The NBA is full of surprises each and every season. Trying to predict who will have a breakout year, who will thrive in a new role, and which star will shine the brightest is nearly impossible. But in the 2015-16 NBA Awards Prediction Series at Last Word On Sports, we will try to do exactly that. A panel of five LWOS basketball writers will be predicting the winner for each of the five main awards – Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Valuable Player – in preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season.
For a complete listing of the 2015-16 NBA Awards Prediction Series, click here.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the 2015-16 Defensive Player of the Year award.
2015-16 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Predictions
Robert Holmes, basketball staff writer: Nerlens Noel. The only rookie that received any Defensive Player of the Year votes for the 2014-15 campaign. Coming out of college, Noel was known for his defensive abilities, and before he got injured, he was on track to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft because of it. Noels excels at shot blocking because he has the ability to not only react to the first shot attempt but he can get back up for the second and third attempt just as fast. Also, at 228 pounds he often had to match up with centers that had at least 40 pounds on him every night. This year the Sixers finally have a center in Jahlil Okafor that will allow Noel to roam the paint more freely. This will allow him to improve on his 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game which were both already top 10 in those categories last year.
Lior Kozai, basketball staff writer: Rudy Gobert. Although Gobert finished fifth in voting last season, the DPOY race focused more on versatility, with Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green finishing first and second, respectively. This season, rim protection will be valued the most. Anthony Davis and Gobert are the best interior defenders in the league, and they’ll fight for this award. It comes down to Gobert being the key to the stingy Jazz defense. Utah was 26th in the league in defensive efficiency at the All-Star break last season. Enes Kanter was then traded, making Gobert the starting center. Utah’s defense transformed into the best in the league after the trade, largely thanks to Gobert playing so much more. Gobert’s defense will be a key to Utah’s playoff push in the West.
Jack Hammond, basketball staff writer: Utah’s defense looked very different in the second half of the season with Rudy Gobert anchoring the middle. There is no question that Gobert, in just half a season of solid playing time, looked like one of the better defensive bigs in the league. I believe he takes that next step this season and guides Utah to a playoff berth. They were one of the better teams in the second half and will continue to be good thanks to Gobert’s dominant defensive performances.
Peter Rosston, basketball staff writer: Kawhi Leonard narrowly edged Draymond Green for this title last year, and this year, I expect Green to repay the favor. Even with the addition of Lamarcus Aldridge, Leonard is going to be relied on more than ever to help carry the offense, especially since Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are not getting any younger. Green is a versatile defender and can guard pretty much any positon from point guard to center. He is helped by the fact that the Warriors are an excellent team defensively. Deandre Jordan and Rudy Gobert will also make strong cases as rim-protectors, and I do think this will be Gobert’s award to lose in the future, but for now, my pick is Draymond Green.
Jack Moon Perrin, basketball department head: Kawhi Leonard. Nicknamed “The Claw,” Leonard is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. For the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard is nearly always tasked with guarding the other team’s best player. With his size, wingspan and huge hands, Leonard is versatile enough to cover guards, forwards and post players. Leonard was the league leader in steals last season. With the additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, Leonard will be able to focus even more on defense this season.
Matthew Cardenas: DeAndre Jordan- This one is long overdue. Jordan has arguably been the best defensive center in the league for the past few years. His ability to alter and block shots is truly remarkable. His defensive ability would have really showed if he had left the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan should come close to running away with this award.