It’s the beginning March, the last full month of the regular season, and that means its time to look ahead to possible candidates for the upcoming awards’ season. In this segment, we look at the top 10 candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. We start with number 10:
10. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler has been the heart of the Bulls defense the past two years, and the addition of his offensive game this season was an unexpected bonus. Butler is always the primary wing defender, guarding LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and even point guards Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. On the season, Butler is averaging 1.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, but he allows his opponents to shoot just 47.6% overall from the field. Butler’s stifling defense on the perimeter has also had strong results, showing that his opponents shoot just 40.8% past 15 feet.
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9. Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside has had a huge coming out party this season. Vastly unknown and known as cocky as well as arrogant, Whiteside’s mentors have brought him down to earth. His appreciation for his position is why he is where he is. After a very slow start where he was just signed as a backup in case of an injury, Whiteside, now a full-time starter, is averaging 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game and allowing opponents to shoot just 46.5% at the rim. When he’s defending an opponent’s shot, that player shoots the ball at 43.5%, which is solid for a big man. If Whiteside helps the Heat into the playoffs, he has a chance to win this award. He’s a more likely candidate for the Most Improved Player Award though.
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8. Timofey Mozgov
Mozgov probably has the least flashy numbers of this group, but if you’ve watched the Cavs play, his presence and effect on the game is undeniable. With Mozzy on the floor in 27 games for the Cavaliers, Cleveland has outscored its opponents by 8.4 points per game. In those games, he has also allowed his opponents to shoot just 45.7% at the rim and 48.7% overall from the field.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 27, 2015
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7. Draymond Green
Also a candidate for the Most Improved Player award, Draymond Green is the starting power forward for the Warriors at an undersized 6 foot 7 inches. Green has been arguably the best dual defender in the NBA. He guards four out of the five positions and does a great job of it. Green allows his opponents to shoot just 47.6% at the rim, 46% from within 10 feet, 30.4% from past 15 feet, and 38.8% overall. Those stats alone make him an easy candidate for defensive player of the year. Factor in his excellent health, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, as well as his 1.4 blocks per game, and Green could actually win this award by a landslide!
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6. Kawhi Leonard
Leonard has had a handful on injuries this season, but when he’s played, the Spurs have been a vastly different team thanks in large part to the defensive presence he brings. Leonard is averaging 2.1 steals and 0.8 blocks per game this season, but more importantly, he’s not allowing his opponents to shoot better than 50% from anywhere! He allows just 41.7% shooting at the rim, 50% from inside of 10 feet, and a solid 38.6% from past 15 feet. Leonard is a real talent on both ends of the floor and has a legit chance to win it all.
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5. Marc Gasol
Once again, Marc Gasol’s numbers aren’t anything to go nuts about, as he’s averaging eight rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game this season. He continues, however, to be an absolute force on the defensive end. The former DPOY winner is allowing his opponents to shoot 48.6% at the rim this season, 49.8% from within 10 feet, and 35.8% from beyond 15 feet. Gasol’s quick thinking and versatility make up for his lack of athleticism among some of the most active centers, making him a solid pick for defensive player of the year.
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4. Rudy Gobert
Like Whiteside, Rudy Gobery has literally emerged out of nowhere after living in the shadows of recently traded Enes Kanter. Gobert started for Kanter in January when he was dealing with injuries, and the Jazz’s backup was putting up incredible defensive numbers while helping his team win games. That prompted Utah to trade Kanter, and now Gobert is averaging 13.3 rebounds, one steal, and 3.3 blocks per game in his last seven for the Jazz. His presence has helped as he allows his opponents to shoot just 38% at the rim and 42.5% inside of 10 feet.
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3. DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan was seen as only a rebounding and shot changing presence at the beginning of the season. He has definitely added the offensive numbers with his teammates looking for him. He’s averaging 14.5 rebounds, one steal, and 2.3 blocks per game this season, but since teammate Blake Griffin has gone down with an elbow injury, Jordan has been averaging an insane 19.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.7 blocks over the past 11 games. As the lone rim protector, Jordan allows his opponents to shoot just 49.3% at the rim and 46.9% overall. Jordan has been doing it all by himself this season and has a good chance of winning the defensive player award this season.
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2. Serge Ibaka
Nothing new here. Serge Ibaka is going to be a nightly defensive problem for opponents. At 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, Ibaka has a very good chance of blocking your shot when you come inside the painted area. Ibaka allows his opponents to shoot just 41.1% at the basket and 45.4% from within 10 feet. Ibaka could win the award this season, but hte up and coming competition makes it a tough task for the shot-blocking machine.
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1. Anthony Davis
Welcome third-year power forward/ center Anthony Davis to the conversation after posting all around career highs this season. He’s averaging 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game this season to go along with his 24.2 points. Davis allows his opponents to shoot 48.6% at the rim, 48.2% within 10 feet, and just 31.5% from beyond 15 feet, showing his all around versatility. All of that factored in, Davis is the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.