Top 10 Contenders for 2013-2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Okay, I’m just going to be up front here. My man Johnny Pavia made a list of the top ten contenders for this years Rookie of the Year, which can be seen RIGHT HERE, and I copied the idea. I checked with him, and he gave me the stamp of approval. Okay, I kinda sorta checked with him, and he didn’t seem to mind… Okay, we haven’t really talked since I told him I was hijacking his idea, but I think he will get over it.
Share my excitement that the NBA is less than two weeks away, and join me as I count down the top contenders for Defensive Player of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Bogut (isn’t quite on this elite level defensively, and won’t stay healthy enough to qualify,) Avery Bradley (team won’t be good enough to contend, media hates giving award to wing defenders), Iman Shumpert, because Johnny suggested it, and he was the inspiration of this list, and Larry Sanders, because I love watching him play.
10. Anthony Davis: This isn’t Kentucky anymore, Unibrow. I think its fair to say Davis was a slight disappointment in his rookie season. Granted, much of it can be contributed to injuries, as Davis played in 64 of 82 games last year. The flashes of defensive prowess were there, as Davis had fourteen games with at least three blocks, but it was the inconsistency that was startling.
Then again, inconsistency should be expected from a rookie, and expectations may have been too high for the Unibrow. I think Davis will show us more of what we expected from a 1st overall pick this coming season from a Pelicans teams that will be very entertaining to watch, and a possible playoff contender.
Even being in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year will be a big step for Davis, and expect next year’s list to have the Unibrow at least a few spots higher.
9. Serge Ibaka: This is the other end of the spectrum. Where Davis will be making a leap up the board to ten, I believe Ibaka regresses a bit in peoples minds defensively. It seemed that Ibaka even regressed a little last year as well, recording only one more block last year than he did in his 2011-2012 campaign.
“BUT WAIT THA’T’S IMPROVEMENT,” you say…Only one problem: the 2011-2012 campaign was the 66-game lockout shortened season. Ibaka is given much of the credit for the Thunder’s defensive improvements last year, as they were 4th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions. While he is undoubtedly a key contributor, he may be receiving too much praise, as both Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha do a great job keeping guards in front of them as a backcourt, making it easier for Ibaka to cover the basket.
All that being said, Ibaka may be too low on my list here, but I wanted to show the wings some love, even though they may not be realistic contenders for the award that is traditionally given to a big guy that protects the basket like Ibaka.
8. Andre Iguodala: Arguably the best addition of the offseason, Iguodala will bring the defensive presence coach Mark Jackson has been trying to instill into his young squad. Iggy has two things going for him; he will have the responsibility of guarding the best offensive player every night, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson still leave much to be desired defensively, and Iguodala will be a prominent part of what I expect to be one of the best teams in the league, at least through the regular season.
A top three seed for the Warriors should be the expectation, and I think they will meet it. The playoffs? Well, that may not go so well.
7. Joakim Noah: Noah is what I like to call a worker, the type of dude that even defends DURING THE ALL-STAR GAME. You can rely on him to go out every night and give you his all, and it shows, especially since he is basically a one-dimensional player. Luckily for this list, that one dimension is his defense. The real question is whether Noah can stay on the court enough, as he has was bothered with nagging inuries last season (and still managed to go out and play with more heart and tenacity than the entire Nets team.)
It wasn’t just last season either. Noah has never played a full 82 game season.
His games played in his career are as follows: 74, 80, 64, 48, 64 (of 66), 66
And this is a guy that played through one of the most painful injuries you can have last year, so imagine how many of those games he is probably playing when he isn’t near 100 percent.
6. Tony Allen: As mentioned earlier, this award is traditionally a big-man award, so Allen’s chances of winning are probably minimal. However, Allen has earned a spot on this list, as he is the best wing defender this league has to offer not named LeBron James, who isn’t really a wing-defender as much as he is an alien from another planet.
The last guard to win Defensive Player of the Year was Gary Payton in the 95-96 season, and he is sandwiched by a bunch of big guys before and after that. Do you get the point? It’s a big guys award to lose, and with the impressive list ahead of him coming up, Allen doesn’t have much of a chance to win.
The thing I love about Tony Allen is that he realized the only way he could have a long NBA career was to become an elite defender (since Tony Allen may be just as bad on offense as he is good on defense), and he went out and did it.
I highly suggest reading this feature on Allen, and just how seriously he takes his job on the defensive end.
5. DeAndre Jordan: This is my darkhorse DPOY candidate, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in contention for this award. There are only two problems: Jordan did not receive a single vote for the award last season, making it highly unlikely he would leapfrog all the way to the top of the list. The only precedent I found was actually Gasol last year, who finished tied for 12th in 2011-2012 before winning it last year. This would obviously be an even steeper climb than that. Also, the Clippers, rightfully so, are considered Chris Paul’s team, and their success is largely measured in his performance. This also means he gets most of the credit for their success, and crowning Jordan with this award would be negating that to a degree.
Plus, putting him on this list just gives me a reason to show this dunk again. Hasn’t gotten old yet.
4. Roy Hibbert: Hibbert is going to get a huge boost in confidence from his playoff performance, and the media now sees him as a defensive juggernaut, whether its true or not. Hibbert finished a respectable, but unimpressive 10th in the voting last year, receiving only three first place votes (at least 2 and 1/2 of those had to be from Indiana voters). However, we know that basketball is all about confidence, and awards are all about perception, and Hibbert has those two things going for him. Unlike Noah, Hibbert is a constant in the lineup, which helps his stock, and is considered the anchor of arguably the best defensive team in the league.
Having Paul George, who finished two spots ahead of him last year in the DPOY voting doesn’t hurt either.
3. Marc Gasol: This list wouldn’t really be reputable without the defending champ, and the DPOY award has been kind to going back-to-back. The most recent repeat winner was Dwight Howard, who won the award for three straight years from the 07-08 season to the 09-10 season, but he isn’t the only one. Ben Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman, and Dikembe Motombo have all won back-to-back DPOY as well, just to name a few. However, the award has seemingly opened up a bit the last couple of seasons, and become a more trendy award to the most impressive defender that season. Most of those guys repeated based on reputation, and not necessarily their individual season accolades.
For example, Ben Wallace won his 4th DPOY of the year in 2005-2006, despite not finishing first in any of the major defensive categories (rebounds, steals, blocks.) Bruce Bowen was probably the more deserving winner, but the media hates wing defenders as much as God hates Cleveland. So there’s that.
I suspect guys like Hibbert, Jordan, Ibaka, and Noah get more consideration than Gasol, and that his winning last year was more of a fluke than anything else. That’s not to say Gasol isn’t great defensively (and well, offensively for that matter. Gasol is a beast, and the best Gasol in the NBA.)
2. Lebron James: Here is what LeBron has going for him… he’s LeBron James. Lost in his prolific offensive game, coupled by his championships is that James is probably the best defender in the league, just ask Tony Parker. He has the unique ability to guard every position on the floor, though he usually sticks with the 1-3 positions. I don’t need to explain (hopefully) that James is an elite defender to you.
Here’s what he does not have going for him: LeBron had as dominant of a season last year as maybe any in recent memory. He was one vote shy of winning the MVP unanimously last season (which is still a bit silly), and he still didn’t win this award last year. It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which he dominates enough to also win this award along with his MVP’s.
There are only two scenarios I see where James walks home with the DPOY: Kevin Durant (or someone else) dominates the league this year enough to challenge James for the MVP, or win it from him, so in turn, he wins DPOY as a consolation prize.
These players listed above are very underwhelming, and leave no clear-cut DPOY, falling into LeBron’s lap.
Neither of those scenarios seem likely, thus no DPOY for Mr. James. It seems appropriate to mention that the great Michael Jordan, the best player of his generation, was also considered an elite defender, yet only won one DPOY in the 1987-88 season (he did also win MVP that season.)
1. Dwight Howard: It would seem to me that this is Dwight’s award to lose, but that doesn’t necessarily means he deserves it.
With all the hype going around his transition from LA to Houston, he is poised to be awarded if he performs well. From a pure defensive perspective, guys like Noah and Hibbert may outperform Howard defensively. However, if the Rockets go from the 8th seed into the top three, Howard will be your Defensive Player of the Year, assuming he stays healthy.
The Rockets ranked 28th in opponents points per game last season, which is slightly misleading, considering they played at the fastest pace in the league. That being said, if Howard brings a respectable improvement to the team defensively, and the Rockets are seen as contenders, the award is all his.
With a Defensive Player of the Year award under his belt, he may be on his way to having his jersey retired! Okay, that was just a way of getting a shameless plug in, and a not-so-shameless dig in on Howard.
Who do you think should be the DPOY? Tell me I’m wrong in the comments below.
By: Frank Santos- Sports-Kings Co-Founder
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com