the way. Green led the league in steals while leading the league in defensive box plus/minus. Green was second in defensive rating and defensive win shares as well. Green was a smaller power forward that could guard larger forwards and centers. He was well deserving of this award.


2017-18 - Rudy Gobert

Stats: 13.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.3 BPG

Not to take away from Gobert, but Andre Drummond had the better year according to the numbers. Drummond led the league in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds, and had only two fewer blocks than Gobert. Drummond did lead the league in defensive win shares and rating. While Gobert had a solid season for a center, Drummond had just as much information backing up his skills.


2018-19 - Rudy Gobert

Stats: 15.9 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.3 BPG

Gobert was an effective shooter when given the ball, leading the league in field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Gobert had a better statistical year as regards defense. He was closer to Drummond in rebounds, advanced defensive metrics, and was second in total blocks, as well as third in the league in blocks per game. In comparison to the previous year, there was a solid case that Gobert was the best defensive player in the league.


2019-20 - Giannis Antetokounmpo

Stats: 29.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Antetokounmpo finished second in the rebounding race to Drummond but finished the season with the most defensive rebounds. It was the first time since Dwight Howard that a player swept the advanced defensive metrics as well. Antetokounmpo led the league in defensive win shares, defensive box plus/minus, and defensive rating. On top of that, he was the league’s highest efficient player, as well as the leader in two-point field goals. It was the first time since Kevin Garnett that a player won MVP and DPOY.


2020-21 - Rudy Gobert

Stats: 14.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.7 BPG

Last year, Gobert had the strongest season out of any season that saw him win a DPOY. Gobert led the league in defensive rebounds, blocks, and total rebounds while being the most effective two-point field goal shooter. Gobert also led the league in defensive rating and defensive win shares. Gobert didn’t need anything to back up his defensive skills, but leading the league in these categories solidified his legacy as a top defensive player. 

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