Every year we see the Defensive Player of the Year award be given to a game-changing defender. This award is unlike the MVP award as it’s easier to win multiple years in a row. This last year a very rare occurrence happened as Marcus Smart won the award as a guard. With this being a big-man-dominated award we started to slowly see a shift in the game. With that being said, here are the players that are the Defensive Player of the Year favorites.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Favorites
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a decent defender ever since he started to break out as a star for the Milwaukee Bucks. His 6’11” frame and long wingspan make him a dominant presence down low with the speed to guard the perimeter. Antetokounmpo is no stranger to being nominated for this award as he’s a five-time all-defensive player and a one-time defensive player of the year.
Another factor that’ll benefit Antetokounmpo’s case is the return of Brook Lopez to the lineup. Without Lopez, Antetokounmpo played a lot of time at starting center last year. With Lopez back, Antetokounmpo can move back to the power forward position and play that help-defense role he’s used to. This should benefit his rebounds and blocks, and lower his foul rates.
Last year Antetokounmpo had 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. The blocks were better than the year before but the steals took a dip as the year before he had 1.2 of each. Antetokounmpo also struggled with fouling as he had a career-high 3.2. If the Bucks are the usual contenders they are and Antetokounmpo keeps putting up his stats he should be one of the favorites for the award.
Bam Adebayo has made a name for himself in the league with his amazing defense. He’s averaged about a block and a steal per game for the last three seasons. The stats don’t tell the full story though, as his ability to run the defense makes him stand out. The Miami Heat have been one of the best defensive teams ever since Adebayo broke out and it’s no coincidence.
Adebayo is special due to his versatile ability on defense. He can guard the one through five positions and can guard the perimeter while also providing elite post presence. He’s also an excellent rebounder for his size averaging 10.1 per game last year. He also has the advanced statistics to back it up, highlighted by the last three seasons being finished in the top 20 for defensive win-shares.
Rudy Gobert is a generational defender who has experience in being in contention for the defensive player of the year. Gobert has won the defensive player of the year award three times already. He’s also shown no sign of regression as last year he averaged 2.1 blocks and 14.7 rebounds.
This year Gobert will have a new role as he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the Jazz, he was solely relied on to be their entire defense. He had little to no perimeter defense help, yet made the Jazz a top-10 defense year in and year out. With the Timberwolves, there are quality defenders on this team that’ll ease that pressure off Gobert. If the Timberwolves see a huge jump in their record from last year, there’s no doubt credit will be given to Gobert.