Last Friday, the NBA released the finalists for the league’s annual awards.
Regarding Defensive Player of the Year, I ranked the finalists below, and made their case for honors:
Kawhi Leonard (3rd)
When the game is on the line, whether it be championship or regular season, Leonard is the guy who’s going to give you that defensive play. Aside from that, his offensive focus strays too far for him to be considered Defensive Player of the Year.
On the season, Kawhi averaged (5.8) rebounds, and (1.8) steals per game. Among finalists, he ranked 2nd in steals on the season with (133). Considered the best perimeter defender, his opponents shot just (33.9%) beyond 15-feet from the goal.
Leonard is certainly a top-3 defensive talent in this league, no one’ arguing that. His ability to defend through offensive prowess earns him third place, an honorable mention.
Draymond Green (2nd)
The Warriors star x-factor, Draymond Green, deserves accolades for his defensive effort certainly. I just don’t believe this is the year. On the season, he averaged (7.9) rebounds, (1.4) blocks per game (career-high), and (2.0) steals per game.
Most known for his ability to guard all five positions efficiently, Green ranked just behind the Jazz big man in Opponent FG% at the rim, with a (43.8%). It cannot go without notice, that he tallied (104) blocks, and (154) steals on the season. It’s the second consecutive season he’s held (100+) in both stats. Also, it’s worth mentioning that neither of the other two finalists managed to do this.
Green’s versatility, and stealing proficiency earn him place as a close runner-up.
Rudy Gobert (1st)
The Utah Jazz star center and soon-to-be franchise player has emerged as one of the best in the league this season, and was named finalists for both the Defensive Player and Most Improved player awards.
Rudy is the most dominant paint defender out of the three, and averaged (12.8) rebounds, and (2.6) blocks per game. His blocks per game ranks first among the finalists, as well as his rebounds per game. In defensive +/-, he ranks third with . He also ranked 3rd in both offensive rating (129), and defensive rating (99.2), the only player in the league to rank top 5 in both.
The main goal for a defensive possession is to end the possession. Those tend to end in rebounds, where Gobert excels more than most.
All stats and information provided by ESPN and NBA.com. Featured image provided by HoopsHabit via Google Images.