Who Will Be Defensive Player of the Year?
We’re in the home stretch of this NBA season, which means it’s time to start talking seriously about which players are going to have a real shot at winning this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Dwight Howard has taken home the trophy three years running, but is it a foregone conclusion that he’ll win it again? That’s what this article is about, so let’s have a look at the top contenders for Defensive Player of the Year:
#5 – Shawn Marion – The thing about Shawn Marion is that he does a little bit of everything. The guy can guard just about any position other than center, and he’s been doing an incredible job of it all season long. Watch one Dallas Mavericks game, and look at the face of the man he’s been guarding all night. It’s a face of complete and utter frustration. Marion’s defensive numbers (steals and blocks) are as high as they’ve been in four years, and his versatility gets him a spot on this list. Aged he may be, but there’s still plenty of defensive oomph left in those old legs.
#4 – LeBron James – Yes, LeBron James is probably going to the win the Most Valuable Player award. It’s also true, however, that he’s going to receive some votes for Defensive Player of the Year, and it wouldn’t shock anybody if he was named to another All-Defensive Team at season’s end. Not only is he third in the league in steals, but he can guard four positions well, shut down just about any star in the league and track down fast-breakers with more ease than almost anyone in league history. A man that size with the ability to shut down Derrick Rose deserves some love here, and LeBron will certainly get his fair share when the DPOY votes get turned in.
#3 – Tyson Chandler – Want to hear something crazy? The New York Knicks are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency. Go check for yourself—it’s right there in plain numbers for the world to see. If you’re wondering how such a thing could be possible with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the team in a season coached mostly by Mike D’Antoni, you need only look at the offseason acquisition of center Tyson Chandler. The same way Chandler helped transform Dallas a year ago, he’s transforming New York now, and it’s no secret that he completely changes the way teams attack the lane. Few guys in this league hold down the fort like Chandler. Defense is where he’s made his money as a pro, and he only seems to be getting better at it with age.
#2 – Serge Ibaka – There is a real possibility that the Oklahoma City Thunder could have award winners for MVP (Kevin Durant), Sixth Man of the Year (James Harden), and Defensive Player of the Year (Serge Ibaka), but Ibaka might be the most surprising of those three. With 3.4 blocks per game, Ibaka is leading the league in that category pretty comfortably and that number is also a full block higher than his per game average of 2.4 a year ago. His rebound numbers are nowhere near those of Dwight Howard, however, and Ibaka also has the luxury of playing alongside Kendrick Perkins, who can secure the lane while Serge “I-Block-Ya” roams around taking all sorts of risks on the defensive end. Were it just him, those stats might not be so cushy. Still, he’s the only hope we’ve got for dethroning three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard. Which leads us to…
#1 – Dwight Howard – For the fourth consecutive year, it looks like Dwight Howard is going to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and it would be a very tricky argument that claims he doesn’t deserve it. Yes, he’s averaging almost a full block-and-a-half per game fewer than Ibaka, but his 14.5 rebounds per game leads the league. Plus, as mentioned above, Howard holds his team together defensively all by himself. Think about what the Thunder would look like defensively without Ibaka (they’d still be respectable) versus what Orlando would look like without Howard (it looks an awful lot like lottery ping-pong balls, doesn’t it?). He is the Magic’s defense, and he’s a very good defense at that. All by himself. And that’s why he’s likely to take home this award for the fourth time in a row (the first time that will have ever happened, by the way), even though Ibaka has been statistically monstrous.
Kevin Garnett – While KG’s offense wanes, his defense seems to have gotten better. Okay, so maybe not better from an athleticism standpoint—he certainly can’t do the things with his body that he used to—but while you can’t control the quality of your knees, you can control your defensive intensity. Garnett has done a great job on that end of the floor, and as a result his Celtics are second in the league in defensive efficiency.
Andre Iguodala – When you look at Iggy’s stats, it comes as a bit of a surprise that he was voted to the 2012 All-Star Team. However, you have to consider the fact that he’s the defensive leader on the best defensive team in the league this year, and the fact that his efforts have inspired defense that good from a group that has no business winning as many games as it does should be commended. He’s long, strong and versatile—all characteristics that provide him with the opportunity to be in this conversation.
Tony Allen – Put simply, Tony Allen is one of the top two or three perimeter defenders in the league. An argument could even be made that he’s the best, period. The Memphis Grizzlies are a respectable defensive team due in large part to him, and he should find himself on the Defensive First or Second Team again this year, even if he’s pretty far back in the race for Defensive Player of the Year.
Who else deserves to be considered for this award? Did we get it right with Dwight? Make sure you leave your suggestions in the comment section below!