Culture of Hoops

NBA Awards Roundtable: Defensive Player of the Year

Image courtesy of Kawhi Leonard/Facebook.

Image courtesy of Kawhi Leonard/Facebook.

The NBA postseason is upon us and that means the H&H crew got together to break down the NBA Awards so you don’t have to.

Dennis Velasco: I’d love for Kawhi Leonard to win this award every year because he just seems so indifferent to accolades and just keeps improving every season. He makes Tim Duncan seem like a blabbermouth. My dream is that Leonard wins the award and steps to the dais during his presser with DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” playing in the background and him pausing his acceptance speech when the chorus comes up and Leonard just starts singing it. That way, everybody wins.

Dan Tria: There will be no creepy song about my choice, Kawhi Leonard. There could be a ton of adjectives deployed about the Quiet Man’s defense, but I’d just choose sublime. He’s never out of position and brings it every possession. He’s the athletic version of Bruce Bowen. There are tons of great defensive players throughout NBA history – starting of course with Bill Russell – but Kawhi has the ability and intensity to be the best ever. The reality is Kawhi alters every team’s offensive strategy and every night guards the opposition’s best player. This is his award however long he wants it.

Mike Cortez: “You know Chubbs like Draymond” was more than a line in Drake’s Summer Sixteen. It was a prophecy that Draymond Green would win DPOY. Kawhi Leonard will likely win this award every other year (he could win it every year), but it’s time to give Draymond his recognition. He guards every position on the floor effectively, leads the league in steals per game (second in total steals, finishing three behind John Wall at 154 for the season) and captains the best team in the league. We saw what happened when he missed Game 5 of the finals last year and saw how the Warriors barely missed a beat without Durant. Shout out to Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert and Kawhi though.

Tyler Birss: Do not kid yourself here, this is a two-man race between Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert. The justified winner is Green for a variety of reasons. He is the most versatile defender in the NBA – not only is he capable, but he is exceptional, when it comes to guarding every opposing position. Despite the listing of his height, most feel Green is actually 6′ 5″ or so, yet he commonly guards centers. A detailed look into advanced metrics shows how remarkably strong Green is regarding defending near the rim, and beyond this, he has literally won multiple games with great late-game defense. The best defensive player on the league’s scariest defensive team deserves this award. It belongs to Green.

Sonny Giuliano: For all the talk about how tightly contested the MVP race has been all year long, making a decision on Defensive Player of the Year is equally difficult. In Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gobert we have the best perimeter and interior defenders in the league, and in an odd twist, neither of those two will get my DPOY vote. I opted to cast my vote in the direction of the most versatile defender in the league: Draymond Green. Draymond remains the heartbeat of the best team in the NBA, as well as their on-court alpha (which is different than being the Warriors “Best Player”) and the league’s premiere defensive Swiss Army Knife. He can switch everything, bang bigger bodies in the paint, guard wings on the perimeter and he has remained the mouthpiece of a top three defensive team in the league. That’s good enough for me to nudge him past The Claw and The Stifle Tower.

Dylan Hamann: Rudy Gobert pulled down almost 13 (12.8) rebounds a game, combined with 2.6 blocks, and 14 points, and you can see how of an important interior force he was this season for the Utah Jazz. With Gobert dominating the boards, Utah allowed the fewest points per game in the league, and you can’t deny that Gobert was the real reason for that. Gobert’s stellar defense helped propel the Jazz to the fourth seed in the West, granted they have had a tough matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin’s injury makes it all the more likely Gobert will lead the Jazz to the second round.

Mike Bitanga: Who’s a better on-ball defender than Kawhi Leonard? Nobody. There may arguably be more versatile defenders, but the league is very perimeter-oriented these days, and that’s where Leonard works best. Some may also be distracted by his growing offensive talents, but this man is always in the Defensive Player of the Year race, and this year is no different. Statistically, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert have him beat, but Leonard’s defensive prowess and willingness to guard the opposing team’s best offensive threat, finding success more often than not, keeps him at number one.

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