NBA Award Predictions: Defensive Player Of The Year

My personal favorite of all the NBA awards, the Defensive Player Of The Year award honors the players who do the dirty work on their respective teams and go the extra mile to secure a win. 

Winners of this award include some of the greatest players this game has ever seen in Dennis Rodman, Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan, Dikembe Mutombo, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Eventually, we will be able to include Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green on that list, but for now, they haven’t yet earned their stripes. So let’s take a look at who has a chance at winning this award in the 2017-18 season:

Kawhi Leonard

Already a 2x winner of this award, Kawhi Leonard has quickly become the poster boy for this award. Not only is Leonard a magician on the defensive end, but he is by far the best in the league at turning defense into offense. Last season, Leonard averaged nearly two steals a game along with 0.7 blocks a game and was tasked with guarding the NBA’s best players each and every night.

Leonard even won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP due to his preposterous defense on Lebron James, the greatest basketball player on the planet today. In the past, Leonard has also led the league in steals and has been in the running for this award the past 4-5 years. It also helps that Leonard plays within the most stable organization in this league for the past decade. However, it looked as if the Spurs were going to be forced into tank mode once Tim Duncan retired before Leonard made an amazing breakthrough and proved himself as the air to the Spurs throne.

Leonard’s prowess defensively has gotten to such a high level that teams are purposely avoiding him and hoping that their other contributors can step up and give the team a win. Having Kawhi Leonard guard you has become the highest level of respect you can reach as an NBA player. Once you see that serious, straight face stare you down, you know that although you may not reach double digits that night, you are a top 30 NBA player. That kind of impact defensively is unmatched as Leonard has only been in the league for six years and could stack up to five of these awards on his way to Springfield.

Predicted Defensive Stats: 2.1 Steals Per Game, 0.9 Blocks Per Game, 4.8 Defensive Rebounds Per Game

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Rudy Gobert

The best rim protector in the NBA, Rudy Gobert nearly edged out Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard for this award last season. Coming in third last season for this award, Rudy Gobert will now be the focal point for both the Jazz’s offense and defensive with Gordon Hayward out of the picture. Last season, Gobert led the league in blocks, averaging 2.64 a game along with 8.9 defensive rebounds per game.

Already proven as one of the leagues best rim alterers this game has seen, Gobert has steadily been proving himself and nearly came out on top for this award last season. However, the loss of Gordon Hayward could prove costly as surely the Jazz will fall in terms of the standings which could deter the voters. But if Gobert can play great offensively and earn his first all-star appearance, it will indeed increase his chances at winning the Defensive Player Of The Year award. If Gobert does want to have a chance at winning the award, he will need to be even more efficient than last year and really carry the Jazz organization on his back.

If Gobert happens to see any sort of drop in numbers, his chances at this award will drop to below slim. However, that possibility is highly unlikely as Gobert, at age 25, is still a few years away from reaching his prime leaving him much room for improvement. So if a young star such as Gobert a momentous award such as this one to his mantle, it go would go a long way for his Hall Of Fame credentials.

Predicted Defensive Stats: 0.5 Steals Per Game, 3.0 Blocks Per Game, 9.2 Defensive Rebounds Per Game

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Giannis Antetokounmpo

Wildly overlooked on the defensive side of the ball, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most athletic specimens on the planet. Standing at six foot, eleven inches, Giannis has a seven-foot, four-inch wingspan with over a twelve-foot vertical leap. These statistics just add more proof to his nickname, the “Greek Freak.” However, despite his athleticism, people still don’t see Antetokounmpo as a force on the defensive side of the ball.

Last season, Giannis averaged 1.6 steals a game to pair with 1.9 blocks and 7.0 defensive rebound. An all-around great defensive season, Giannis was put on the all-defensive second team and an All-NBA team as well. However, his presence was still overlooked and many don’t see any possible way he prevails as the front-runner for this award. But if the Bucks continue to develop their young talent, and Giannis continues to take the next steps in his development, it will be hard for the voters to leave him off of the short list.

Now I’m not saying he is for sure going to win it, as he will be facing players such as Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, and Rudy Gobert, who are seen as some of the best defenders of all time. But Giannis does have two “X” factors in his favor. For one thing, he is a foreign player which means he will get the overwhelming support from his country which does influence the voters. And two, he is an offensive superstar, and let’s face it if two players have nearly identical defensive numbers, voters are far more likely to pick the one who is considered a superstar and dominates both sides of the ball. However, with that said, only time can tell which defensive power, can sustain their excellence for another full year.

Predicted Defensive Stats: 1.9 Steals Per Game, 2.2 Blocks Per Game, 7.3 Defensive Rebounds Per Game

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Other Notable Players: Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverly, Andre Roberson


Ranking the Top 5 Centers in the NBA Right Now

In a league dominated by the three point shot, the center position was forced to adapt to this new fast paced NBA game. This change resulted in old enforcers, such as Roy Hibbert and Chris Anderson, becoming obsolete in a game that forced centers to be able to stretch the floor and knock down some jumpers.

So without further ado, here are your top 5 current NBA Centers:

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5. Rudy Gobert: This past year, Gobert went from promising young talent, to NBA star. Gobert affects the game both offensively and defensively, as he was the NBA’s best defender statistically while also putting up fourteen points per game. Gobert’s long arms combined with his freak athleticism propelled the Jazz to their postseason run. However, Gobert still has a copious amount of improvement before his offensive game is among the elite centers in the league. But with Hayward out of the picture, Gobert will most likely become the focal point of the offense, giving him the confidence he needs in order to improve.

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4. Marc Gasol: Gasol has been among the elite centers for the past several years, and this year was no different. Although Mike Conley continues to emerge as the leagues most underrated player, Marc Gasol is still the one keeping opponents awake at night. If you go back and watch any Grizzlies game, the ball continues to end up in the hands of Marc Gasol when the Grizz need a basket in the clutch. He is an elite post defender and has augmented his game to the perimeter, forcing slow centers to have to come out and defend him. However, Gasol is nearing the end of his prime, and might not be on this list for much longer.

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3. Nikola Jokić: Jokić is a perfect example of a modern big man. A reincarnation of Arvydas Sabonis, Jokić is perhaps the best post passer in the league, while also obtaining the ability to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter shots. Jokić almost single handily led the Nuggets to their first playoff appearance in four years. However, near the beginning of the season, Jokić was not eating up a lot of minutes and only started to see starting minutes near the mid-way point of the season. In a few years, Jokić could easily be the best center in the NBA, provided that his game continues to improve at this freak rate.

2. Karl Anthony-Towns: Karl Anthony-Towns may be the best second-year center, this league has ever seen. His athleticism and agility with the ball, combined with his skillful post play is nearly unstoppable. Just like most of the centers on this list, Towns has also adapted to this new era of basketball and is a threat around the perimeter. For the past two seasons, Towns is nearly the only thing keeping the Timberwolves from being the laughing stock of the NBA. his out of this world numbers of 21.7 points per game combined with his 11.4 rebounds per game, is the reason people looked at the Wolves and said that they are the next NBA dynasty. Although Jokić has the potential to become the NBA’s best center, Towns can one day be the NBA’s best player.

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1. Demarcus Cousins: Despite still not making any postseason appearances, Demarcus Cousins is still the NBA’s best center. His scoring ability in the post is like none other. Cousins has some of the best post moves this league has ever seen. His offensive ability can sometimes overshadow his defensive dominance in the post, however. As Cousins is still perhaps one of the leagues best defensive centers. Although he has had some off the court issues, on the court, Cousins is still a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully, his move to New Orleans with benefit both sides, as Anthony Davis will finally have some frontcourt help, and Demarcus Cousins will get his chance at playing for a franchise that wants to win immediately.

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In other words, it is clear that although the NBA has become guard dominant, the center position has by no means, faded away. These big men are still competing at the highest level and excel each and every night. Some may argue, the center position is more skilled than ever.