Defense is the name of the game, and these three players shine at it like no other. Even without a list, anyone who watches the NBA even as little as once a week will probably already know who’s in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The last two years have been dominated by Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, but he is no longer the only defensive monster in the league, and is accompanied by two other players who scare people with their defense, rather than their ability to put the ball in the basket. Defense is what they’re paid to do, and they do it so well they’ve even been given an award for it. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
3. Kawhi Leonard
The Klaw, The Silent Assassin, The Man who Doesn’t Smile. Call him what you will, there’s no human alive who can poke flaws out of Kawhi Leonard’s defense, to be honest, it’s quite difficult to poke flaws out of any aspect of this freak’s game – he’s just so well rounded as a player, in both defensive and offensive aspects. His incredibly large hands give him the nickname “The Klaw,” and is probably the main reason why he steals the ball from any rim attacker unlucky enough to cross Kawhi’s path. He’s probably the best defensive player in the league, which is why he has dominated this award for the past two seasons, in fact, they should probably just rename this award in his name, like Jamal Crawford and the Sixth Man. Kawhi’s defense is good, that opposing teams draw up plays which remove the man he’s marking from the offense, as to prevent him from stripping the ball from any player on the court, which is the main reason he isn’t running away with this award yet again. It’s hard to play solid defense when your man is too afraid to attack the basket or even shoot the ball. It’s a token to Kawhi’s incredible defense, and if he were treated as a normal player on the defense end, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be leading this list. As a Houston fan, I get nightmares every time I see this man, as flashbacks to that crazy block he had on James Harden to carry the Spurs over the finish line and win against the Rockets earlier this season. The Klaw is basically the anti-Westbrook and Harden, or any player who is the only star on their team, as he forces the coaches to pull their stars from the offense to prevent Kawhi from just shutting them down completely. The only player in the league I’ve seen who’s been able to play decent offense at the mercy of Kawhi Leonard, is Kyrie Irving, but, to be fair, Kyrie could smoke any player in the NBA when he’s feeling it, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It feels weird having Kawhi outside the top 2 defensive players in the league, but he could win MVP, so congratulations to The Klaw, none the less!
2. Draymond Green
First off, I have to say that I despise Draymond, not because he’s a Warrior, but because he’s just so dirty as a player, sneaky in fact. His kicking antics are some of the most despicable actions of a player I’ve seen, and the fact that he’s notorious for them makes it all the worse. But even I, for as much as I hate him, can’t hate on Draymond’s defense. His defense is so good, in fact, that he’s managed to lock down LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard, all MVP candidates, when the Warriors have played their respective teams. There’s not many players in the NBA who can say they’ve held down LeBron James on defense. He became the first player to get a triple double, without points being an aspect of the trip dub, and instead opted for an incredible 10 steals! So, while he won’t get you 20 PPG, he’ll certainly lock down any player looking to cross him up, and if he can’t lock them down, he’ll straight up kick them in the balls. So, you know, he’s efficient on defense. Draymond creates a huge plus/minus differential when he’s on the court for Golden State, preventing an extra 6 points scored on the Warriors when he’s on the floor. If you need more stats, the Warriors are +626 in Green’s 1,970 minutes this season (via Basketball-Reference), so you know he makes a huge impact on the defensive end for the Warriors, and with offensive superstars like Steph, Klay and KD on the squad, Draymond’s only goal is to play defense, and boy does he play it well. And Draymond may be a dirty, despicable, sneaky player, but he does play some outstanding defense when he isn’t kicking players in the balls, so congratulations to Draymond Green for finally bypassing Kawhi to crack the second place spot on the list!
1. Rudy Gobert
Step aside Kawhi and Draymond, there’s a new kid on the block. French giant Rudy Gobert is by far one of the biggest and most intimidating defensive players in NBA history. The French Rejection measures out at a staggering 7 ft 1, and I’m convinced he could touch the ceiling of an arena just by outstretching his freakishly long arms. He holds opposing big men to an incredible 42% when matched up with them, which is huge for players like Dwight Howard and other traditional big men, who usually shoot a high percentage due to tendencies to sit in the paint and just throw down dunks and layups. It’s rare that his opponents get more than 15 points against the Stifel Tower, which is a token to his fantastic defense, and proves that Gobert is the winner of this award. Gobert is averaging a huge 13 rebounds per game, combined with a league leading 2.7 blocks, which just shows how long Rudy actually is, and how effective he is at cleaning up any mess that gets into the paint. Not only can he smack almost any shot out of the air, he’ll also pull it down and heave an outlet pass to a Jazz teammate. His net rating knocks Draymond’s out of the park, with a total net rating of +8.5 point differential when he’s on the floor. When Gobert is off the court, the Jazz’s net rating drops to an awful -3.7 differential, for a total of +10.8 point differential when Gobert is on/off the court. And if that stat alone doesn’t convince you that Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year, you are quite blind. TheBloggingLeprechaun’s DPOY award goes to Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz!
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