Unlike the MVP or Rookie of the Year races, where one or two obvious frontrunners have emerged over the course of the season, the Defensive Player of the Year race is a little more wide open. There are certainly basic and advanced defensive statistics we can use to assess a player’s impact on that end of the court, but the eye test plays a significant role in evaluating a player’s defensive ability, so the award is more subjective.
One player most analysts agree deserves to be in consideration for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award? Lakers big man Anthony Davis. Although teammate LeBron James looks like the stronger MVP candidate, Davis has often been the club’s last line of defense, protecting the rim and helping turn L.A. into one of the NBA’s stingiest teams — the Lakers rank third in defensive rating.
Devine’s top choice is Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose elite defense is a major factor in his case for a second consecutive MVP award. Devine argues that Milwaukee’s top-ranked defense is as good as it is because Antetokonmpo can “essentially erase half the floor,” roaming around the court like an NFL free safety. Among high-volume defenders, Giannis ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage, at 36.1%. He was on Harper’s and Murphy’s ballots as well.
Ben Simmons (Sixers), Bam Adebayo (Heat), Marcus Smart (Celtics), Brook Lopez (Bucks), and P.J. Tucker (Rockets) were among the other players to earn Defensive Player of the Year consideration from at least one of Devine, Murphy, and Harper. Interestingly, none of their three ballots included reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert, though Harper did give the Jazz center an honorable mention.
What do you think? Would you pick Davis, Antetokounmpo, or someone else as this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, assuming the season is over or close to it? What would your top three look like if you were submitting an official ballot?
Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!