With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards and here, we look at Defensive Player of the Year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It’s hard to discern where to draw the line when it comes to players missing time and still being deserving of individual honours.
Gobert is one of those cases as he missed 26 of Utah’s first 44 games. However, his impact after his return was so obvious that it feels wrong to penalise him for his injury in the first half of the season.
When he was on the court, the Jazz had a defensive rating of 97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, a mark that would have comfortably ranked first in the league.
As the NBA’s best rim protector, Gobert legitimately affects opposing players’ point-blank shots, by both swatting and altering them. There’s a reason he has the nicknames ‘Stifle Tower’ and ‘French Rejection’.
Gobert’s presence in the paint also scares away players from attacking the rim in a way that isn’t quantifiable.
He’s not the prototype for the ideal defensive player in today’s game, with someone like Draymond Green arguably more valuable for his versatility and ability to guard all over the court, but Gobert does what he does extremely well.
After finishing as the DPOY runner-up in 2017, Gobert is deserving of finally breaking through.
Like Gobert, Embiid is a brick wall at the rim and a deterrent to any player who wants to risk driving to the basket. His blocks per game dropped from last season – 2.5 to 1.8 – but the 76ers centre was the pillar of a Philadelphia defence that finished third in the league in defensive rating with 102.0 points.
There isn’t a more complete defender among big men than Davis, who can lock down a guard on the perimeter and then rotate over to swat a shot in the same possession. The combination of his mobility and size makes him a devastating weapon, as evidenced by his 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
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